A man only learns in two ways, one by reading, and the other by association with smarter people.
1920's comedian Will Rogers was on the right track when he made the above observation about ways that one can learn. However, there were a few tried and true learning avenues that he also forgot about, such as learning through experience, learning through reflecting, and even learning through YouTube (granted the Internet didn't exist in the 1920's). Even though most students are on summer break, there is no doubt they are still learning something new and applying old concepts everyday, even if it is subconsciously and in the unlikeliest of places.
This was especially apparent to me this morning when my brother, who is getting ready for a camping trip, asked me to help him get his fishing pole ready. Unfortunately, the only fishing poles I have handled before had a magnet on one end was used to "catch" carnival prizes from a kiddie pool. So I did what most people would do and consulted Google. The first link that popped up was a YouTube video entitled "How to Spool Line Onto Your Reel" and within only 4 minutes and 9 seconds, I was an expert on spooling line! Well, maybe I wasn't an expert, but I was competent enough and now I know what a bail is. As I was spooling it, physics concepts like rotational motion and tension flooded in my head and I thought, "If I measured the diameter of the reel and had a stopwatch, I could calculate its angular acceleration." And that wasn't the first time I inadvertently applied class concepts to real life situations this summer.
Heeding the advice of my family, friends, mentors, current med students...well basically everyone...I have decided to take it easy the summer before medical school starts and that has entailed lots of leisure reading. My latest literary conquest has been "The Happiness Project", which is a book about a woman who explores different theories and studies in a quest to become happier. One of the findings she stumbles upon was a research study that concluded that people who get Botox are less prone to anger because they are physically incapable of frowning. Not only was I excited to learn something new (and rather amusing) but once again it was a moment where my brain began to recall old course material. As if my mind switched to autopilot, images of the Botox or botulinum toxin mechanism flashed by and I could practically hear my old cell bio professor's voice explaining how this neurotoxin prevents the release of acetylcholine.
So if I was able to tie in concepts from my science textbooks to ideas from a self-help book, which are almost like night and day, I realized that the ideas, concepts, and theories we learn in school are everywhere. Literally everywhere. A common lament students often make when studying is "When am I going to ever need this again?" and while some of the things we learn in school may seem trivial, the fact is they may pop up in random places. Granted, I doubt that one day someone will stop me in the street and ask me to draw a diagram of the Kreb's Cycle, but like in the above examples, lately I have been noticing that I have been able to apply old course concepts and am learning new things in the unlikeliest places. I guess once a student....always a student.