5 Ways to Become a Modern Day Renaissance Man at UMD

By Sydney Carter ’13, Wellness Communications Assistant

“I am still learning.” – Michelangelo, age 87

If continual learning crafted the mind that created the breathtaking frescos inside the Sistine Chapel then sign me up! Considered the archetypal “Renaissance man”, we can draw inspiration from Michelangelo and become our own kind of Renaissance man or woman by picking up multiple talents or interests throughout our lifetime.

When you take advantage of opportunities to enhance existing knowledge or learn something new, your intellectual wellness will flourish, your body will feel invigorated and your spirit will be bolstered by optimism and enthusiasm. 

The process of learning keeps the mind active. Active minds extend the vigor and joy of youth. In the words of Henry Ford, “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” To achieve an active mind and, in turn, a prolonged zest for life, you need to flex your intellectual muscles: learn a language, read a book or pick up an innovative hobby.

Here are five ways you can be constantly learning at the University of Maryland outside of your academic career:

  1. Step Outside Your Major: Cross academic disciplines and explore tough questions about the world today when you enroll in an I-Series course. Part of the General Education Program within the Distributive Studies requirement, I-Series courses offer beginning undergraduates an opportunity for intensive, interdisciplinary research on important and relevant matters.
  2. Step into a Different Kind of Classroom: Stop by the Art and Learning Center in Stamp to register for a non-credit, creative studio class like painting, ceramics, photography, belly dancing or guitar lessons. A break from a jam-packed schedule of math and humanities courses can revitalize the mind and produce a brand new talent.
  3. Be Adventurous, Get Active: Take a walk on the wild side: sign up to trek through mountains, waterways and trails with Campus Recreation Services (CRS). The challenges of CRS adventure trips offer an intense and hands-on learning opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone and build your problem-solving skills. Or, perhaps consider a non-credit instructional course offered by CRS, such as tennis, jujutsu or deep water conditioning, to nurture your active spirit.
  4. Explore your World: Seize the chance to learn as you explore a foreign place through one of Maryland’s extensive and varied Study Abroad offerings. Voyaging abroad requires flexibility and innovation, which can generate personal growth.
  5. Give A Little: When you volunteer your time and talents through local community service or service-learning activities that combine structured coursework with volunteer activities, you engage with organizations, communities and people who differ from yourself. This kind of exposure broadens your horizons and advances your understanding of the world. Investigate Leadership and Community Service-Learning initiatives at Maryland to give a little and learn a lot.

Learning enhances and interacts with all dimensions of wellness to provide holistic health benefits. For example, there is ample research extolling the benefits of exercise for cognitive functioning. It turns out that regular physical exercise can help condition the mind as much as the body resulting in quicker response times, greater memory capacity and possibly even protection against age-related cognitive decline. In one study, just 30 minutes of exercise resulted in a 5 to 10 percent improvement in cognition.

Be bold and step outside the box; expand your learning beyond the boundaries of the typical classroom.

And, just like Michelangelo, once you start never, ever stop.

How do you plan to be a lifelong learner? Have your taken advantage of any of the 5 opportunities above? What did you learn?

Share with us in the comments below.

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