In early May I was invited to attend and present a paper in an academic conference in New York, US. It was a great experience, but I learnt even more sight-seeing after the conference!
As you may know, one of the landmarks in New York is the Yankee Stadium. My sister and I were sight-seeing together and though we knew nothing about baseball we were driven by curiosity and so decided to watch a live game at the Yankee Stadium!
Baseball is really popular in the US, as popular as football is in the UK. I have never played baseball or watched a game in my life and I wondered why New Yorkers are so fond of this sport. So, the day before the game, my sister and I went to Central Park to observe how the game is normally played, we also looked up the rules on the internet and learnt the basic principles.
When we went to the game we felt bored at times when we had no clue what was going on! Nevertheless, we could still enjoy some exciting moments, such as when the batter hit beautifully and reached the first base successfully, or when the Yankees scored. There were some bizarre parts too which confused us. So we waited until we could ask our host who was a Yankee fan. He explained to us patiently and we finally understood.
It was an amazing experience and we learnt a lot about baseball!
This story is the best illustration of an ideal learning experience. When you are first driven by interest or curiosity, and then raise relevant questions which motivate you to seek answers. In my experience, I adopted three ways to answer my questions: independent reading, consulting others and observation. Admittedly, my knowledge of baseball would be more thorough if I played it myself — first-hand experience.
This illustration is not a linear process as we often reflect on existing knowledge to advance our understanding. And sometimes if we feel we have learnt a little bit more about something, we become more interested in it.
Next time if you are puzzled by something you keep failing to understand, try to find where your interest lies and raise relevant questions surrounding it. Use different ways to solve the problems. There may be surprising results!