Talk of The Town: September 2022


Gandhi’s wise words are a reminder that learning is a lifelong process that never ends. So with that as our inspiration, let’s talk about all the different ways and places you can explore new subjects, learn a new hobby or discover new worlds.


For students fortunate enough to participate, spending a semester abroad is often a highlight of their education. But just because your school days are behind you doesn’t mean the world is not your classroom! Here are a few highly-respected companies that offer educational travel programs.

Earthwatch: This international nonprofit organization pairs inquisitive, intrepid travelers with working scientists to address some of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. Choose from more than 40 field research expeditions, including a voyage down the Amazon to help in the conservation of river dolphins or a 7-day trip to Costa Rica with Dr. Valerie Peters to assist with her research into wild bees and other pollinators.

Road Scholar: Founded in 1975, this nonprofit organization offers hundreds of Learning Adventures. From America’s most popular national parks to exotic foreign lands including the Galapagos, Jordan and Cambodia, their land tours and cruises are led by engaging instructors who are both passionate and knowledgeable about their destination or subject.

National Geographic Expeditions: Tapping into the resources of the 134-year-old National Geographic Society, this upscale travel company offers unique and authentic expeditions that plumb the history and culture of the world’s most fascinating places. Special-interest tours include birdwatching, photography, and archaeology.


Starting with its first grant in 2001 to the University of Southern Maine, OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) has grown to encompass more than 125 lifelong learning programs on campuses nationwide – including Northwestern University. Geared to older adults, OLLI promotes “learning for the joy of learning – without examinations or grades – and keeping in touch with a larger world.”

Like other OLLI locations, the program at Northwestern is a membership-driven, cooperative learning community. They offer more than 100 study groups per semester, serving 1,500 members on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Recent course offerings include Anything Goes—The Music, Life and Times of Cole Porter; Fiction Writing Workshop; Three Giants of the Early 20th Century: Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner; and The American War in Afghanistan.

Partnering with more than 200 leading universities and companies like the University of Michigan, Stanford and Google, COURSERA is an online learning platform for students of all ages. In addition to affordable degree and certification programs, you’ll find dozens of free online classes. With more than 4,000,000 already enrolled, The Science of Well-Being is an online adaptation of one of Yale University’s most popular undergraduate classes ever. Taught by professor Laurie Santos, the course covers science-backed methods to increase your happiness and build more productive habits.


Chicago is home to many world-class cultural institutions and creative businesses that offer workshops and classes where you can explore topics and activities about which you may be simply curious or truly passionate. Here are a few to pique your interest:

International House at the University of Chicago
1414 E 59th St, Chicago
In addition to supporting students and faculty from around the world,
International House serves the greater Chicago community as a cultural and intellectual center offering hundreds of public programs. Their Global Voices Performing Arts and Lecture Series includes music and cultural performances along with discussions led by distinguished speakers.

Joseph Regenstein, Jr School at the Chicago Botanic Garden
1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe
As you might expect, the Regenstein School’s adult education program features workshops in horticulture, botanical arts and garden design. In addition, they offer birding, art, nature, cooking and photography classes along with a wellness and fitness program including yoga and tai chi.

The Newberry Library
60 W Walton St, Chicago
Designed for curious lifelong learners, the Newberry’s Adult Education Classes are taught by experts in fields ranging from literature, music and history to religion, language and writing. Classes for this fall include Americans and the Holocaust; Georgian London—1714 to 1830; Contemporary Native American Detective Fiction; and A Theatrical History of Britain.

Evanston Rebuilding Warehouse
1245 Hartrey Ave, Evanston
Committed to community and reducing construction waste, this nonprofit organization also offers workshops for the do-it-yourselfer. Fall classes include 3-hour sessions where you’ll make your own bench from reclaimed wood or learn how to rewire a light fixture. An intensive 2-day workshop teaches everything you need to know about refinishing wood furniture.

The Chopping Block
4747 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago
Selling a wide range of kitchen essentials, this upscale retailer also offers virtual and hands-on cooking classes. Popular classes include their intensive 5-day Culinary Boot Camp and a 2-hour Knife Skills session along with menu-focused classes including Street Tacos, Spanish Tapas, Seafood on the Grill, and Wine & Cheese Pairings.

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