As a busy person trying to balance a full-time job, time with family and friends, laundry, exercise, cleaning the apartment, and so forth, it is hard to find extra time to keep up with the news, let alone continue to garner knowledge about international relations.  Who has time to read full reports from the United Nations when your brain barely functions at the end of the day?

With this in mind, my goal lately has been to find ways to pursue “continuing education” opportunities for foreign affairs.  Doctors and lawyers, for instance, are required to do so many hours per year of continuing education, so why not someone interested in the world, which changes constantly?

My search led me to the section of the State Department’s website that allows you to sign up for State press releases, official statements, and so forth.  I excitedly clicked on all of the options, and the next day alone I think my inbox received about half a million emails–our State Department is one busy entity (plus, true to bureaucracy, clicking all of the options meant that I often receive the same statement ten times, sent from different bureaus).

So far, my favorite part of my self-imposed continuing education has been the Country Profiles that the State Department sends out.  I try to skim through all of them, which has proven interesting as well as helpful.  I received one yesterday, for instance, on the United Kingdom, and even though I lived there for a year, it was educational to actually read about its latest statistics.  I didn’t know, for instance, that the population of London has grown to 8.615 million and it is still considered the largest city in Europe.  When I lived there in 2006 I think that the city had just hit 7 million.  That’s the beauty of continuing education–you have background knowledge coupled with current data.

Like riding a bike or speaking a foreign language, staying up to date on global developments is something that you have to practice.  You have to consistently exercise the mind, in other words.  I’m often so busy with the day to day happenings of life in D.C. that I feel disconnected from the rest of the world, so it’s nice to know that in the meantime it’s possible to learn new things so that I’m better prepared for future travels.

Those who continue to learn, continue to grow, so whether traveling or settled into one place for awhile, it’s important to strive for continuing education.  Just one word of caution–I would advise not to check all of the update options on the State Department’s website, unless you’re okay getting lots of emails!