Courses to change your life

Sign up now if you want to learn a language, study art or go an expedition

With the torrent of mince pies, chain letters, and gift lists that rain down on us at this time of the year, it can sometimes be easy to identify with those scatologically splattered souls damned by their gluttony to the third tier of hell in Dante's Inferno.

But relief can be found from the crapulous indulgence of the party season. For some it is a chance to start indulging their curiosity, not just their gullet. And with the New Year approaching new opportunities to broaden your horizons rather than your waistline are popping up all over the place.

For Londoners there is no better place to start than at Christie's. The world famous auction house starts a new term of wine-tasting and history-of-art courses in January, with weekly evening classes exploring themes from art in antiquity through Caravaggio to contemporary art. At £125 per five-week course, or £30 a lecture, the evening classes offer the same quality as Christie's famous year-long courses without the commitment of time and money.

On her way to check out the Turner Prize nominees at Tate Britain, one Christie's student, Nelly Yona, 41, tells me how, when she moved to London earlier this year, she was determined to make as much of her time here as possible. "Seeing the exhibitions tickled my fancy," she says. "I wanted a course that would give me the tools to enjoy them, and the course is excellent."

If your passion is for the beauty of the grand design, the environmental charity Earthwatch has the answer, with dozens of 10- to 21-day expeditions doing environmental research around the world. Elaine Massie, 36, was looking for something as different as possible from her job in insurance when she went on her first Earthwatch expedition in 1998. She fell in love with the projects and has done 14 since, the latest a trip to Canada to monitor grey whale populations that saw her kayaking up the west coast watched by curious porpoises and seals. "It's really good fun," she says. "You see so much more than a normal tourist and you're part of a community." And you don't need any scientific know how to get involved. "You just need enthusiasm," she says. "They'll teach you everything else." Expeditions cost from £200 to £1,900. To find out more go to their website at www.earthwatch.org

The best way to learn a language is in its native country. The problem is finding a good school when you're on the other side of the world. The International Association of Language Colleges (IALC) does that for you. Just log on to www.ialc.org.

Gladis Garcia-Soza, senior teaching fellow at Essex University, has been sending her students on four week courses at the IALC's school in Valencia for the last 20 years. "It's an explosion for them when they first get there," she says. "And when they come back they're speaking like a native speaker."

Learning something new always gives you a fresh perspective and outlook. It's a source of excitement and surprise. Which is more than can be said for the presents most of us will be getting at the end of the month.

www.systematic-kinesiology.co.uk

www.shad.org.uk

www.spw.org

www.connoisseur.org

www.christies.com/education

Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
News
peopleComedian star of Ed Sullivan Show was mother to Ben Stiller
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Developer - HTML, CSS, Javascript

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Graduate UI Application Developer - ...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Software Developer - Norfolk - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Software Developer - Norf...

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?