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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

AER Teachers: Graduate Primary TA - West London - Autumn

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

AER Teachers: Graduate Secondary TA - West London

£65 - £75 per day + competitive rates: AER Teachers: The school is seeking gra...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Surrey - £25,000

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Graduate Developer - Croy...

SPONSORED FEATURES

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent