I’ve always loved advice columns. I started reading Dear Abby and Ann Landers in my early teens. So like any longtime reader of such columns, I know exactly how to make new friends – take a class.
Yes, indeed, this is the time-honored advice for those who complain they have trouble meeting people with similar interests, or don’t know anyone outside their workplace, or don’t want to frequent bars and clubs to meet others. The theory is that by taking a class in some subject that interests you, such as foreign languages, cooking, fine arts, creative writing, dance, martial arts, etc., you’ll meet others with similar interests. The class environment provides a structured, non-threatening place to get to know others. And, of course, you’ll also learn something.
I’ve always taken this advice to heart. Over the years, I’ve indulged my own interests – and expanded my acquaintance beyond my legal workplaces – by taking classes in creative writing, makeup application, neural-linguistic programming, personality types, beading, country dancing and ballroom dance. In every city I’ve lived in, there have been assorted operations offering noncredit, leisure learning classes at low cost.
Las Vegas is no exception. Whether you want to meet new people or learn a new skill, there are plenty of classes available here year round. And while, yes, you can actually learn recreational pole dancing here, Vegas also offers classes in subjects of more general interest.
Start your search for classes at any of the region’s parks and recreation departments. Wherever you live in the Valley, you have a recreation center near you. The majority of class offerings from these facilities are devoted to kids and seniors, but there are usually a few art, fitness, martial arts and dance classes open to younger adults, too. Check out the offerings in your area by clicking on the following links:
My husband, Steve, and I can personally recommend the ballroom dancing classes sometimes offered by the City of Henderson. Our classes met in the gymnasium at the Whitney Ranch Recreation center, which would fill with couples twirling and counting in time to the music. Even though the dancers were dressed in sweats and T-shirts, the classes always had a festive air. I am somewhat rhythmically challenged, and I have a bum knee, so I won’t pretend that I am ready for “Dancing with the Stars.” However, now I do at least recognize a waltz, fox trot, or mambo when I see one performed.
These local recreation facilities are terrific for a beginning pottery class, learning to swim, or basic dance instruction. If you want more varied offerings, try the noncredit classes offered at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). While its Division of Educational Outreach offers an assortment of professional development courses, many for continuing education credit, it also offers a large selection of “personal enrichment” courses. Sample offerings from upcoming listings include acting, digital film making, photography, comedy writing, golf, “Street Smart Self Defense” and herbology. Dance classes vary from “A Perfect Wedding Dance” to the tango to swing. And if you’ve ever wanted to become a wine snob, this is the place for you, for UNLV offers a multi-class wine certificate program.
While every facility offering recreational classes pushes the enrichment opportunities from lifelong learning, UNLV acknowledges the social value of taking classes as well. In fact, it offers a “Friday Night Classes” program that the school describes as “a relaxed, sociable way to follow your interests and learn new skills.”
One offering I especially enjoyed from that program was “How to Talk to Strangers,” a course tailor-made for the chronically shy. Instructor Kimberly Nehls taught more than 20 participants a number of ice-breaking techniques and conversation starters, with the goal of learning how to “work a room.” The class was actually fun, with games that forced my fellow students and me to ask questions about each other. While enjoying myself, I met a number of people from a wide variety of fields – not one of them a lawyer! And while I learned from that class that I already knew how to talk to strangers, I also learned a few ways to feel a bit more comfortable approaching them.
Like the students, the teachers in leisure learning classes come from all walks of life. Most frequently, classes are offered by professionals in the particular field, eager to share their passions with others. However, my dance and social skills instructors were graduate students. For these instructors, teaching not only presents an opportunity to earn extra cash, but also may be a required part of the graduate program. Other special interest classes are led by professional educators. When I was a law school professor teaching a required writing course to first year law students, the fiction writing workshops and classes I taught were a true joy. Teaching in a leisure environment gave me the rare opportunity to have a class filled with students who genuinely wanted to be there.
Today, the advice columns I read for years are written by others, and I find myself frequently disagreeing with the advice now given. But one bit of advice has remained unchanged, having stood the test of time: If you want to meet others with similar interests, take a class. After all, as I learned in “How to Talk to Strangers,” it is perfectly OK to start up a conversation with someone you meet in class.