Mitch McVey, who’s studying for a Ph.D. in biology, says when a professor asked students to teach themselves something new and to record their own learning, he set out to learn to blow bubble gum.

But it was no snap. He thought the gum was supposed to be in front of the teeth before blowing air into it. He couldn’t figure out why every time he tried to blow a bubble, the gum flew out of his mouth. Finally, a friend explained the correct form is to keep the gum behind the teeth.

McVey practiced in the mirror. Three days later, “I got a giant bubble. I was ecstatic. It’s something I had been wanting to do for 20 years.”

The hardest part was admitting that he couldn’t do it, he says. “When you’re an MIT student used to learning everything so fast, it’s embarrassing not to be able to do something so easy.”

McVey, who also knows how to whistle and juggle, says: “It’s so important to learn fun things. You’ve got to be able to laugh at yourself because it’s good to remember, you don’t know everything.”