After deciding to enroll in the Mendoza College of Business, I was immediately advised to go to as many career fairs, conferences, and networking opportunities as possible. I was apprehensive, but I dove headfirst into the sea of business events Notre Dame offered, trying to soak up all the knowledge and advice from the visiting professionals. These networking events are pretty similar across all disciplines: students shuffle about in their suits, nervous whispers fill the space as they gather the courage to speak to the recruiter, the guest lecturer, the check-in person, whoever is behind the table. There’s always a table. It may only seem like a six-foot folding table, but it feels like a chasm.
I was always intimidated by the table between myself and the seemingly more important person behind the table. They had more knowledge, power, control, and confidence than me. The table proved it. Surely I couldn’t be the only person who felt this way? Why was I putting myself through these affairs? Were there any other students out there who were unsure about what they were doing? Was there anyone out there to help me? These professionals who were supposed to be guides along the journey of my professional career felt more like guards and wards standing atop a castle wall, peering down to see if I had the courage and determination to try and climb up. To be brutally honest, I felt scared, lost, and alone. I had put myself in unsure positions for two years, and to put the cherry on top of my feeling-isolated cake, the pandemic struck. At this point in my hero’s journey, I was definitely in the abyss.
If you are well-versed in the hero’s journey, you know that revelation and transformation follow the hero’s lowest point. For me, my revelation came in the form of an email from Mike Comuniello reaching out to students saying he hoped everyone was staying healthy and if we needed to reach out to talk about anything we could. So, I did. I talked to various members of the ACE staff – not about joining the program explicitly, but about how I was doing in the present moment. As we sat side by side, Mike guided me vocationally in ways I’d never experienced. That’s why I applied to the Frassati Internship program (if you’ve never heard about it you should check it out or talk to me about it because I’ll talk your ear off). This program taught me about the importance of community and how moving to Los Angeles, living with a random roommate, and being thrown into a non-profit like the Specialty Family Foundation isn’t intimidating or frightening, but life-changing and exhilarating when you have a truly dedicated support system.
After my summer experience and countless hours of reflection, I began to realize I didn’t want anyone to feel like I did as they grow and try and figure out who they are. When I applied to be an ACE intern and made my commitment to ACE Teaching Fellows, I promised myself I would try and bridge the gap for people who feel small. The ACE internship continues to prepare me to walk side-by-side with my future students. Life’s challenges are scary and we should continue to explore the unknown, but it’s always comforting to know someone walks with you. I walk with my head high knowing that the ACE community is right there with me.