– Alyssa Zazzo –
I didn't know what I wanted to do in college, so I started as a biology major and I really struggled.
It took me two full semesters to come to terms that it just wasn't the right fit for me. I didn't want to feel like I had come to college and failed. I went to the Explore Center and sat down with a mentor named Kristin. I talked about my interests and we discussed how that could translate into a major and a career. I always knew I enjoyed planning events, but I didn’t think that could translate into a college major, but Kristin suggested the hospitality program. I looked into it and I switched and I’ve loved it.
Facilitators that Push
The program is small enough that you really get to know your professors. Shannon, who’s been a mentor to me, is the professor for all of the internship classes, so she's with you kind of every step of the way throughout your college career. We have to do three internships in the program, and she guides us through them.
I had a lot of conversations with her like, “OK, I think I want to do this. I'm not really sure what I need to do next. Can you give me an idea of where to start looking?” She’s always willing to help and point you in the right direction, but you're the one that has to go out and do the work. You're the one who has to go out and send those emails, apply and do the interviews. She's always willing to give you contact information and everything, but I appreciate that she forced me to do the work for myself.
She and the program are always getting emails about open internships and jobs. That’s how I got connected to my first internship at a local hotel restaurant. Then I worked with Master’s Golf and College World Series and now I’m working as an intern for USA Football.
Internships that Matter
The internships I’ve done have put me where I am today, 100 percent. If I wouldn't have had these internships and if I wouldn't have done everything that I did, I wouldn't be where I am and I wouldn't have this job right now.
I beat out 120 other applicants for my current position at USA Football. They said it was because I had that base of understanding about the sports industry, but at the same time had the restaurant and hotel experience. Even though I'm doing sports, I'm still in charge of setting up hotel blocks and working with hotels. So having that first internship has absolutely helped me get to where I'm at now.
Drained and Loving It
USA Football is a league that has international teams and about 15 US teams of kids. The older kids, from like 13-19, are pretty much all set to play football for colleges. They've committed, they've signed their letters of intent and everything like that. We have events all over the country and my job is to execute all event elements: event registration, hotel operations, catering, vendor relations, waiver management, asset movement and inventory, setup, volunteer recruitment. I make sure that events go as flawlessly as I can and I deal with speed bumps when they come.
I'm still enrolled as a full-time student at Nebraska, but I work full time for these big events. When I’m traveling, I average about a hundred hours a week, but I’m still excited to get up every morning and do it all again.
That’s how I know that this is what I want to do. It’s tough, but I’ve felt that like with my program and through all my previous internships—I’m so, so tired sometimes, but I still love it—and that's how you know you're passionate about something. I get a spark of excitement just talking about my job. All my past experiences have kind of molded me and taught me everything I needed to get here. I’ve loved it all. Oh, I'm so tired. But I love it.
From what I've heard, this internship could very well be a trial run for a full-time position. But even if it's not necessarily this one, I know I will have a lot of job prospects after I graduate. I'm very confident when I say that and I feel like my major, the classes that I've taken and the internships I've had will get me a job I want. It makes me very optimistic.
Be who you want
All of these experiences I’ve had at Nebraska and the people I’ve met have taught me how to be my own person. I know, it's so cheesy, but the tagline of like, “write your story” or “you can create whatever kind of future you want”—I absolutely believe that.
I had to learn to be really patient with myself and the process of experimenting to find where I would most succeed and enjoy it. I am very much someone who, if I want something, I want it now. And sometimes life doesn't work that way. I've learned that a great deal won’t go your way, so you just have to be patient with the process and know that when the time is right, things will click. I was difficult, but none of those experiences I had testing out other fields were wasted. I got to test out the different career paths in a very real way, so I knew exactly what aspects I liked and which ones I didn’t.
I think the best decision I’ve made in my entire life was to take that risk to go out of state to Nebraska where I didn’t know anybody. I am so proud of everything that I accomplished and I love telling people about Nebraska. It's so funny, being back home in Wisconsin, people are like “Nebraska, what's in Nebraska?” I'm like, “You don't even know. Let me talk for 30 minutes about all the pros of all Nebraska.” It's my home now and I wouldn't change anything about coming here to college. Nebraska has so much to offer to anybody no matter what you're looking for. So that's it.