Every high schooler has that classic, embarrassing first job. Mine was fall of my senior year as a hay ride attendant at an apple orchard just outside of my hometown. The hayride didn’t even have hay and by the third weekend I was fairly certain I had sun poisoning. So naturally when my friend Emily told me the magazine her Mom worked for was doing a story on a Family Entertainment Center that was opening I couldn’t have been more excited, primarily just because the job was indoors (in addition to the 32,000 square feet of GoKarts, Laser Tag, Ball Blaster Arena, Arcade, and a quick service restaurant!). Under the Big Top finally opened its doors to the public on Friday, April 20th, 2012. There’s no shame in saying that the first open didn’t go as planned and without enough customers, two weeks later all of us entry level minimum wage employees were laid off.
In the next six months I graduated high school and moved to DePaul to start my freshman year of college. On October 3rd, 2012 when one of our owners called me to ask if I’d like to come back to work for Under the Big Top, I almost didn’t answer the phone. On the last ring I did, and in the next two minutes I far too willingly agreed to a job that at the time I had no idea would change my life forever. The next day I started the pattern that I’ve followed virtually every weekend since. School at DePaul Monday-Thursday living on campus, and Friday-Sunday in St. Charles working at Under the Big Top.
Some people would call me crazy. And that’s okay. Through my Party Host to General Manager adventure I’ve given up parts of the traditional college experience, weekends in the big city of Chicago, and a sufficient sleep pattern. Yet in return my journey with Under the Big Top provided me with experiences and memories I wouldn’t trade for the world.
Saying yes on that short phone call allowed me to create memories and gain experiences that I never had imagined would be a part of my life. Working for Under the Big Top challenged me to take on responsibilities that I didn’t think I was capable of as my young college self. Under the Big Top introduced me to the attractions industry that I previously didn’t even know existed. For this I am forever grateful. My advice to anyone who’s considering working through college is to do it. Go ahead, jump. Say yes. For me having a job at a Family Entertainment Center became more than just about how I was going to pay my way through school. It taught me how to manage my time, think critically, and learn to swim while everything around me was drowning.
You’re not going to DePaul to have a cookie cutter college experience where you’re shipped off to the corn fields for four years to earn a degree. You’re attending DePaul to have an experience that is unique to you and to become world ready.