Week 8:
Midway Reflections

Massey Fellow in Development & Civic Empowerment

The Obama Foundation | Chicago, Illinois

March 16, 2019

The typical Fellows experience lasts eight weeks, and I have reached my eighth week. My Fellows blog ends here, but I will be with the Foundation for another eight weeks. I am officially at the midway point, and I do feel settled, engaged, and happy. The other interns and I have become good friends. Our lunch hours are always enjoyable. I feel so integrated and accepted by my team. And I have the energy and excitement to carry me through another two months.

The weather has finally warmed up, and I can walk to the lake.

My family visited me this past week, and it was nice to be a part of two birthday celebrations. I feel so honored that my parents, brothers, best friend, aunt, and family by choice would all gather in my new city, to explore and spend time with me. We visited the Shedd Aquarium, the Art Institute, Eataly, the Smart Museum, 57th Street Books, Millenium Park, the Museum of Science and Industry, and plenty of yummy restaurants. The weekend was packed, but it was a beautiful celebration and I was happy to be with my people. It was a perfect reminder that I need to explore my city and use my free time in a productive way.

Downtown for dinner.

I’ve spent significant time trying to decide how to end this blog, and considering any midway reflections. I would like to start with gratitude for my Cornell supporters. I was cautious to tell people about this opportunity, both the internship and Fellows itself, out of fear that I wouldn’t be accepted by the programs. So I am most thankful to the people who supported my choice to apply. My mom, Tori Barnes-Brus, Laura Farmer, and my roommates, Ethan, Ellie, and Mason, were all so encouraging and considerate while I was figuring all of these big decisions out. They washed away all of my doubts, and helped me find confidence in my own knowledge and skills. I would not have this incredible experience without these wonderful people.

Thinking about my career, I feel more grounded in my knowledge and expectations of future work environments. I am currently in an office that values collaboration, celebration, diversity, and kindness. My team has gone above and beyond to make me feel welcome and involved. I now have a firm grasp on development, and feel comfortable working with different materials and projects, regardless of who assigns them. Development doesn’t sound sexy or world-changing, but it feels important to me. I now see the bigger connections and links between my work, and the work of the rest of the Foundation. Development teams have the power and skill to make or break a non-profit, and I’m blown away each day by the strategy and brains that my coworkers contribute. I have confirmed my interest in development, and my interest in non-profit. I’ve never felt more sure of this career path. Even though I’m not sure exactly what will be next, I feel more professionally prepared and self confident than I ever have before.

Lastly, I want to mention the Cornell bubble. Often, the bubble is referred to in a claustrophobic or stagnant context, but now that I’ve had some time away from campus, I see it differently. I don’t think I’ll ever find another space where the adults and mentors around me are present in and supportive of my future. Professors, administrators, and coaches were all working to provide me with the opportunity to grow and learn at every moment. They were the group of silent cheerleaders that I didn’t acknowledge enough. It’s so easy in the bubble. Mentors are easily accessible, meals are nicely prepared, opportunities are pouring out of all corners of campus. And I never saw it in this way, until now, where mentors have little time for me, meals are a process each day, and opportunities have to be created by myself. Of course, this is just my experience. I am privileged in feeling so supported by Cornell’s offerings. I love my Cornell bubble, and I’m lucky to have many people on my team, cheering for me. So I offer my gratitude to my bubble and my people. I’m thrilled to be here, and it would not have happened without their support. Thank you to the Fellows program, and to the Obama Foundation, for this amazing experience.

Elizabeth Mombello '19

Elizabeth is a sociology and Spanish major from Overland Park, Kansas.