Undergraduate Spotlight: John Sebastian Thörn ('22), Medieval Studies Minor
With fall's chilly weather stealing in, we invite you to take a trip back to summer along with Medieval Studies minor John Sebastian Thörn (’22) to read about his internship with Alton Aviation in New York City and learn about how the Middle Ages has furthered his business career and this past summer's high-flying projects.
What drew you to Medieval Studies?
As a student in the business school, most of my core classes have revolved around statistics and other quantitative focuses. While useful and engaging, I wanted to find another way to learn and grow through my courses here at Notre Dame.
During my first year I was trying to find a minor that interested me and would offer me a change from my business courses, and through that search I found the Medieval Institute. It was nearly instant that I knew that I wanted to do a minor through the program; other minors seemed interesting but nothing like Medieval Studies.
By looking at the courses offered, I would be able to learn and discuss unique and special historical topics through one of the best programs in the country. My favorite thing about the minor has been that I have been able to take courses that engage me in ways that no other courses do.
Medieval Studies has been one of the highlights of my education here at Notre Dame; it has opened my learning to new topics, and taught me about things that I had never learned before.
Another benefit of this program is how unique it is; at very few schools can you find such a detailed and proven medieval history program, so whenever I speak about my experience, people are interested.
It helps me stand out with employers, and while it might not be giving me experience in a topic that relates to my business-focus, they realize that I value different types of engagements and courses.
Tell us about your summer internship with Alton Aviation. What projects did you work on?
One of my lifelong passions has been commercial aviation; from a young age I have been extremely interested in aircraft and airlines from all over the world. Throughout my time at Mendoza, I have tried to find jobs in the consulting industry. After a few months of recruiting and networking, I found Alton Aviation Consultancy in New York. After applying and connecting with another Golden Domer there, I was offered an internship in the New York office during the summer of 2021.
My experience there was great; I was able to work on projects in a range of sections of the commercial aviation industry. The project work included a bankruptcy of a major airline, doing diligence on a multi-billion-dollar acquisition, and conducting feasibility studies on new maintenance facilities in Western Africa, among others.
It was a perfect mix of consulting and aviation, and I was able to apply my knowledge from Notre Dame courses to my work there. While not as much of my coursework from Medieval Studies was applied, I still strongly believe by taking the minor it taught me to be able to learn in a variety of settings in a challenging environment.
What did you learn from your summer experience, and how will it benefit you going forward?
In my summer experience, I was able to learn how to work in an office with professionals, where your work needs to be at the best level it can be. Often my work would be presented to clients, meaning my work had to be thorough and accurate. Going forward, my experience there will teach me how to take ownership over work and understand the impact your actions can have. When other people are relying on you to do a good job, you learn how important it is to be a good team member. This can apply here at Notre Dame, in personal settings, and many other places.
Anything else you'd like to share, either about Medieval Studies at ND or your summer activities?
Medieval Studies has been one of the highlights of my education here at Notre Dame; it has opened my learning to new topics, and taught me about things that I had never learned before. When you can go to classes solely for the purpose of trying to learn new things, and in the case of Medieval Studies, things that you will never have the chance to learn again, you can grow as a student and as a person.
Medieval Studies courses are unique, engaging, and interesting. I took a class in this program studying the transmedia narratives of the Harry Potter series; if you can find someone who says their science classes or business classes are more interesting than that, then I would be shocked.
Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.