The Disney College Program: Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide…

It’s been over a year since I took a semester off from my small liberal arts college off the coast of Florida to pursue an “internship” at the Disney College Program. Hands down this experience was the most fun, life changing, and exciting time of my life thus far. In short the program is described as a chance to learn and grow in a professional setting and gain work experience. The seven months I spent in Orlando was so much more than that. I learned so much about myself, what I wanted in life and as a bonus spent it with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

When I arrived at Disney last January I didn’t really know what to expect. I filled out the application on a whim early during the fall semester and when I got a call from a Disney representative for the phone interview I was less than prepared. A few weeks later I receive an acceptance letter in the mail. There wasn’t much information given by Disney prior to arrival as far as job placements and living arrangements, but I went for it anyway. On arrival I was greeted by friendly college program staff that provided me with the necessary information on accommodations and orientation. I was placed in a three bedroom apartment with five other girls in the Vista Way Apartment complex. (Some people will argue that Chatham or Patterson are the places to live because they’re quieter and cleaner, however if you want to have FUN and experience everything the program has to offer, VW is the place to be )

Moving in with five other girls was a bit of an adjustment but they ended up being some of the most fantastic people I’ve ever met. Even though we came from totally different backgrounds we made it work and these girls were one of the reasons my experience was so positive. When you’re not slaving away at whatever mind numbing job you’re assigned in Disney, your roommates are the friends you’ll go out with, rant to about work and relationships. The main reason to do the program is to get out of your comfort zone and have a little fun. There are many places to go out and most of the time if you take the Party Bus, which costs about $10-15, transportation is covered therefore feel free to drink as much as you want.

If you’re not going out or exploring Orlando, Disney, or Wawa (conveniently located only five minutes way from Vista by car), you’ll probably spend anywhere between 30-50 hours a week working. Disney isn’t completely honest with how much you’ll work and make once rent and taxes are deducted. It’s basically enough to barely cover food and going out expenses. Since CPs are the lowest of low of Disney Cast members, you’ll most likely be working long hours in hectic conditions. Thankfully you’ll be working alongside of other CPs so they will feel #thestruggle and help make the time go by a little faster and hopefully you’ll have a little fun. Most part-time and full-time cast members will not respect you. Every year they see waves of programs come through their work environment and disturb the flow, so you can kind of understand their frustration with the college program. However there will be exceptions to this rule. For the cast members who care for the CPs, they are your reason to work a little harder and not leave out of frustration. Even though the hours are long, there are times that you can have a little fun. I worked at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, Dumella folks. Whether it’s speaking into the back hallway with milk and chocolate chip cookies near the end of your shift or taking long walks around the pool to pick up food trays but mostly gossip with other cast members, these are the moments that get you through. Relationships are everything, so keep that in mind.

The most fun and memorable experiences I made were with my neighbors. Getting outside of your comfort zone and meeting new people is key. I don’t know where to begin with the stories I could tell you about these amazing people because frankly most of them would probably get me into too much trouble. Calling out of work is sometimes necessary so all your friends can get together and have some sort of adventure just don’t call out too much or you’ll be termed! Personally I called out way to many times but luckily my mangers weren’t really on top of recording my points so I didn’t get into any trouble. Keeping an open mind to new experiences is one of the best ways to make great memories. We’re young and able to make mistakes and take chances and as corny as that sounds it’s the truth. The Disney College program provides you with so much opportunity for adventure that you should absolutely take advantage of everything. Whether it’s exploring Disney’s abandon water park, taking the Party Bus to Miami, or smoking and watching Wishes, Disney’s Magic Kingdom fireworks show, from the top of the world, the greater the risk the more fun you’re going to have. Getting termed is commonly talked about throughout your program but don’t let that scare you. When it comes down to it, we all take the same chances and for the most part it’s all up to luck on who gets caught and who doesn’t.

Going into the program I had no expectations on what would happen, but it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life. The friends you’ll make are truly life long and even though your paths may not cross again, you’ll share memories that will last a lifetime. Take the risk, but always remember let your conscience be your guide. TC mark

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