The Disney College Program is a life-changing experience, but sometimes it’s difficult to see what you can really get out of a program like this. That’s why I’ve outlined everything I got out of my Disney College Program experience, and might not be quite what you’re expecting…
Work experience I could not have had anywhere else
Working with Disney during the college program helped me overcome my fear of public speaking, take a deep dive into the world of marketing (which I currently work in!), improve my time management, and enhance my ability to work both independently and as part of a team. Sure, there are other jobs where you can learn these skills, but certainly not in the short amount of time that one works on the Disney College Program. If you told me before I started my program that I would have no problem speaking to hundreds of guests over a microphone in just a month’s time, I would have laughed hysterically. But this program honestly did enhance these kinds of skills that I really never thought I would be able to develop or use in the real world. This program even led to my first book being published (about the Disney College Program of course)! You really never know who you’re going to meet or what opportunities await for you until you experience the program for yourself.
Experience living on my own
Living away from home on the Disney College Program is completely different than living away from home at college. There is no meal plan, no prepared foods, and while you do have to endure housing inspections there are no RAs to keep on top of any little issue that may arise between you and your roommates. If any conflicts do take place, you are forced to take the initiative and resolve them yourself in a way that going to college alone really doesn’t teach you. Furthermore the living experience on the Disney College Program helps to improve your budget skills, as unlike college where something like a meal plan may be included with your room and board, anything you need for you apartment must be budgeted for and purchased yourself.
You’ll have no problem getting into the best shape of your life
I honestly don’t even know how to put into words how unhealthy I ate during my program and how little I worked out (at least by running or going to the gym or anything intentional). I really took the program as a once in a lifetime experience, and while I ate “normal” in my apartment, I ate out multiple times a week and sampled all kinds of junk whenever I was in the parks. Still, I and most other CPs managed to lose weight and/or add muscle during the program. Working in Florida’s weather, and in my case with my role in attractions came with tasks like running up and down the stadium stairs and pulling ropes and gates during the show, which all contributed to the quickest and most painless unintentional work outs I never knew I wanted or needed. Even if you don’t need (or want) to lose weight, the work you do during the program helps you get into shape! Think of it as a more fun gym membership you can fulfill while you’re at work!
The ability to meet people from all over the world because of the Disney College Program
One of the things I love most about the tourism industry in general is that you get to talk to people visiting from all over the world each day at work. The Disney College Program however takes this a step further as you actually live with people from all over the world. The program allows you to really get to know the cultural representatives who move to Orlando temporarily to represent their countries and act in a sort of cultural exchange with guests. From my time working at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, I was able to get to know so many cultural representatives from a wide variety of African countries, and I left my program with an entirely new interest in places I never knew much about and friends on every corner of the world.
A learning experience on who I am as a person
To say that you grow during the Disney College Program is an understatement. My program showed me things about myself that I never imagined I was capable of. I learned different ways to handle stress, because I had to. I was put into situations that may have been scary at the time, but today I’m so thankful that I had those experience because they changed my whole world-view and attitude towards things I’m not sure about. The first time I worked covered-queue at Lights, Motors, Action! was honestly terrifying. Trying to remember the cues from the show while the cars and motorcycles sped by me backstage, while listening to the radio, remembering my own radio calls, and interacting with guests all while setting the scene backstage for the show’s finale was incredibly stressful.
I don’t think I’ve ever had any other work experience where my heart would have been racing so fast. But this experience helped me grow so much as a person. Now whenever a difficult task comes my way, I know I have the strength to handle it. When something seems impossible, I just think back at the early days in my attractions role staring at the gates and ropes and focusing on the radio calls, only to lead to a completely positive outcome and I know I can do anything I put my mind to.
The best friends I’ll ever have
The friendships you make during the Disney College Program are unlike any other friendships you’ll find at any other point in life. There is just something about the bonding you have when you go through this experience whether it be with your coworkers, roommates, or even the people you met from the Facebook groups that creates lasting friendships. Since my first program ended four years ago now, I’ve stayed in touch with so many friends and coworkers, and despite the distance we’ve always been there for each other. It’s a bond that is almost impossible to describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it, but the friendships you gain from this experience are really what make this program so special.
Memories of a Disney College Program that will last a lifetime
If you asked me to make a list of the “top 10 moments in my life” or something along those lines, about half of them would probably be from my Disney College Program. Quickly off hand, I think about a moment about halfway through my internship when my friends and I ended up at the Magic Kingdom (way too late with work the next morning) and watched Wishes from behind Cinderella Castle. We had seen the fireworks so many times we didn’t really need to even watch them, so we danced together to the music and took in the moment knowing we’d never experience something like this again.
You really can’t talk about DCP memories without mentioning all of the amazing perks like complimentary admission to the parks, dining and merchandise discounts, and backstage tours, but there really is so much more than that. I also think of certain traditions and rituals that came with the program, like going to Jellyrolls on an all-too-regular basis (and without having to pay the cover) with my coworkers, and of course the memorable experiences with guests from magical moments to Make-A-Wish visits, to just getting to know so many different people.
If you’re considering doing the Disney College Program, I highly encourage you to apply. It really is a once in a lifetime experience that is worth every moment. If you’ve also done the Disney College Program, I would love to hear what you got out of it! Let me know some of your favorite memories in the comments or feel free to send me some questions if you’re new to the DCP!
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