The year 2020 seems to have somehow snuck up on me. This means it has now been FIFTEEN years since my own Disney College Program back in 2005. I am not sure where the time went, but I wanted to offer some advice to all the new participants getting ready to start their own adventures as I reflect back on my program.
Get ready to meet some amazing people
Without a doubt, my biggest takeaway from the program was all the wonderful people I met. It was a little scary at first being away from all my friends and family, but I was surrounded by other College Program participants all in the same situation. Be brave and get out of your comfort zone. Ask your new neighbor to go get lunch or watch a movie. Ask your new friends from work to meet up at the parks on your day off. Chances are they are looking for new friends also and will be thrilled at you taking the first step.
A pivotal friendship moment for me was the night we watched “Newsies”. At work one day, the movie came up in conversation and how it was the most amazing movie ever. Imagine my delight to find out that my fellow College Program participant had the DVD with her. (Remember, this was 15 years ago before Disney+ existed). Three of us promptly made plans to watch it that night. The movie ended, but our conversation and laughter continued on into the early morning the next day. I had two new best friends after that night. (Fun fact: Both of my “Newsies” viewing partners are still my friends to this day and were both bridesmaids in my wedding.) Your new best friends could be just a “Newsies” viewing away!
I got very lucky in that I made multiple lifelong friendships from my College Program, including my husband who I met on the program. Now, I can’t promise you will meet your future maid of honor or significant other on the program, but my story certainly isn’t unique. Many friendships and families were all started thanks to the College Program.
You won’t just be impacted and remember your “besties” from the program, though. I met so many wonderful people that still hold positive memories for me: tenured cast at my location who embraced me and took me under their wing, my leaders, maintenance and custodial workers I saw every day, and of course the guests. Be open to everyone and the cheer, wisdom, and encouragement that they can send your way. It will stick with you long after your program.
Don’t forget about work and education!
There is so much opportunity for fun on your College Program, including your work and the education offerings. It is no coincidence that I am still working for Disney 15 years after my program. I fell in love with this company. I worked attractions in the Magic Kingdom Park at the Enchanted Tiki Room, the Magic Carpets of Aladdin, and the Swiss Family Treehouse. Working attractions in Magic Kingdom Park was definitely hard (and hot) on some days, but it was so worthwhile. It was such a privilege to be a part of our guests’ experiences and getting to do so alongside amazing people (I loved my co-workers!). You never know who you will see or what magic will be made each day at work. I randomly saw my old babysitter one day and my old high school band director a few weeks later – a magical moment for all of us.
I am also so thankful to myself for taking advantage of the education offerings that were provided. The classes allowed me to make even more new friends and to learn about the company in a more professional “big picture” way outside of my role. I highly recommend taking full advantage of the offerings provided by the education team. Nowadays, there are even more cool things to do through the education program (backstage tours?! So cool!), and I am very jealous. Don’t miss out on those opportunities!
This is just part one in a two part blog series! Stay tuned for more as I reflect back on my 2005 Disney College Program.