In June 2016, I embarked on what I thought would just be a normal, six-month internship. I was selected to participate in the Disney College Program in Orlando, Florida, as a custodian at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. Little did I know that it was more than just an internship. I loved my role so much that I came to the realization I wanted to pursue a career with The Walt Disney Company.
In January 2017, I had the amazing opportunity to continue my Disney journey by participating in the Disney College Program in Anaheim, California. I was a merchandise hostess in Frontierland and Adventureland. I eventually cross-trained to become an ornament personalizer in Fantasyland.
After participating in programs on both coasts, I can attest that there are some key differences and similarities. Here are some of the major ones if you’re wondering what each program offers.
Those who decide to participate in a Disney Program in Florida will have the option of choosing between four complexes: Vista Way, The Commons, Chatham Square, and Patterson Court. Each complex has a variety of amenities for participants to use and enjoy on their days off. Some of these amenities include fitness centers, pools, 24/7 security and company-sponsored transportation to work and leisure locations. All properties are located in the midst of shopping and dining.
In California, participants who opt-in for housing will be placed in Carnegie Plaza, which is located less than two miles from Disneyland ®Resort. In the Anaheim neighborhood, and California in general, parking can be limited. Thankfully Carnegie Plaza offers parking garages!
If you ever need assistance with anything, both coasts have Disney cast members on property.
In Florida, buses to and from work, as well as leisure locations, are provided for those living in company-sponsored housing. These buses are exclusively for program participants and will continuously run throughout the day. Vista Way, The Commons, and Chatham Square have bus stops conveniently located near the entrance at each complex. Patterson Court does not have a bus stop, but it’s a short five–minute walk to the nearest bus stop.
In California, participants who reside in Carnegie Plaza will use public transportation. The great thing about the Disney College Program in California is the Commuter Assistance Program. Cast members earn free money whenever they carpool, walk, bike, or use public transportation to get work. The Commuter Assistance Program Office is located inside Team Disney Anaheim. To give you an idea on how this program works, participants will receive $1 every time they ride the bus or carpool, or $2 every time they walk or bike to work.
Program Offerings and Events
Exploring Disney and Career Connection offerings offer a uniquely Disney experience and learning opportunity on both coasts. Program events, including character meet-and-greets, trips to local hot spots and capstone events are also a common theme on both coasts. Programs offerings and events are highly popular and may fill quickly but I highly recommend participating in at least one to get a better understanding of Disney as a company!
One difference between the Florida and California program is that participation in these educational opportunities is required in California. Each month you will be expected to fulfill a certain number of education hours to meet this requirement. The Programs team partners with the various scheduling teams to request time off so participants may attend these offerings.
The biggest difference you will encounter is size. Disneyland Resort has a much smaller program with roughly 300 participants each year. In contrast, Walt Disney World® Resort has over 7,000 domestic and international program participants!
Because Disneyland Resort is so small, you will often see the same friendly faces. Regardless of which program you are on, it’s always good to talk to your leaders and tell them what your interests and goals are! The Walt Disney Company is such a small world, you never know what connections you can make.
Being selected to participate in the Disney College Program is an extraordinary accomplishment, so regardless of which program you decide to participate in, you are guaranteed to have a memorable, joyful and unique experience!