Opinion: Disney’s College Program proves worthwhile

TTU student Kelly Camera with Mickey Mouse in Walt Disney World in Florida.  Photo by Kelly Camera.

A year ago, I made a risky decision to pick up my life and move across the country for six months to follow a dream. For so long, I dreamed of doing the Disney College Program, and it finally become a reality.

The DCP is a paid internship program at Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resorts. Students not only get to work in a theme park or at a resort on Disney property – but they will have the opportunity to take classes to learn from the heads of one of the top companies in the world. Participants can earn college credit and meet people from all over the United States and potentially the world.

Going into the DCP, I had no clue how much I would benefit from the program as a communication major. Participants can have any job from food and beverage to lifeguarding. However, from my job working in a kitchen, I learned valuable verbal communication skills and got to experience working with a diverse group of people from all over the world. Overall, getting to observe how The Walt Disney Co. utilizes public relations and marketing strategies was the biggest thing for me. 

“I applied for the program because I knew it would help me to understand the importance of public relations strategies. Disney keeps the illusion of happiness and magic in a world that’s riddled with war and disease and death,” Alexandra Love, a communication major at St. John’s University in Staten Island. 

Abbey Markus, a Tennessee Tech graduate with a communication degree, said she knew working at Disney was going to require her to learn how to uphold a certain image.

Another beneficial aspect of the DCP is getting out of one’s comfort zone. Moving thousands of miles away to live on my own helped me feel more prepared for what life is going to be like after I graduate. 

“I thought being thrown into the unexpected would help prepare me more than anything I did in the classroom,” Markus said. She worked at Ellen’s Energy Adventure in Epcot where she got to control the attraction and interact with a lot of guests. 

Love worked as a conductor on the Wildlife Express in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. She said being thrown into a completely new environment with very little time to learn a different way of communication will help her tremendously in the future. 

A major benefit of working at Disney is adding to the magic at the “most magical place on earth.” Cast members get the opportunity to interact with guests from all over the world, and it is very rewarding to be a part of what makes a guest’s trip special. Getting to make “magical moments” is something all Disney cast members jump at the chance to do because they love being the reason someone smiles.

While it’s not beneficial to my career, the friendships I made during my time at the DCP are friendships I will cherish forever. My program ended 10 months ago, but I still talk to all my roommates daily and keep in touch with most of my co-workers. 

I can’t say every part of my program was perfect. I worked long hours at a physically demanding job, and the people I had to deal with weren’t always the nicest, but even all of that helped me learn and grow as a person. The lessons I learned and all the wonderful people I met vastly overshadowed all the negative aspects.