Switch out your pencils for pixie dust – spend a semester at Disney

By Kaitlin Lott

Staff Writer

 

 The Disney College Program offers students opportunities to work in many different areas, from park greeter, Photo Pass photographer, resort guide and transportation. Photo courtesy of Disney College Program.

The Disney College Program offers students opportunities to work in many different areas, from park greeter, Photo Pass photographer, resort guide and transportation.
Photo courtesy of Disney College Program.

Let’s face it, college is not the most exciting place on earth. Sure, there are a few epic parties here and there, and there’s always that one professor who will make a giant impact on his or her students’ lives, but overall college is college. A place where books and homework haunt you until graduation day.

Fortunately, the University of West Florida offers alternatives. Instead of wooden desks and long lectures, imagine working at the happiest place on earth, making dreams come true and wishes come to life.
Tamara Marmol, a UWF international studies graduate, was a Kilimanjaro Safari driver in Animal Kingdom Park at Disney.UWF’s Hospitality Department offers the Walt Disney World Experiential Learning Program, which is a full semester filled with magic. The program is partnered with the Disney College Program, connecting students from all over the world and teaching them the tools of the trade of being a cast member.

“When spring came last year, I knew I needed to get my internship and field study credits out of the way, and I was craving a bit of a break from school,” Marmol said. “My whole application to the acceptance process took about two weeks.”

Yes, you do have to work, students have the option to pick from multiple roles as a Disney cast member. A few of the roles include being a park greeter, convention guide, photographer or even working the attractions.

Students also can work as housekeepers in Disney Resort Hotels. Perhaps even in Cinderella’s Castle.

Although the program caters to hospitality majors, students of different majors should not be discouraged. The program offers a wide variety courses at Disney including corporate communications, leadership, human resources and interactive learning.

Taylor Fields, a film and television major at Savannah College of Art and Design – Atlanta, applied and never wanted to leave.

“I participated in The Disney College Program the summer of my sophomore year,” Fields said. “I applied, chose my top three roles and waited for my phone interview. After that, I waited to get accepted, and I did. Once accepted I found out I got my third desired role, merchandising.

“I found out I would be working at EPCOT, Towers and Glow,” Fields said. “That included working the two stores in front of The World Showcase, and glow carts selling light up merchandise for the fireworks show at night. They trained us in the most effective way possible, and I finally felt a part of the Disney Family.”

On days off, students participating in the program are allowed to enter the parks for free.  From time to time they use their magic as undercover cast members to make guests’ experiences the best they can be.

“I learned so much about how to be magical on stage and off stage,” Fields said.

Marmol’s stay at Disney lasted eight months, longer than the average semester, but she, like Fields, had a chance to experience life after college, both good and bad.

“There were tons of times when I was exhausted or wanted to give up or cried in the break room, but I had to suck it up, put a smile on, and remember that I work in the most magical place on earth,” said Fields.

Despite the rainy days, both women shared how magical their lives became and how Disney prepared them for aspects of post-graduation reality.

“Applying for this program was the best decision I ever made,” Fields said.

For more information on finding a more magical classroom contact the Hospitality, Recreation and Resort Management Department or directly apply at Disney College Program.