From August 2017- January 2018, I was living, learning, and earning at the most magical place on earth. For five months, I worked behind Cinderella Castle, played in the parks on my day off, and got to call Mickey Mouse my boss. I was part of the Disney College Program, which had been my dream for years before I was finally able to make it a reality.
Now that I’m back home in Missouri, where it’s cold and is seriously lacking a beautiful castle, I’ve been reminiscing about my months during the program. It went by in the blink of an eye, and while there were days I just wanted to go home, I am so grateful and thankful for the opportunities I had living at Walt Disney World.
Even though five months may seem like a small duration of time, it changed my life. I truly am a different person than I was on check-in day. Looking at how much I’ve grown personally, professionally, and relationally, I’m amazed. Five months is actually a pretty long time. Five months of magic left me with a lifetime of pixie dust.
The Disney College Program introduced me to one of my best friends, bridesmaids, and my Disney-Soul-Sister. Chey and I first met right after I got accepted into the program through the Facebook page, and after she got accepted, we decided to be roommates! The first time I met her in person, I knew we were going to be great friends. She’s the Chip to my Chip, and we have so many memories in the parks together that I will never forget. From forcing her to ride Dinosaur over and over with me to making and taking dumb quizzes online, my program would not have been the same without her. I already miss her so much and wish we could ride and sing along to the Carousel of Progress one more time (or twenty more times).
One of my fondest memories of my program is the first night the girls of apartment 12208 all saw Happily Ever After for the first time. Crying together over the fireworks was truly a bonding experience. The dynamic of our apartment changed a lot from day one (you ladies know what I’m talking about), but the five of us only grew closer as the days went on. Park days and movie nights, going to Chick-fil-A, and waiting up for Taylor Swift’s new songs and videos to be released; I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Working in Fantasyland was such a dream come true. The picture on the left is me during my first day in Magic Kingdom ever, before I even began training. I remember I was excited but nervous. The picture on the right is me right after my last closing shift, almost five months later. Not only did I become more comfortable with my role and my location, but I fell in love with it. I learned the insides and outs of Fantasyland, and most of Magic Kingdom, and was confident in my ability to talk to our royal guests and make magic for them. Fantasyland truly became my home.
I remember the first time I put on my stock costume for training, I was not very happy. I thought I looked like a mailman, or a policeman. Then I started getting scheduled a lot of stock shifts- every week, I would have two or three shifts in blue rather than in my pretty purple princess dress. However, the more comfortable I grew with each store and the overall process of stocking, I actually really came to enjoy it. Fantasy Faire (AKA, the worst store to stock, so of course the one I was placed in all the time) has nothing on me. I would do anything to stock Hundred Acre Goods again.
Speaking of Hundred Acre Goods, the beginning of my program I had a love-hate relationship with all things Winnie the Pooh. There was a point in time where for an entire month straight, I only ever worked in the Winnie the Pooh gift shop, even when I was stocking. It is a small store, and they play the same four songs over and over so I came to hate it. Then, I wasn’t scheduled there for another month and missed it with everything in me. Now, Winnie the Pooh is part of me that I will forever love.
My first trip to EPCOT, I had no idea how much that park would come to mean to me. I am actually obsessed with that giant golf ball (Spaceship Earth for the cultured people) and the entirety of the World Showcase and Future World. Epcot quickly became my favorite park in Walt Disney World, and I truly left a piece of my heart with Figment.
The picture on the left was Traditions, aka our very first day as Walt Disney World cast members. The picture on the right was our college program graduation, signifying our final days as Walt Disney World cast members. Just looking at these pictures makes me emotional; so much happened in those five months. I really am a different person.
After a couple weeks of training, I finally “earned my ears” in Fantasyland. I was still not completely comfortable and confident in everything it took to work the many stores of the Land. I remember thinking one night how much I really hate not knowing everything I was supposed to know working there; having to track someone down to answer a question a guest had asked me, or asking for help when I was really confused during a transaction or stocking. It made me really anxious at times.
But then, five months later, I said “see ya real soon” to my Fantasyland family and the stores that made me anxious, but really really happy. I learned so much during my months of work, and soon became the person new people could ask questions and get help from. That change alone feels good. Not only did I grow, but I blossomed. Also, these pictures made me cry.
Some other cool things that happened during my program:
- I worked three Halloween Party treat shifts.
- I experienced Epcot’s 35th anniversary!
- I earned four four-keys cards.
- I saw a famous person in my store while I was working (Normani from Fifth Harmony).
- I attended a live taping of the Disney Parks Christmas Special.
- I worked on Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Years Eve.
- I spent Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve (before work) at Epcot.
- I visited the parks as a guest as many times as I could-
- Magic Kingdom: 22 times
- Epcot: 15 times
- Hollywood Studios: 13 times
- Animal Kingdom: 9 times
- I ate at many delicious restaurants:
- Rainforest Cafe
- Peco’s Bill Tall Tale Inn & Cafe
- 50’s Prime Time Cafe
- Trattoria al Forno
- Be Our Guest
- 1900 Park Fare
- Beaches and Cream
- Whispering Canyon Cafe
- Garden Grill
- Plus many other quick service locations and snack carts!
- I worked in 18 different locations, including all four parks and Disney Springs.
- I survived Hurricane Irma.
- I collected 8 Scar pins and 13 Tangled/Rapunzel pins.
I wish I could explain how much my program meant to me in a short blog post, but I can’t. It was magical, it was difficult, it was fun, it was stressful, it was beautiful, it was exhausting. It was a wonderful opportunity that I am so thankful I was able to participate in. I really wouldn’t change it for the world.
I kept a journal throughout my program on my college program blog here, and I’m sure I’m going to be writing more posts on this blog about my different experiences. For now, I leave you with the beautiful pictures that became a tradition every time I went to Epcot: