To the next generation of College Program students,
My Disney College Program is now over, and the torch is being passed to you. This experience can be the best or worst 5-8 months of your college life: it all just depends on how you look at it. So whether you have already been accepted and are just waiting for your arrival date or you are waiting for the application to open, this letter contains some advice to help you maintain the magic:
It’s okay if you aren’t super crazy about Disney. I know this sounds weird, like, who would want to work at Walt Disney World (or Disneyland Resort) if they didn’t already love the company? But there are plenty of employees who just aren’t completely nuts about Disney movies or characters, they just like the experience.
Take a moment to take it all in. The first two weeks of your College Program are going to be crazy. You will jump from the Disney Traditions class to on-the-job training in a matter of days and could be considered a full cast member within a week and a half of your arrival. Between that and wanting to spend every moment of your first few weeks visiting the parks, meeting characters and celebrating the fact that you’re in Florida, it will seem chaotic, but take a moment to slow down, take it in. Go walk through One Man’s Dream and watch the process through which Walt and his brother developed the company. Stop and watch the ducks bathe next to Cinderella’s castle; notice how clearly the landmark reflects into the water – don’t feel like you have to run from one ride to the next.
But, be aware of how little time you actually do have. If you have free time, go and do something. Don’t force yourself to cram a semester’s worth of adventures into one week because you didn’t feel like getting out of bed for the first four months.
Make good friends and make even better memories. You will meet so many people during the course of your program: roommates, coworkers, that kid on the bus you always end up sitting next to. Somewhere in the sea of faces will be a group of people who will become your Florida (or California) family, your support system. They are the ones who are going to be able to get you through that 5-hour extension the week of Christmas, the ones that you will want to go to Steak-n-Shake with when it is 2 a.m. and you’ve literally just gotten off work.
Don’t freak out if things don’t happen right away. This one is mostly for those who haven’t applied yet, or for those thinking they might extend as the program progresses. Disney is a massive company. According to Forbes.com there are over 180,000 cast members (http://www.forbes.com/companies/walt-disney/), and I would estimate the college programs (both domestic and international) make up around seven percent of the workforce. That would mean they accept around 12,000 CPs for any given term, which is a lot of applications and a lot of paperwork. So don’t freak out if you don’t get an immediate response about your application, and give the casting team a little time to get to it.
Embrace the Disney language. You don’t have a uniform, it’s a costume. And your coworkers are cast members, just as you are. When you are cast into a role in the company you should be prepared to learn these phrases, and many more that may be specific to your work location. While it all may seem silly and unnecessary, it can be fun, you’ve just got to learn to embrace it.
Live a little. My last piece of advice is this: live your life. If you plan on spending everyday curled up in your bedroom watching Netflix reruns and sipping on something hot, this program might not be for you. Yes, you may enjoy it, but you won’t have the same experience that others do. There is a great, big, beautiful world outside, even outside of Disney. Orlando is a huge city with several major parks (Universal, Sea World, Lego Land) and it is only an hour or two from either coastline. If you love hockey, football or baseball, Tampa is an hour south. Miami is three.
So, for the next generation of CPs, this is where I pass the torch onto you. There are so many more things that I could talk about, but I trust that you will figure it out when you walk into your apartment on move-in day and realize that you forgot something important (like your laptop charger). So, enjoy the next few months, they go by so much faster than you realize.
And remember, it all started with a mouse.
With faith, trust and pixie dust,
LeAnn, Disney College Program Fall 2015.