So I probably could have and should have updated this through the past few months but better late than never, I suppose. Since August I have been living in Orlando, Florida and working attractions in Magic Kingdom in Walt Disney World.
I came down wanting travel adventures. I was excited about the whole free admission to Disney thing, but mostly I wanted weekend trips to places in the south. Parks can get old, but there are never enough cities and wildlife to see.
Well, I didn’t realize just how horrible the transportation would be without a car. I ended up being stranded in Orlando and I still somewhat feel like I failed at what I meant to do there. However, I have absolutely no regrets about doing the College Program. Although I didn’t get a chance to see a ton more of the world, I learned a lot through my job and the people I met. I am more confident than I ever would have been without doing the program. I made very close friends with some of my roommates and (although I hated my job a good 90% of the time) I made some friends at work too. I was at times required to be nasty to guests and yell at grown men way bigger than I was, things I didn’t think I was capable of. It sounds harsh but I worked a safety critical position and when people did not listen, it put their lives in danger. It made me bitter and angry, as I learned the dark side of the stupidity of humanity, but I think I finally know how to stand up for myself. I’m really not sure who thought it was a good idea to put me in charge of other people’s lives, but I didn’t kill anyone. So that is a plus, I guess.
And when I wasn’t yelling at people, I got to talk to amazing families from all over the world. A favorite was a “Give Kids the World” (similar to Make a Wish foundation) family I met. The little boy was super sleepy and when I tried to give him a sticker, he was not having it. However, it led into a conversation with his happy mother. It was the last day of the vacation but she would tell me how it was definitely a week to remember. She told me how it would probably be the last time they could all do this together. As she smiled and told me the week’s adventures, I felt grateful and happy for them and thankful to be able to share the experience with them. I talked to her for maybe a half hour. I and got yelled at by a supervisor in the progress because I was taking too long, but I like to think I made a difference in her trip, if even it was a miniscule one.
I also realized through my experience that I am a people person. I like talking to people and I like helping them. No matter what my career is-and it won’t be in a theme park, that’s for sure- I would like to keep up with that.
As much as I felt stranded inside the “Disney Bubble,” I did manage to make day trips to Saint Petersburg, Key West, and Tampa. I could definitely have spent days in each of the places and still find more to see, but I am thankful I got the experience I had. I also visited Universal, Gatorland and downtown Orlando, which were all pretty fun as well. I also went to the Disney parks a countless amount of times.
There are a lot of negatives though. I plan to write a fiction book in the future and have my protagonist touch on some of the issues I and others had while working there. The College Program is a way to pay people minimum wage to do exactly the same amount of work as a full timer. It is NOT an internship. The housing situation was ridiculous. I lived on my own in Philly, so it came as a pretty big shock to me. Every month, we had people come and inspect us for cleanliness and search for contraband like candles or things hanging on our walls (the horrors). When we were paying as much as we were, and all of us were legally adults, it got pretty ridiculous. There were also SO MANY CLIQUES. Especially where I worked. It can get really frustrating when you have graduated college but your workplace feels like a middle school. And I think that’s a big reason why many people do the Disney College Program. It’s their first time away from home and they want this false sense of independence, but they haven’t grown up yet.
Regardless, I am glad I did the program. I learned a lot, I survived, and now I’m looking for a real job. So many people say “the Disney College Program changed my life,” and I do not necessarily think that is true. But living in a new part of the country (or world) and meeting hundreds of new people, that will change your life. I know I will take my memories with me everywhere I go.