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My Disney College Program Experience

When I applied to the Disney College Program, I swore that I wasn’t going to be accepted. I thought my phone interview went terribly! When the interview ended, I tried to make myself move on from the thought of moving down to Florida for a few months to work at Disney. Lo and behold, a few weeks later, I got the news- I was accepted! I packed my bags, went on a leave of absence, and started my Disney career. I went from cramming for exams to spending my time off in Magic Kingdom. It was a risk, to say the least. But what was working for the mouse actually like?

Work

I was a seater at ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I expected to be placed at this resort because the majority of cast members that come from Hawai’i work here. I was actually really happy about this placement because the move to Florida was scary, so being in a somewhat similar environment helped to ease my homesickness. I was primarily a seater, but I was also a greeter and did stock for our two bars and the back of the house. So while all my friends were working long hours in the hot sun, I was in AC with calming music and no kids throwing a tantrum– definitely a bonus! Since I’m an education major, being a seater won’t necessarily help get me a job as a teacher. But I still learned a lot, like how to properly cut bread pudding (is that useful?) Anyways, thankfully my job gave me a reasonable amount of hours, but it can still be tiring. It was a fast-paced environment with high demands from guests. Plus, there were a few times where I had to stay till midnight rolling silverware when I had to be back in six hours for my morning shift- yeah, not so glamorous. But, my coworkers and I still made fun during those times. If I were to go back to work for Disney again I wouldn’t be a seater just because I didn’t get a lot of interaction with guests, plus it got repetitive. 

Housing

When you do the DCP, you have the option to choose between four apartment complexes. I got really lucky because I got my first choice! I lived in Chatham Square and loved it (mostly because we had a bus stop). I remember the day I moved in so vividly. When my Uber was pulling into the complex I saw cast members dressed in their costume waiting for the bus and I thought it was the funniest thing to see them acting so… normally instead of how cast members are supposed to be. There were five other girls in my apartment which made it a bit cramped at times and not the quietest place to sleep, but other than that it was manageable! I wasn’t close with any of my roommates which I was fine with; sometimes you just don’t click. That being said, I really enjoyed living in Chatham Square and Disney housing honestly isn’t that bad (unless you live in Vista Way). There are a lot of shops and fast food establishments nearby, plus Mickey’s Retreat was a three-minute walk from my apartment! I will say though that if you ever do the DCP, get a car. Depending on the bus constantly wasn’t fun, especially when I had to wake up at 5 in the morning and wait in the cold for my morning shifts. Especially when our buses were catching on fire and breaking down in the middle of the highway… But that’s a whole other story. 

My regrets

So, I actually have a few regrets, even though my program only lasted two months. My biggest regret is I wish I did more things! I got wrapped up in my paychecks so I was worried that I would go broke. Give yourself some room to treat yourself, even on a budget. Plus, I was always tired. Between my work schedule and anxiety, all I wanted to do was sleep and watch Netflix when I got back to my apartment. While I did spend a lot of my time exploring the parks and riding DINOSAUR over and over again, I do wish that I just picked myself up some days and lived in the moment. I kept telling myself I have till May to experience everything, but alas, a pandemic started.

I didn’t get to complete my DCP Bucket List either, which was a bummer. One day I’ll attempt the Kitchen Sink challenge… 

What I Loved

Even though guests can be mean (man, do I have some stories for you), they were actually my favorite part. I got to meet people from all over the world, PLUS make magic for them! The littlest things will make their entire day, like when we would give them fake leis or birthday pins. Seeing their excitement over that was so much fun! I got to meet international guests, guests who were celebrating their first time at Disney World, and see kids freaking out over meeting Stitch. I loved my friends, too. Some of my favorite memories are with them and freaking out when we would get a fast pass for Flight of Passage (if you ever saw a girl running towards FOP while crying, that was probably me). I got to spend my time in the happiest place on Earth with people who make me happy- not much more I could ask for. 

A lot of people ask if the magic has been ruined for me now, but it really hasn’t; sure, I know how things are ran behind the scenes, but the magic is still there. You don’t need to have magic created for you to see it. I see Disney’s magic in the rides, the shows, and the cast members.

I’m not gonna lie- there was a time I considered going home. I was homesick, anxious, and not having the most magical time. Being a cast member is overwhelming and hard work. Guests can be mean, you work long hours with an inconsistent sleep schedule, and Florida is just… strange. Being sent home was a bit of a relief. But, I still miss it– a lot. I miss making magic, the parks, and my friends. In the end, I loved my time there and feel so blessed I got to experience something people dream about. 

Makayla Holbrook is a Campus Correspondent here at HC Hawai'i and majoring in Secondary Education with a focus on English. Outside of writing, you can find her watching cooking competition shows, getting lost in romance novels, playing with her dogs, and trying new coffee shops.
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