After more than seven months, I recently finished my term in the Disney College Program (DCP). For those who do not know, DCP is a national internship program that recruits college students of all majors for a semester-long paid experience. In January of 2022, I was a senior a few months away from graduating college with a degree in English and a minor in Creative Writing. I had previously applied to the DCP with the slim chance that I would be accepted. To my surprise, I received my confirmation letter offering me the opportunity to work for one of the biggest companies in the world.
After I graduated in early May, my family and I gathered my things so that I could move to Flamingo Crossings Villages, Disney’s on-property resort for the DCP cast. located near the entrance to Walt Disney World. On May 16th, I began my DCP experience alongside hundreds of other college students. This was my first paid job and, at first, I found it exciting. The program recruiters gave us an introduction to the ins and outs of the park. They explained the roles we would play, how we should treat guests, and the benefits we would receive during the program. They even gave us official cast member name tags.
Overall, I made a smooth transition from my University of North Florida dorm to my DCP dorm. I didn’t know what was ahead of me, but I eagerly took my first official step into the adult world.
When I arrived at Cast Services at EPCOT the following week, I took a few short FDA (Food and Drug Administration) courses on how to treat guests, serve alcohol, maintain food, etc. Once I completed those courses, I picked up my blue and black uniform. During my first few days at Connections, I was trained on how to do each position and how to close the restaurant at the end of the day. During my time in the DCP, I performed each position many times. By the completion of my term, I felt like I could complete just about anything there.
I experienced many positives and many challenges in the DCP. One of the biggest pros for me was that my workplace was air-conditioned, which meant I would not have to deal with the merciless Florida summer heat. I also enjoyed working with and getting to know my fellow CP’s (DCP members) and Cast Members, most of whom were nice people. Whenever I needed help on a task, they were there to show me how to do it. Whenever I needed a 10-10 (code for restroom break), they would hold my position until I got back.
With all those positives, it seemed like that this job would be easy. However, I had one primary challenge. My schedule was very demanding. Connections had opened just before I started the DCP. Not only was my location new, but it was the main eatery in the World Celebration area (the front section) of the park. As a result, we had thousands upon thousands of guests every day and many of us were scheduled to come in six days a week. Most of my shifts took up my entire afternoons and nights. On top of that, because I took the bus to work, I always had to leave for work an hour early just so that I would be able to clock in on time.
Once I had to do three 12-hour shifts back-to-back. There were even nights where my shifts would go on until two in the morning.
For the first several months, I was part of the closing team every night. This meant that I didn’t get home until around 11 at night before, and then I’d have to get to bed to get up and leave for work by 10 the next morning and repeat the cycle.
As the months went by, I got used to the routine of working. I noticed that I was awake more, and was able to stand up for longer periods of time without feeling the need to sit down. Of course, when I had a day off, I’d spend a fair amount of it face down in my bed–albeit with the satisfaction that my exhaustion came from several days of work.
Beyond work, I enjoyed several benefits throughout the program. For one, I lived more independently than I ever had before. I had some experience with independent living in college, but spent most weekends at home with family. In the DCP, not only could I go to the parks and Disney Springs on my days off, I could also participate in special cast member events, such as “Earidescent”–a late-night (and early morning) at a Disney park, with only CPs and Cast Members as the guests. My sister Katarina and I (as shown in the picture above) had a great time.
Having completed the DCP, I am proud that I met the challenges it presented. I’m pleased with having played an important role in making the guests’ experience special and in having received so many positive reviews from guests. Mostly, I learned that I am capable of working for a large corporation, succeeding in a social setting, and meeting my supervisors’ expectations. Put simply, the DCP experience gave me confidence about my future. I’ll be back soon with other ways Disney has made a difference in my life.