These are the feelings I get when I think about writing my reflection of the DCP. It’s unfathomable to turn six months of bliss into a blog post. I made a short video with some of my favorite memories from work and with my friends, but that hardly does it justice either. I’m warning you now, this entire post is just going to be word vomit about my Disney College Program experience.
I fill with so much joy when I look back on my memories at Disney, and I can’t believe they are just that now: memories. My best friend Jessie and I have been struggling with this for a while: that moving back home was the right decision. I know it was, I have a boyfriend and school and a life back home. But you don’t understand how real the “Disney Vortex” is. I was so incredibly blessed in every way to experience the College Program. I know everyone says it, but you will literally never be able to see how much it changes you.
My biggest evolution in Florida was my faith. I went down with a resolve that I should probably go to church, and my intended friends/roommates and I were all Christian and looking for a youth group (them more so than I). The community I found in Orlando was probably the most perfect community I have ever had. I built such strong relationships because I had to. None of us had anything down here, so we had to band together to make a life for ourselves. Cru and WDW was my saving grace. Prompted by my roommate Jessie to attend church with her, I was uneasy, nervous, and a little skeptical. As a Catholic from birth, I was unsure about a “modern” service without communion or hymns. Because I’d been pulling away from the faith entirely, I really wanted to challenge myself.
As soon as I walked into that Holiday Inn Ballroom, my world changed. I’m not sure who was playing, but the worship songs brought me to tears in 10 minutes. I could feel God wrapping his arms around me and the Holy Spirit lifting everyone’s joyous voices in the air. I finally understood the songs were meant to praise God and his wonderful grace and love, not just ways to eat up more time in a service.
Cru at WDW acted as our youth group with Pizza Night (aka free dinner on Thursdays), Bible Study (which I never went to the structured ones, just the student led at VISTA WAY. That’s right, Bible Study at freaking Vista!), and a diverse net of awesome, God-loving people to go to the parks with, swap stories and just have fun. I was discipled by an amazing woman named Kristel, she helped foster my relationship with God and gave me the tools I needed to make myself good enough for Him! She also introduced me to Noodles and Company, and for that, I am forever grateful. 😉
While my faith was my favorite part of my Disney journey, there were so many other wonderful aspects. I grew my love of Disney tenfold. If someone asked me now what I wanted at the Disney store, I would say 7 of everything, and 10 if it has the White Rabbit or Br’er Rabbit on it. I cultivated friendships with characters I had either never heard or cared about. My favorite Disney Character is now Br’er Rabbit (with the exception of Mickey and Minnie, of course), and I have most of the merchandise ever made with him on it (I won’t get into the Song of the South debacle, don’t want to step on any toes!!). My favorite princesses are Mulan and Pocahontas (the two princesses that have like no merchandise EVER). I am literally redoing my dorm room in Swan Court from Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade. For my 21st birthday, my boyfriend and I will probably be going to Disney. I don’t know if you understand how deep my love for Disney goes…
I have absolutely no regrets (okay one, I really wish I could have gone backstage of Fantasmic!) of my program. I used every day to my advantage, tried to experience every new opportunity in my role, and made deep and lasting friendships… shoutout to you, #JAK!
I want to give some advice to those of you that have just started your DCP or are preparing to go. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times on 10,000 different blogs, so one more reiteration tells you just how important it is:
- As far as packing, don’t take your entire life. I fit everything I ever needed into two suitcases and a military backpack, and I still didn’t use/wear anything. You will be in your role’s costume 80% of the time. Lounge clothes, some nice clothes to have nice dinners, and if you like to party, bring some of that stuff. THAT IS IT.
- Cherish every single moment. While I have no regrets, I wish I would have had more time. I really struggled with deciding to extend or not to extend. It was the right decision not to, but I miss Disney so much sometimes.
- DON’T RIDE THE PARTY BUS. Of course, I never rode it myself so I can’t speak from experience, but you are in Disney for 4/6/12 months to live your dream and work in the most magical place on Earth. Do you really want to throw up your pixie dust 5 out of 7 nights of the week? Termination is also a very real possibility, so… don’t.
- Transtar (the bus service) does suck, so get used to it or find someone with a car. I rode Transtar all six months I was down there, and it was not fun. While I was safe on the buses (if I would fall asleep, no one would steal my stuff; the bus rarely broke down with me on it), I had other friends that had pretty bad experiences.
- There was a point when the buses would randomly catch fire. I SHIT YOU NOT. My friend Hope had to evacuate the bus two separate times because of it.
- The buses are almost always late or early or leave without you or something like that. I tried to be 10 minutes early every day just in case.
- Get the App that tracks the buses. It is a lifesaver.
- Some of the buses have a really gross aroma especially at the back (where I presume the engine is). It gave me a bad taste in my mouth (literally… I always carried gum in case).
- Bring headphones. Your commute could be anywhere from 15/20 minutes (C bus to Epcot is a dream) to an hour or more (I don’t remember what route, but the one that goes to Cast Connection used years of my life I will never get back).
- Actually… for your wellbeing and happiness, I propose you find a buddy with a car. It makes life a lot easier. I always tried to coordinate with my roommate and ended up staying 2 or 3 hours after my shift so I could ride with her.
- Enjoy the little things. One of my favorite memories was at the end of my program. I was having a down-ish day and I was just walking around the Magic Kingdom after work because it makes me feel better, when a group of cast members from Harbour House in Liberty Square fiercely scouted out guests with birthday buttons and sang to them very loudly with bells and cymbals. It spread such a large smile on my face.
- Be nice to your fellow cast members. You’ll learn very quickly that guests come in two breeds: Nice ones and Brazilian tour groups…. haha I kid. But there are the nice families and the families that require every ounce of special attention you had that day. When you’re playing in the parks, never underestimate a handshake, a simple “Thank you so much!” or “Good Job!” Making genuine eye contact and saying “You’re appreciated” goes such a long way, and I will make sure to do it every time I’m back at Disney.
- If you need something, just ask. This goes for everything. My roommates and I had an unfortunate bug problem, and housing (after a few calls) came to clean up. If I needed an extra break at work or needed to speak to a manager, by captain was always more than willing to lend a helping hand. I was able to network with very important managers and directors by asking around. Nothing is off limits, and Disney really loves its employees, and wants to see growth.
The Disney College Program was the best experience of my life. I am beyond blessed to have come away with my bestest lifelong Calaberos Ashton and Jessie, a strong foundation for a blooming faith, and a passion for making magic wherever I go.
I applied to the College Program on a whim, got my 1st choice role, and had experiences I would have never imagined I’d see. It is so true that God leads you to where you need to be, and protects you in every situation. I felt God’s awe-inspiring love through the guests, my friends, my family, and everything in between.
So grow strong, grow wise, but never, ever grow up.