Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, it’s off to Disney they go
Throughout the years, Belmont students have attended the Disney College Program for a semester and turned their dream of working at Walt Disney World into a reality.
“It was always a dream of mine to work at Disney, and the college program was an easy way to do it and not have to live in Orlando for a long span of time,” said junior music therapy major, Sally Ann Jones.
Jones spent her time at the Disney College Program in the entertainment realm and performed in parades and throughout multiple parks.
Although performers have a responsibility to keep Disney character integrity by not disclosing information about their roles, Jones mentioned her daily routine consisted of applying make up, changing into costume and meeting guests from all over the world.
“I love knowing the behind-the-scenes magic. It might ruin it for some people, but it makes things so much cooler knowing how talented and creative people are at Disney,” said Jones. “It makes so happy knowing other Belmont students have experienced the magic.”
Belmont is one of the 882 schools in all 50 states and in 60 countries represented at the college program. Jones said that unfortunately Belmont was not very cooperative and made it difficult for her to attend the Disney College Program.
“I did lose my scholarship to go, and I know others who had the same problem,” said Jones.
Students in the college program work in 325 locations around Walt Disney World in departments such as attractions, food service, custodial, hospitality, guest relations, merchandise, entertainment and more.
Recent graduate Mamie Adams believes her experiences at Belmont prepared her to work at Disney, and the college program has been a perfect chance for her to get started working for Disney.
“Bruin Recruiters prepared for a lot of skills I’m using here at Disney such as recognizing if a guest needs help, answering difficult questions and of course, waking up super early,” said Adams.
Adams sometimes wakes up at 5:30 a.m. to hop on a bus to the Magic Kingdom tunnels, the official name being “the Utildors.” From there, she walks 15 minutes underneath the park to Frontierland where she works as an operator at water ride, Splash Mountain.
“I’ve visited Disney so many times that I consider it my second home,” said Adams. “I’ve longed to work for a company that I believe actually places customer service above profit.” Junior corporate communications major and member of Alpha Gamma Delta, Nicolette Talley, said she practices customer service daily while selling merchandise at Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post, also known as “The main Frozen gift shop” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
“A typical day is usually about six hours, and I create ‘magical moments’ by helping guests pick out the perfect or toy or souvenir for them,“ Talley said.
The college program is typically 5-8 months, and students can apply to extend their program in order to work at Disney for a full year. Talley has been part of the program since May and is interested in extending her program to gain more experience.
“If I stay, I’d like to work at a ride or an attraction,” Talley said. “I want to see different sides of the company.”
While Belmont students spoke fondly of The Walt Disney Company and the perks, which include discounts and complementary passes to the parks, they also expressed that even the happiest place on earth has its challenges.
Since Disney is open every day during the year, a challenge for Belmont students face is working on holidays. Students also mentioned one of the most challenging aspects of working at the Disney parks is communicating with guests who do not speak or understand English.
“It can be difficult trying to help a guest when there is a language barrier present,” said Talley. “I’m constantly interacting with people who speak all different languages and travel to Disney from all around the world.”
Even with the occasional challenges, students can’t get enough of the pixie dust and expressed interest in working at Disney in the future. Both Talley and Adams hope to network with people and discover how they can work for Disney later on in life.
“I am planning on pursuing a professional internships at Disney,” said Adams. “I’ve very interested in so many aspects like production, management, animation, public relations—pretty much anything that has to do with Disney.”
Adams also shared her short-term goals, which include being a performer and a guide for the Great Movie Ride in Hollywood Studios or the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom.
“We are a family. We at least have a special bond,” said Jones, describing her relationship with other Belmont students who have also experienced the college program. “I hope to continue to give more light to the program, and it makes my day anytime I get the chance to talk about Disney.”
This article was written by Catherine Beneson.