Last fall, senior Ali Caiazzo spent the semester in Florida with the Disney College Program. The Disney College allows students from around the country to work and learn at their resorts. Participants fulfill roles from concierge to character performer while living with other students and taking courses in subjects such as marketing and leadership. Ali, a longtime Disney fan, was incredibly excited to participate in this unique opportunity. "Working in Disney World is unlike any other job," she says, "and I think anyone could benefit from an experience like this." [caption id="attachment_1065" align="aligncenter" width="585"]
Ali with Goofy[/caption]
RR: What made you interested in the Disney College Program? Why did you want to do it?
AC: I’ve always been a huge Disney fan and I’ve been going to Disney World every few years since I was little, but the first time I heard of the Disney College Program was during my senior year of high school. I loved that Walt Disney World is treated like a huge show, and every employee is called a cast member. No matter what their job, from Mickey Mouse to a custodian, each employee is a performer. I knew that I wanted to work in Disney World at some point in my life, and the College Program seemed like the perfect opportunity. Over the last few years, I have had quite a few friends participate in the program and they all loved it, which encouraged me to apply.
RR: What was the application process like?
AC: To apply for the Disney College Program you first have to submit an online application. This application is a little tricky because they essentially ask you the same questions over and over, each worded slightly differently to make sure you’re answering genuinely. Once you pass that, you have to schedule a phone interview. In this interview they ask you more open ended questions about yourself, past experiences, and what you could bring to the College Program. After that you just have to sit and wait! The application process overall could take anywhere from a week to a few months, depending on when you apply.
RR: What was your most memorable or exciting memory from your time there?
AC: At Voyage of the Little Mermaid we have a position called pre-show, which is the equivalent to a curtain speech. Before every pre-show we would pick a little kid to be our first mate and say the line" Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the show!” before we opened the doors. Picking a child out of the audience was always pretty hit-or-miss, and I almost always happened to pick the one who decided to get shy.
One day, I picked a little girl named Bonnie, who had traveled all the way from Scotland with her family. She was super confident and excited to be my first mate, and when it was time she said her line clear as a bell. The audience immediately laughed and applauded (which almost never happens), mainly because she and her Scottish accent were insanely adorable. Later that night I was working a position outside the theater, and I saw Bonnie and her family walking towards the exit. I yelled “have a great night, Bonnie!!” and she and her family seemed so excited that I remembered her. That’s one of those memories I’ll never forget.
Another exciting moment was getting to ride Toy Story Midway Mania, one of our most popular attractions, at midnight on New Years Eve. The ride was closed to guests during the new years fireworks, but a bunch of cast members got to ride before it reopened. We were the first riders of 2015. I think I’ll remember that forever as well. [caption id="attachment_1066" align="aligncenter" width="585"]
Ali graduates from the program[/caption]
RR: What did you learn from the experience?
AC: I think the Disney College Program is like a trial run of the real world. I learned so much about living on my own, being self sufficient, having a full time job, and being away from school. I learned a lot about myself and how to take care of myself. I think working in Disney World teaches you how to deal with rude, angry crowds of people with a smile on your face, how to fix issues calmly, and how to communicate with people from all around the world, even if you don’t speak the same language. I was also lucky enough to work in two theaters that were putting on shows all day every day, so I learned a lot about working in a fast paced theater environment.
RR: What are three words you would use to describe your time there?
AC: Eye-opening, exhausting, and magical!