Twelve years ago today, I walked into a small meeting room at the Vista Way Apartment Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida (if you know, you know) and checked in for my Disney College Program. I did not realize at the time how life-changing this experience would be, but it left such an impact on me and my future. I secretly wish I could go back in time and do it all over again, but ultimately I am so thankful for the Disney College Program and how it changed my life.
I applied for the Disney College Program in August 2008 during my first semester of college. At the time, to apply, you had to go to a DCP Presentation at your college and then apply and interview after. If your college didn’t offer a presentation, you could go to one at a nearby school or do the presentation online. The presentation at my school wasn’t until the very end of the semester. I was too anxious to wait, so I watched the online presentation and applied at the beginning of the semester, interviewed quickly after, and had an acceptance letter in mid-October 2008. I remember standing in my mom’s kitchen after receiving that letter and telling her, “I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t do the Disney College Program” (how 19-years-old of me).
Once you are accepted to the College Program, you pick a date to arrive, an apartment to live in, and a roommate if you have one (if not, they will assign a roommate). I wanted to get to Orlando as soon as possible, so I first picked a December 2008 arrival date. My brother was getting married on January 16, so I changed my arrival until after his wedding date. On January 25, 2009, my dad, stepmom, and I loaded down the car in Texas and drove 20 hours to Orlando, Florida. At the time, I knew who my roommate was, where I would be living (Chatham Square), and that I would be working in Attractions (but wasn’t sure which ride or park). On January 26, 2009, I checked in at Disney and soon found out that I would be working in Attractions in Tomorrowland in Magic Kingdom.
The next couple of weeks were filled with tours, training, and teaching. I ended up working in the “Stitch Complex” in Tomorrowland, which meant I worked at Stitch’s Great Escape, Tomorrowland Transit Authority, and Astro Orbiter. I quickly made friends with Sarah, who is still one of my best friends years later, and my future husband, Kalib. Out of the thousands of Spring 2009 Disney College Program Participants, Kalib and I found ourselves arriving on the same day, working in the same place, and training together, just the two of us (something we still laugh about to this day). We all learned the ins and outs of Magic Kingdom, and Tomorrowland were so excited to spend an entire semester there.
Sarah and I quickly became friends with another Tomorrowland CP, Kaelyn, and we spent every day together. Most of our Tomorrowland shifts were late in the evening, so we would spend our days together at the parks. We bought Universal Studios Annual Passes (they were like $150 at the time, haha) and spent so much time there as well. Every day felt like a vacation, and work was always fun, even when we had to stay at work Extra Magic Hours until 3:00 am. I still laugh about how much Kalib annoyed me on our College Program; he loved to be silly and play jokes on everyone during our shifts (I never thought he would be the one for me). No shifts in Tomorrowland were mundane because you were constantly moving around and interacting with guests. I spent my Disney College Program surrounded by fun people, magical moments, and Disney magic. I wanted to stay forever, but of course, all good things must come to an end.
In June of 2009, as our Disney College Program was ending, I decided that I would stay in Orlando for a bit longer. I ended up getting a boyfriend while I was at Disney, who shall remain nameless, haha, and he convinced me to stay. My parents were reluctant but ultimately supported my decision to stay in Orlando for awhile. I got an apartment, signed up for online college classes, got a job at Universal Studios (that I had for like a solid 5 days before I quit) and watched all of my Disney College Program friends head home.
Not long after my College Program ended, I received a job offer to work with Disney’s Animal Programs Education Team at The Seas with Nemo and Friends as an Education Instructor. I lived in Orlando and worked full time at the Seas until March 2012, and then I went home to Texas to finish college (and started dating Kalib). I continued as a Seasonal Cast Member with Disney until June 2014, returning twice a year to work and keep my Cast Member status. Disney decided to do away with most seasonal positions around that time, and I was no longer a Cast Member.
In June 2014, I had a Disney Fairytale Wedding at Walt Disney World and married Kalib (yep, the same guy that I trained with on my College Program and pestered me). Two of the bridesmaids in our wedding were Sarah and Kaelyn, and we are still the best of friends to this day. Although we all no longer work for The Mouse, we now get to experience Disney as guests, and I think we are all okay with that.
I might have been a little dramatic when I told my mom that if I didn’t participate in the Disney College Program in June 2009, I would “regret it for the rest of my life,” but it’s true. I made the most magical memories and incredible friends and learned hard life lessons when I worked at Disney, but it changed everything about my life. I would do it over again in a heartbeat if I could.
Sending love and magic.