The Disney College Program is a rewarding experience for more than just the fun it can provide. You can learn and grow more in just a few months during your program than in several years of college. It is something that gives you the independence and confidence to excel and is truly an internship to teach you about life, and here are just some of the things I learned while doing it.
1. How to live on your own.
To complete the Disney College Program, you have to move to either California or Florida for at least four months. For many college students, this is the first time being away from their family for such an extended period of time. Many students are used to living at home or at least in the same time zone as their immediate family. For so many, completing the college program is the first time they are truly on their own. You have to learn how to make it to work on time, make it to class on time, get groceries and cook without a dining hall, clean and keep up an apartment, maintain your car (if you're lucky enough to have one), and go to the doctor on your own if you happen to get sick. Your parents aren't there to help you; these are all things you have to do on your own.
2. How to be independent.
As any CP would note, when working at Walt Disney World, everyone works completely different schedules. As a result, you could easily work 6pm-2am, when all your roommates work 10am-9pm. You have to learn to do things on your own. Your family and friends from back home aren't here so you learn to branch out and find new groups to hang out with, but you are also okay being on your own to do your own thing. You've learned the fun of going to the parks on your own—you can do whatever you want when you want to! It can even be fun to go out to eat on your own because you can do it all at your own pace.
3. How to manage multiple priorities.
Doing a CP is truly a juggling act. You are working 40+ hours a week with shifts at all hours of the day or night; you are potentially taking classes, whether with Disney or online with your university; and you are trying to keep up an active social life to make the most of living at the happiest place on earth. Inevitably, it is necessary to schedule and prioritize to make everything work. Managing bus schedules, planning meeting times, and racing to make it to work on time are all daily occurrences.
4. How to survive on little to no sleep.
Speaking of prioritizing...sleep is usually the first to go. Who has time to sleep when you could be at the Magic Kingdom? Or working a 55 hour work week?
5. How to live with roommates.
This might be the first time you have had to live with roommates and share a room. Everyone in the college program is required to live with at least one roommate if you live in CP housing. And oftentimes these roommates are from all over the world. You learn to live with people from hugely diverse backgrounds and cultures as well as diverse social habits and cleanliness.
6. How friends can become family.
Inevitably your CP roommates or work friends become your family. You all bond through the experiences you go through together as CPs, and during the holidays, you share the feelings of missing your families back home.
7. How to be adventurous.
The CP is the ultimate adventure. Who wouldn't take advantage of spontaneous trips to Epcot after work, or last minute trips to the beach? What about a quick cruise to the Bahamas? It's only about an hour drive to Cape Canaveral. Your roommates invite you out downtown tonight? Sure! Who cares if you work at 9am the next day? This is a once in a lifetime experience and you want to make the most of it!
8. How to be assertive.
Dealing with guests requires a certain talent. As a result, you have learned to stick up for yourself and maintain composure under many different circumstances. Guests frequently challenge you in ways you never thought possible, but it makes you stronger as a person.
9. How to manage your finances.
When completing the college program, you deal with one of the most challenging tasks: living at Disney World and not spending all your money on food, merchandise, and discounted experiences. Working 40 hours a week or more provided a bigger salary than you are used to, but for many, this is the first time you have to budget in rent, groceries, gas money, and fun. With the temptations of Walt Disney World, this is really a feat!
10. And, most importantly, how to live life.
You have learned what is really important in life. Yes, you may not be making as much money as you would in a different job. No, this internship does not fit directly with the career path you wish to pursue. But you are having more fun than you've ever had, making best friends to last a lifetime, and spreading happiness by making magic for guests from around the world. Life is about finding something that you are passionate about and doing it!
Doing the Disney College Program is about so much more than getting paid for a internship. It is about finding yourself and maturing as a person in a new place that challenges you to really be independent as an adult, and I'd do all over again in a heartbeat. Maybe you would, too!