Ever since she was a little girl, sophomore Ashley Fischer has gone on family vacations to the Disney theme parks. She said she has gone to the parks more than 30 times, sparking her dream of working for the Walt Disney Company.
This spring, Fischer went to Walt Disney World to work for the company through the Disney College Program.
“[It] was kind of a stepping stone that I knew was really necessary for me to … make my way through the company,” Fischer said.
Open to all college students, the program is a paid internship, ranging between $7.21 and $8.56 an hour, with the opportunity to take college-level courses while working at the park or a Disney resort.
The internship takes place during a semester of school, with a choice to intern at either Disneyland in California or Walt Disney World in Florida.
Junior Annie Goodenbour, a campus representative for the program, said it is a great opportunity that not enough people hear about.
“It’s very similar to taking a semester and studying abroad, except you get paid,” Goodenbour said.
During the semester, students work at the parks as cast members or at one of the resorts near the parks owned by the Walt Disney Company. Students’ work schedule will also be made to accommodate the classes students choose to take.
“You learn how to communicate with other people, you’ll learn how to present yourself in a corporate world, and I definitely think those skill are transferable in everyday life,” Goodenbour said.
It is not required that students take courses while participating in the Walt Disney World program, though the Disneyland program requires students take two courses. Senior Jeff Tatanus said he took a class on the history and business of Disney and another on hospitality management — classes he said he couldn’t take at Ithaca.
Tatanus, another campus representative for the Disney College Program, worked as a vacation planner last spring, selling tickets at Magic Kingdom. This semester, Tatanus is doing a marketing internship, working on a “Disney Vacation Connection” desktop widget for computers.
He said his present internship is more like what students think of a traditional internship.
“[I’m] working in an office, working on a marketing-related project,” he said. “It’s a lot more self-driven.”
Tatanus said he has enjoyed both his professional internship and the college program.
“I worked with a great group of people, and I enjoyed what I did,” he said.
While participating in the Disney College Program, students stay in apartments provided by the program. The cost of the apartment and all utilities, such as electricity, cable hookup, waste disposal and local phone service, is deducted from the student’s paycheck.
“You don’t have to worry about finding a place to live, you don’t have to worry about transportation,” Tatanus said.
According the Disney College Program’s Web site, there is a $100 program assessment and activities fee, which covers the cost of activities and events hosted in the housing complexes during the program.
There are no additional fees for tuition if the student chooses to take courses while interning with the program. Participants only have to pay for textbooks and course materials they may need. If students want credit toward their degrees, they would have to find out through the college itself about costs, according to the Web site.
Tatanus said cast members also get free admission to the park and family passes.
Beside the benefits listed on the program’s Web site, students that participate in the program have the chance to meet other students their age from different backgrounds and homes.
“The experience was completely eye-opening,” Goodenbour said. “I made a lot of new friends from all around the country and all around the world.”
Fischer said working for the program has allowed her to meet people from Brazil to China.
“This has been such a growing experience in the fact that I’ve gotten to work with tons of people that I wouldn’t have been able to meet anywhere else,” Fischer said.
While taking classes at Ithaca College, Tatanus said he was able to apply what he learned during his internship to what he was learning in class, as well as learning about working in a fast-paced environment.
“[I’ve] enjoyed working for such a well-established company [and] finding out what it’s like to work for a company like this,” Tatanus said.
Fischer said a large percentage of the guests she comes into contact with speak Spanish.
“I’ve made leaps and bounds in my Spanish ability within a week,” she said.
Goodenbour said her experience was like no other job she’d ever had.
“You get to work and play in the happiest place on Earth,” she said. “What better job could there be?”
For more information on how to apply, visit the program’s Web site