UT students are making magic.
Thanks to a unique opportunity furnished by Career Services, several UT students will participate in the Disney College Program, an internship that takes place in both the fall and spring semesters.
"UT has had a long-standing relationship working with the Disney College Intern Program," said Mary Mahoney, assistant director of Career Services. "On average we have between 12-15 students participating in the Intern Program each fall and spring semester."
The Disney College Program is a paid internship that gives participants the chance to work in Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. Available jobs for interns range from custodial responsibilities to performing in costume as a Disney character.
"I work at main entrance operations, so I work at a turnstile or a parking tram," said Caitlyn Adams, a sophomore majoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management who will be traveling to Orlando for the spring 2014 internship.
Many of the available roles in the program are geared toward the hospitality industry; however, the internship is open to full-time students of any major and year. "Having no experience in the world of hospitality, it was a good way to take my resume from zero to sixty," said Carly Young, a senior majoring in journalism and minoring in hotel, restaurant and tourism management. "I learned more than I could ever imagine and am now able to apply that to my hospitality classes."
After completing an application and two interviews, selected students become "cast members" on the Disney team, and have a hand in creating the magic of Disney. Young, whose role as an intern during the spring of 2013 was in hospitality management, said being behind the scenes of the Disney experience was challenging at times.
"You're expected to follow Disney's Four Keys Basics – safety, courtesy, show and efficiency – at all times," Young said. "You have to be ready and engaged with each guest you come into contact with no matter how you feel that day."
In addition to practical work experience as a full-time employee, internship participants also have the opportunity to utilize Disney Education Courses, free of charge. Available course offerings vary depending on the location and length of the program.Alex Lohmann, a senior in marketing and Disney intern in the spring of 2013, said she valued the real-world experience that working at the Walt Disney World Resort provided.
"I think that this program really is a good glimpse of a future in the working world and out of the bubble of UT," Lohmann said. "You completely relocate your life, start working a new job, must meet new people from a ton of different places and you just have to develop a new life in this place."
While the internship presents academic and professional benefits, Mahoney said many students choose to participate due to nostalgia.
"I've grown up going to Disney and my dream was always to take my family there and let them experience the magic I did when I was a child," Young said. "However, I never imagined actually being able to be a part of the magic."
Adams expressed this sentimental attachment to the program.
"I wanted to work for Disney since I was a little girl, and when I get out of school I want to be a Disney meeting and convention planner," she said.
However, relinquishing a semester at UT to work for Disney has its costs."The internship put me a semester behind in school," Young said. "You have to weigh the importance of the experience with graduating on time. But I wouldn't change it for the world."
In Lohmann's opinion, the Disney College Program provides an opportunity to combine professional development with a favorite childhood memory.
"Everyone always says that we, as college students, need to get internship experience before we graduate," Lohmann said. "So I thought, 'Why not intern at the happiest place on Earth?'"
For more information on the Disney College Program, click here.