Hi guys! A LOT of people get excited when they hear I worked for Disney World. They get even more excited to find out that it was a program through my college, meaning I got to live and work with Mickey for a semester! I get butterflies thinking about my experience as a CP (college programmer) and it was 8 years ago. If there was one time of my life that I wish I could share with all my favorite people, without a doubt, it would be my semester in Disney. Honestly, I did share it with (at the time) all my favorite people because I had a ton of visitors and the friendships I made in the Disney College Program are everlasting. It was a life changing experience.
I’m not sure where to start because I’ve gotten so many different questions about my time in the Disney College Program. The first question everyone asks me: ‘Were you a Princess?!’ Thankfully, no. I think it would be AMAZING to see the love and wonder of all the kids when you walk out on stage (anywhere public in Disney)! I also realize that I would not be a very sweet princess if I was sweating to death, my makeup was running and my feet hurt from walking in heels all day. Another reason why I didn’t pursue my acting career, in order to be a Princess (or any other character), you have to work for at least a semester, plus a summer, and I already had a job lined up for the following summer.
I had, in my opinion, the BEST job that a CP can have. Ride Operations. I specifically loved my area (Fantasyland, Pooh Side) because of the awesome people I worked with and how excited kids were to ride my rides. I worked Snow White’s Scary Adventures (no longer there), The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Mad Hatter’s Tea Cups. There are different stations of each ride I’d rotate through during my shift. My favorite position was called Pooh Grouper which was on Winnie the Pooh. Pooh Grouper was in charge of keeping the Fast Pass line flowing quickly and grouping people off to get into the honey pots. I got very efficient at this position which allowed me time to talk to the guests and make their days magical. I’d hand out fast passes to other rides, pin trade, help people plan their day or just learn about them and where they were from. Talking to the guests was, by far, my favorite part about the entire experience.
Housing is the second questions everyone asks about. When I worked there in 2006, there were two apartment complexes that they split all the CPs into. The security was hard core so I always felt safe living there, no matter what time I got off work (often 3 and 4 in the morning.) I had turned 21 the day before leaving for the program so, thankfully, I was placed in a 21+ apartment. My apartment at Vista Way had 6 girls, one kitchen, two bathrooms. It was tough at first. Thankfully, things worked out pretty well because some of my roommates left for work at 4am, others had mid-day shifts and some of us had evening shifts. We never really ran into problems of not having enough space or trying to cook or shower at the same time. I loved how you meet people from everywhere in the world in this program. My roommates were from all over the US and a couple were from out of the country.
Paychecks are always the next topic of discussion. Let’s just say you’re not going to make it big by working as a CP. Honestly, I don’t remember what I got paid, but I think it was pretty close to minimum wage for FL. I kept my house at Purdue, so I was paying rent for two places while I was at Disney, which stretched my paycheck to nothing. Thankfully, I took out two student loans before leaving for Disney, to make sure I didn’t have to be stressed out about the level of comfort I wanted while in the program. I had season passes to Universal Studios and was able to get into the Disney parks free. I was never bored. Ever. I had enough money to go out to nice restaurants when people would visit me, IHOP for breakfast after my shift at 4a and a few trips to the beach.
A lot of people ask about if I got held back a semester by working there. Yes, I did, but a lot of CPs take college courses through Disney University. Purdue didn’t accept the credit transfers so I did not take any classes while there. My roommate, on the other hand, took a full load during her semester so she wasn’t put back a semester. I’m glad Purdue didn’t take the credits because I would have felt the need to take a full load and would have missed out on a ton of experiences.
My family was a bit weary of me working in Disney for fear of losing the magic. Didn’t happen. I have a stronger love for Disney now that I’ve worked there and I still think it’s the most magical place on earth!
What else did I do besides work? Lots! I can hardly remember my time spent at work because it seems like there was so much time spent not working (although it was 50/50.) One of the best things you can do as a CP is to make friends with people who have cars. Living in the apartments, you have 24/7 access to WalMart and all of Disney’s property. I had a few friends who had cars and we’d go to BW3s for karaoke, the beach, and visit restaurants and bars in Orlando. Most of our time was spent on Disney property though. We went to Pleasure Island (no longer bars and night clubs) every Thursday to dance or listen to live bands. We’d go to Universal every other week. We’d pool hop at the Disney resorts (which was one of my favorite things to do because I’m a hospitality major and loved scoping out the rooms and customer service at the resorts.) We also spent a ton of time in the parks. We knew where to eat, what rides to get on during slow times and what shows to see. I was an expert by the time my friends and family started to come visit. We’d cook hometown meals for our roommates, learn salsa, go to CP dances, have highlighter parties at our apartment, play football, play tennis and visit Kennedy Space Center. Again, I was never bored.
Was I not the luckiest girl, to work for The Mouse and meet some of my best friends to this day? I love sharing my experience with college kids looking to go into the program or other Disney fanatics! If you have any questions about the Disney College Program (application process, furnishing the apartment, travel, perks etc.) or Disney World vacations, I’d LOVE to help! PS, I’m super excited because a lot of us are going back to Disney in 2016 for our 10 year reunion! I’ve already seen all of the people in the photos above, plus a few others from my program, but we’ve not all been together since 2006.