Life Outside of the College Program
By Bret Shroats
The Disney College Program offers a diverse amount of options for a cast member’s schedule; you may take as much or as little overtime at your work location as you want. Now, you have no control what you get scheduled, but you control the amount of overtime and what you do with your free time. I know participants who went to Walt Disney World to work, and that was all they wanted to do, and they were happy. They were living their dream, and they knew they would continue to live the dream as long as they wanted to. These people Walt Disney’s words, “You reach a point where you don’t work for money,” quite literally.
There are also people who apply and accept their offer to the Disney College Program so they can move to Orlando, Florida and party while they are there. They request as few hours as possible and try and give away hours whenever they can. They are also happy.
I, and many others like me, go down for the full experience of the Disney College Program and Orlando, Florida. I was completely content with the hours I was given, and I still made time to do almost everything Orlando and Tampa, Florida had to offer. Sometimes I even requested more hours. One week I worked almost 80 hours, and I had no complaints. During a separate week I had a 14 hour shift. Cast Members at the Magic Kingdom kept me busy; they knew if I was there the job would be done.
I was not a slave to Disney though; I did everything I could around the central Florida area that I wanted. I went to competition theme parks, and I went everywhere from Cocoa Beach to Clearwater Beach. I took the stroll down I-Drive, I shopped at the Florida Mall, and I did some of the activities that Disney offers to College Program participants.
Now, having a life doesn’t just happen when you have free time outside of work. Obviously, as you work in the role that Disney has casted you for, you will make friends with co-workers even if you do not work with them every day. You may have a social life at work and outside of work. I made some of my greatest memories hanging out with friends while working at Magic Kingdom such as the rare times when the park was slow or stopping work July 3rd and 4th to watch the Magic Kingdom’s July 4th fireworks show. Watching the same show as the rest of the near 100,000 crowd was a truly magical experience.
There is so much to do outside of working for Disney as a Disney College Program participant. Orlando is a fantastic place to live, work, and play. It has seven world class theme parks, and you can get into four of them for free anytime you want. There are four amazing water parks, and you can get into two of them for free at most times. There is great food, places to shop, and entertainment for everyone. It’s hard to not find something to enjoy. Because of this, Orlando, Florida was voted the #10 Best Vacation Spot in the United States by TripAdvisor in 2012. You do not get that ranking without some great things to do around the area. Additionally, the Tampa, Florida theme park and the beautiful beaches, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, are within reasonable driving distance.
One day, to remind myself from home, I created an exciting, memorable outing. I am originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, and I had a Cincinnati day in Tampa, Florida. I went to Clearwater, Florida for the beach and a Cincinnati restaurant—Skyline Chili. In that restaurant, they had a pennant from my high school. Later that night, the Cincinnati Reds were in town to take on the Tampa Bay Rays. The Reds won the game by a score of 5-0. It was a great reminder of home that I had time to create while attending the Disney College Program.
If you want a social life while working at Disney, you can have one. If you do not want a social life while working at Disney, you don’t have to have one. I recommend having the best of both worlds; if you don’t, the magic will wear off one day. It may not happen immediately, but it will eventually happen. When the magic does wear off, you will want friends to share your magical memories with. The magic will return with time away from Disney. Sometimes people overdose on magic; that’s when you need to step away and breathe in the breath of the sea or experience the frenzy of another local attraction. Once you do that, the magic will return to you, and you will continue to be successful and happy at “The Happiest Place on Earth.”
Have a magical day.