Disney College Program teaches transferable skills

Marcella Brown

UW Oshkosh student Sara Neumann celebrates graduation from the Disney College Program.
[/media-credit] UW Oshkosh student Sara Neumann celebrates graduation from the Disney College Program.

Now accepting applications for the spring 2016 semester, the Disney College Program is an opportunity for students to work for one of the largest companies in the world, develop new skills and meet people from around the world. Katherine Neumann, 2014 UW Oshkosh graduate, participated in the program from August 2011 to May 2012 in Fantasyland attractions before completing a professional internship with Disney Cruise Line public relations from June 2014 to June 2015. “Even though you’re doing basic tasks like running attractions or sweeping walkways, you’re building transferable skills that you’ll definitely be able to use in the future and in interviews, like holding conversations with strangers, communicating with people who don’t speak English and having to deal with high-pressure and sometimes dangerous situations independently,” Neumann said. Knowing she wanted to do the program since high school, Neumann said she was excited to be accepted into the program. “I was really scared because it was the first time that I was really away from home,” Neumann said. “It was one of those excited, scared, in the pit of your stomach feelings, but it was without a doubt the greatest thing I’ve ever done.” Neumann said two of her favorite things about the program were meeting people from around the world while also learning more about herself. “When I left after nine months, I had friends in 13 countries,” Neumann said. “You make friends with people because of who you are as people, and not just because they’re in the same class as you and you see them a few times per week.” During the program, Neumann said she “had a lot of time to reconsider her major,” and wound up finding something that she truly loves doing. “Because of classes I took during my [Disney] College Program, I changed my major and applied for public relations internships at Disney that would start immediately after my graduation,” Neumann said. “I ended up landing a PR internship with Disney Cruise Line, and after being there for a year, got a full-time job as a publicist in the Orlando area working at an agency that Disney contracts for some of its public relations work.” Neumann said another benefit of the program is it could set an applicant apart from others when applying for a job. “It’s a huge differentiator that can make you pull ahead of other candidates and when you’re fighting for a job with other highly qualified applicants,” Neumann said. Journalism student Samantha Pech has not done the program herself but has heard of it through friends. “I think it would be interesting because it gives you an opportunity to not only work for Disney, but it will allow you to see everything that the parks and company have to offer,” Pech said. “I’m sure you meet so many different people, and from my friend’s experiences, I know they have made lifelong friends while they were there.” Music student Sara Neumann participated in the program in spring 2015, working Future World West attractions in Epcot. Sara Neumann said students participating in the program can expect to be submerged in a completely new environment, living and working with other students whose cultures and backgrounds will differ from their own. “One thing you can expect is to have all work and all play,” Sara Neumann said. “Yes, work will be hard: guests will be upset with you at times, 12 to 14-hour days will become a rgular occurrence during peak season and the job you’re doing may become redundant. However, within all of the non-magical times are so many magical moments that you create for guests and yourself, and it’s the best experience you could ever ask for.” According to Sara Neumann, one of the best perks of the program is getting free admission to the parks all-year round. “My favorite thing to do with my main gate was to go to all four parks in one day, and create a challenge out of it,” Sara Neumann said. “One time a few of my roommates and I met a character, rode a ride, and saw a show in all four parks in one day.” Sara Neumann said she was able to develop new skills and enhance skills she already had. “This internship is a truly unique experience that I never expected to change my life,” Sara Neumann said.