Disney College Program

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This week’s blogger is Martese Ehm. Martese is a 2013 graduate of Iowa State University and earned her degree in Mechanical Martese at DisneyEngineering. During her time at Iowa State, she participated in a semester-long program called the Disney College Program, gaining experience that would help her to land a job after graduation.

Knowledge can come from the funniest of places, even the happiest place in the world. In fall 2010, I went on the most life-changing internship to Walt Disney World. I know what you are thinking, “Walt Disney World? What do you do at Walt Disney World for an internship?” Well, let me tell you. I will discuss my experience in three parts: Earning, Learning and Living.

Earning: First things first; you want to know how I made money at Disney. The program that I participated in is called the Disney College Program. The only qualifications are that participants must be 18 years or older and enrolled in a college or university. There are a slew of different positions that you can apply for: attractions, quick food and beverage, merchandising, transportation, lifeguard, mousekeeping, etc. I earned my money by working at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Quick Food and Beverage. I worked in the best and most busy part of the park, Sunset Boulevard. Two of the most popular rides and two of the most popular shows were located in the area where I worked.  Working in that high-volume area, I learned to work under a lot of pressure and with large crowds. Because Disney has a reputation for stellar customer relations, my résumé stood out to employers. An additional bonus was that I worked side by side with people from all over the world and learned to communicate with them to solve problems quickly.

Learning: When I was not working during my internship, I was in class. But it was not your average class where you sit watching the clock and wishing it was over. This was an exciting, edge-of-your-seat type of class. I took two classes. The first was called Creativity and Innovation, and I received college credit for taking it. This class gave me the chance to explore how crucial innovation is to individuals, organizations and the entrepreneurial process. Today I often find myself looking over the book we used for the class.

The other class I took was called the Professional Development Studies Series on Engineering. Being an engineer, this class was a perfect fit. I was able to meet and network with Imagineers—the engineers who design the rides for the Disney Parks—and go behind the scenes of many rides and services, and I even competed in an engineering competition (I am still in contact with the people I met from this class)! Going on all these behind-the-scenes tours, I learned no matter your training/profession, you can get a job with Disney. Disney touches all aspects of life. One example; a marine biologist could work at EPCOT at the Living with the Seas area due to the fact that they have one of the largest saltwater tanks in the world. In addition to all of the above, these classes were free!

Living: I lived in an apartment that was just for the students participating in the Disney College program. I made friends and lived with people from every continent. I was able to learn different cultures from my friends during this program. During the holiday season, and I celebrated with friends from other places and they shared stories from their countries. Even today, my best friend is the roommate I lived with during my Disney internship. Our time off together was always fun because we got free admission into the parks, so when not working, we were busy exploring in the parks!

The Disney Internship gave me better communication skills, a positive attitude, time management skills, the ability to problem solve, teamwork skills, flexibility, working well under pressure, friends for a lifetime, knowledge of other cultures and memories that I will hold dear for the rest of my life.  When I went to look for a full time job, I had ten interviews. In all ten of those interviews, the employers always asked me about my Disney experience instead of my engineering experience.  If I could leave you with one bit of advice, it would be this: If you are thinking of doing an internship, but are unsure where to turn, apply for this program. The experience is great, and who knows what you will learn or who you will meet along the way.

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