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Falcons flock to Florida for the Disney College Program

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Cinderella Castle (Pixabay)

“Cast members- we call ourselves the ultimate Disney adults,” Third-Year Sports Management Major Reilly Herold stated. 

Amid the regular academic season, BG students are leaving campus grounds to fulfill childhood dreams at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. 

“We are recruiting for program arrival dates between May 2024 and September 2024. Departure dates will begin no earlier than January 2025,” Disney announced in a March press release. 

Mixing magic and education, students gain valuable experience from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Herold arrived back in BG from her program in August 2023.

“We are there, we work there, we actually got a job there. We put our careers into this. So we call ourselves the ultimate Disney adults,”  she said.  

Herold fully enveloped herself in the Disney culture during her stay in the program, as do most participants.

“We have some of our own lingo for the most random things. We abbreviate. Cast members started the abbreviation of M.K. for Magic Kingdom and A.K. for Animal Kingdom,” she explained.

Disney employees follow company rules, even if it’s a specific way to point. 

“The ‘Disney point’ is a thing that everybody knows about. Because once you’re a cast member you learn all these things. I can’t point normally anymore,” Herold said.

The former “friend of Minnie” pointed with her two fingers held together.

“I got so used to it. I go do the ‘Disney point’. It’s two fingers. Yeah, it’s a thing. And you know somebody was a cast member or knows about Disney if they do this,” Herold demonstrated.

She managed to work her sports management major at BGSU into the Disney College Program.

“Disney owns ESPN, so that’s what really made me decide to go. Because they have a little complex, the BG Cheerleaders go every year to compete. I actually did work at ESPN down there, it was really fun,” Herold said. 

The Disney College Program, technically an internship, entails working at Disney World while residing on-site.

“I found out I can work at any location, any resort. I just put all my shifts up for people to take them and then picked up shifts everywhere else. That’s how I got a lot of experience at ESPN,” Herold said. 

Disney College Programmers have free access to the parks, which Herold took full advantage of.  

“After work every day, I  would just text my friends and say ‘What are you guys doing? Are you off? Wanna watch the fireworks?’ We would change outfits and hop on a resort bus as regular guests. Just go to the parks and sign in whenever we wanted. We had cravings for a churro from Magic Kingdom. So we just go. Have a churro. Leave,” she explained.

One of Herold’s favorite spots to complete her BGSU course assignments was in front of Cinderella Castle.  

“My favorite spot to do homework was at Casey’s Corner at Magic Kingdom sitting in front of the Castle on a table. On my day off, I just go do homework there. Have a few snacks in between. Just amazing,” she reminisced.

Herold maneuvered the job system to her liking, but Associate Director of Career Design Beth Miller explained that not all jobs are as enchanting.

“These are not glamorous positions. Students can be anything from on a janitorial team, to flipping burgers in the back of the house, waiting tables, putting people on rides, doing the safety check, to working in one of the boutiques after the ride. These are real jobs within the parks,” Miller said.

Acquiring a course credit with the Disney college program is achievable as long as your job in the parks aligns with your major. 

“We’ve had some photography students be able to get credit because they’ve been on the PhotoPass position. So they’re actually taking photographs,” Miller said.

Third-Year Middle Childhood Education Major Ashley Mahaffy-Davis took a full online course load during the Disney College Program.

“I was still a full-time student here at BG. I was able to get all asynchronous classes to meet some of my requirements for my major. I got an internship credit out of it.  It didn’t seem to benefit me as much as it could have if I was a resort management major,” Mahaffy-Davis said. 

While in the program, students live at Flamingo Crossings Village at Disney World. The village exudes a college campus atmosphere with apartment-style dorms and constant activities. 

“Animal Kingdom closes so much earlier because of the animals, there’d be times I was getting home at two o’clock in the afternoon or six o’clock in the evening. My roommate, who worked transportation at Magic Kingdom, would be getting off at three a.m. On the nights of the Halloween or Christmas party, I’d see her getting ready for work and I had just gotten home from,” Mahaffy-Davis said.

The program isn’t a complete free-for-all, as there are strict rules the Disney company imposes.

“If you are underage, and you are caught drinking, that is. You are done. You know, BG, big parties. We’re a party school. Drinking underage isn’t uncommon here. In Disney, if they see anything on your social media, if they see you intoxicated at work, or even if your apartment just has alcohol in it, and you’re under 21, that’s it. You can end your term right then and there.  You have 24 hours to get out,” Mahaffy-Davis said. 

The grand atmosphere of Disney parks gives students the perfect environment for personal growth, as Third-Year Business Major Kacy Nagy exemplifies. 

She returned from the program in January with more confidence. As a kid, she stayed up late in the summers watching vlogs from YouTubers about the Disney College Program.  Taking part in the experience was something she always wanted to do.

“I am naturally a very timid person. To leave the state was absolutely insane at the time. But I am so glad that I did it. It’s scary, but it’s so much fun. You will learn how to adapt and change,” Nagy said. 

Nagy remembered how BG alumni would show support during run-ins with them at the resorts.

“I saw several people wearing BG shirts. It was so cool. Because on my name tag, it says what university I’m from. So that was always a point of connection, ‘Oh my gosh, she graduated from BGSU. Cool. I’m currently there,’” she said. 

During her time at Disney World, Nagy was offered a longer-term job offer from the company. It came out of the blue to her, but Disney wanted to employ her.

“They called me right before my birthday on one of my days off. They were like, ‘Are you interested in being a Disney Program Representative? We see that you’re going back to campus.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I would be definitely interested in that.’” she explained.

BGSU will be hosting more events on campus partnering with the Disney College Program in the coming months. 

Students wanting to learn more about the Disney college program can contact Nagy at [email protected] or visit jobs.disneycareers.com for more information. 

“In the future, we’re going to host info sessions and return parties. I’ve also been partnering with the Kuhlin Career Center to get things ready for the career fair and campus fest. We’ll have little events like popcorn sessionals and a movie night is my hope. So stay tuned,” Nagy said. 

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