Working at Disney World


Emma Christiansen, Staff Writer

First, and foremost, I’m not the biggest Disney fan on campus. Of course, I grew up with Pixar films like “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “The Incredibles,” “Cars,” and my personal favorite, “Monsters Inc.”. But it’s not like I was obsessed with the Disney Princesses or had deep knowledge of a lot of the classic films. Probably my biggest connection with them, throughout the 2010s, anyway, was the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)— formerly, until 2022’s “Thor: Love and Thunder” pushed the limit of forced comedy and heavy reliance of CGI for me.

So, why did I take this internship program? Well, in fairness, it’s been approximately 15 years since I’ve been to Disney World in Orlando, Florida with my family. I at least remember the fond memories there like any 7-year-old had: Getting soaked at Splash Mountain, having a thrill at Aerosmith’s Rock N Roller Coaster (both rides which I still have photos of), eating their famous treats, buying the souvenirs, getting a great view of the castle, and lounging at Coronado Springs Resort. So, I figured: while I work at one of the parks as an intern, I can reminisce about the magic I had in my early childhood. After all, why not?
Plus, I initially registered for this program as “taking a break” from school. With all the stress and workload I’ve had per semester, which definitely got worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, I was desperate enough to take a temporary job at Disney World just to get away from it. And yes, you are allowed to take a semester off so you can attend this program, as long as you confirm with a faculty advisor that you are still matriculated.
So, if you are a huge Disney fan considering taking on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work at the Most Magical Place on Earth, here’s my experience.

The registering process is really similar to preparing for a job interview, except you don’t get to meet in person. In order to get accepted to the program, you have to be your best self. There are plenty of YouTube videos and blogs that will help guide you in case you need to prepare yourself. Once I got accepted, my registration ran from January 31st to June 4th, 2022. I specifically made my first date at the end of January so, after my Fall 2021 semester ended, I would be given at least a month to prepare for my trip. Around that time, you will be sent an email on what your job will be, or “role” as the company calls it. What I got was “Quick-Service Food and Beverage” at Columbia Harbour House (yes, there’s a “u” in “Harbour”) in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom. You do get to search for what other roles there are for employees, or “cast members,” but you don’t get to choose. Granted, I’m not exactly experienced working in fast food restaurants since I’m a page at a public library, so this was very new and challenging for me.

Packing up should be relatively easy. Aside from clothes, toiletries, and certain electronics like your phone or laptop, there are a lot more variety of accessories you should bring since you’ll be living in an apartment complex throughout the entire program. Luckily for me, because our basement was a storage unit (thanks to my stepfather’s paranoia of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in an eventual apocalypse), I easily packed up the necessities without having to spend a ton of money before we made our way to Orlando. Once we got there: toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, and even foods like cans of soup and boxes of macaroni and cheese.

However you want to get to Orlando is up to you. Whether you prefer to take a two-hour long flight or a eighteen-hour long drive is your decision. You driving yourself (though a parking permit is mandatory) or your parents dropping you off is your choice. Because of all the belongings I packed, the three of us drove in my stepdad’s truck from Long Island to Orlando in two days— making a pit stop in Savannah, Georgia in between. We were a few days early, so we made a reservation (months earlier) at the Beach and Yacht Club Resort for rest and some family vacation before we separated on the first day of my program.

We also made a one-day reservation to Magic Kingdom: not only to check out the restaurant I’ll be working in (and eat there for lunch), but to revisit the park and most of the adventures we had 15 years ago. This is something I recommend in case you haven’t been to Magic Kingdom, or any of the parks, in a long time and looking it up online isn’t enough— especially if it’s to get a first impression from a guest’s point of view.

All college program interns are placed in housing known as Flamingo Crossings Village, just less than 20 minutes away from all the parks and resorts. The best I can describe it is a mixture of a college campus and a resort. I personally consider it one of the best highlights of the program. For me, it’s a first-time experience living in a college dorm/campus considering all the amenities it had to offer, as well as various indoor and outdoor activities for interns to do in their leisure time. There are two swimming pools, each with a projection screen that plays dozens of movies (only on Disney+) on a daily basis. There is also a basketball court, a sand volleyball court, professional barbecues in the community kitchen, and a large courtyard used for scheduled events. In addition, there is a recreation center filled with numerous activities for interns to choose from to either play alone or with friends: billiards, foosball, ping pong, and multiple arcade games. Upstairs has an entire gym with several sets of strength equipment, cardio machines, and free weights.

Every intern has an apartment to live in with three others. There are multiple apartment complexes that have been given names after a variety of Disney animated side characters in alphabetical order. For example, I lived in the Archimedes building— the owl from 1963’s “The Sword in the Stone.” I moved into the 2 bedroom and 2 bathroom apartment, meaning I have to share one of each with a roommate. They are all constructed the same with the typically furnished living room with flat panel TV, fully equipped kitchen with cabinets and a sink, and a full-size washer and dryer. There are high chances that you all have different working schedules, but the friendships will be strong once you spend quality time together.

I hope I don’t burst any bubbles, but I will be addressing some reality about working at Disney World. I mean, this is Disney World we’re talking here. There are roughly tens of thousands of guests visiting either of the parks every day— and Magic Kingdom is the busiest of them all. In a quick-service restaurant like Columbia Harbour House, noon and evening hours like 5:00 or 6:00pm are when your days get hectic. Unless you’re used to working in such environments, especially in long hours, this will be very challenging for you as it was for me. A lot of my shifts at CHH last from opening to closing— at 9, during the fireworks. Some days, I would even have to close a certain area of the place (i.e., wiping the tables, sweeping the floors, and taking out the trash and recycles) and go through inspection before I leave one hour later. So, typically 10-hour shifts for 5 days a week. Lots of cleaning, lots of talking, and lots of noise. The same may apply to every other role outside of the food industry. On the bright side, whenever you have your days off, you can choose to relax or make a reservation at one of the parks— with a Cast Member discount.

Even with all the hardships, I am glad I registered for this program. It was such a learning experience, and I am thankful for all the friends I’ve made, the fun I had, and the memories I will treasure forever. What can I say but… what a magical world to work for.