Here are some things I have taken note of over the course of my program that I think are worth sharing.
1. Make a bucket list. I was brainstorming mine before I was even accepted into the college program. Just pick 10 to 15 things you would like to do while you’re here. Make it challenging, and WRITE IT DOWN. Post your list. Share your list. Accomplish it with friends. You don’t have to complete everything on your list, but it’s amazing how having a list can really encourage you to get things done while you’re out here and make the most of your program.
2. Go and see La Nouba. It is an absolutely fantastic Cirque du Soleil show, pure magic. Do it while you have a discount (for my program, the discount was applicable until June 22), I saved 50% when I went. Go early in your program, if you love it, go again.
3. Don’t buy your lunch at work. Every time I see someone pay for something while they’re working, my heart breaks a little. Spend that money on fun things on your days off and let work be a place where you make money, not spend it. Seven dollars might buy you a sandwich for your lunch break, but you know what else seven dollars buys you? A loaf of bread, peanut butter, jam, and two weeks’ worth of lunches.
4. Blog or journal (or both!) about your college program experience. It goes by quickly and you’re going to want to remember it. I personally do both; I blog to keep my friends and family updated, and journal to write all of the things I am not allowed to post on my blog. You can write in your journal or blog, or just do photos, drawings, etc., whatever works for you.
5. Go to housing events. Disney charges every college program student $100.00 to run these programs, so go to grocery bingo and welcome events, and get your money’s worth. There is always free food and lots of giveaways.
6. Take advantage of your discounts. When else will you get to go to Disney for free? Answer: never.
7. Do your grocery shopping on the days you’re working. The bus schedules are inconvenient, but make it happen. During the week, prepare your list. Walmart is a black hole that can suck you in for hours and make you spend all your money then send you home and leave you wondering, “Why do I need six boxes of cereal for the remaining two months of program again?” Do your shopping quickly, before work or after, so you can spend your days doing something worthwhile, like riding Tower of Terror eight times in a row.
8. Don’t get sick. Well, actually, just do your best to avoid it. It’s pretty much inevitable that it’s going to happen. You’re surrounded by unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar place. I spent ten days where I looked and felt absolutely disgusting. It was terrible. Make sure you get lots of sleep, drink lots of water, and take your vitamins. It sounds silly, but getting sick means not feeling up to going to Magic Kingdom, and that is beyond tragic.
9. Have something to look forward to when it’s all over. In order to avoid PDD (Post-Disney Depression), have plans for the weeks after your Disney program that you can look forward to. This helps you transition back to real life better than coming home and worrying about school, job hunting, etc. For instance, when my program finishes, my family is going to be in Orlando for a Disney/Universal vacation, then I get to go home and coordinate at the best summer camp in the world, and finally, I get to go back to my job as an R.A. at my university, which I love more than anything. I’ll be sad to leave Disney, but am definitely excited for the future, too.
10. Make friends from all over the world. It’s so rare to have the chance to work with people from all over, but thanks to Disney, I’ll always have a place to stay with friends if ever I visit the U.S., Mexico, China or France. Beyond wonderful.
11. Practice saying yes. Being here can be so tiring, you’re busy and overwhelmed most of the time, but it’s important to enjoy it, too. Take some time to relax, sure, but remember that you’re program is short, and you can watch cat videos on YouTube while you’re procrastinating at school next year.
12. Make friends with people who have cars. Then, make them your best friends. I’m kidding (sort of), but it’s really wonderful to get a ride home sometimes. Don’t take it for granted. Because of bus schedules, it’s not unusual for it to take an hour and a half to get home to Vista, even though it’s only 15 minutes from Hollywood Studios. I have a few people who are kind enough to drive me home once in a while, and it is just heaven. (Alternatively, if you want to be really popular, have a car. That’s tip #12.5)
13. Don’t get termed. People can get really stupid here, just like anywhere else. Disney will not hesitate to fire you if you act out of line(College program participants, in particular. Think about it, we’re only here for such a short time, it makes us easily expendable). Disney is a really big name to protect, so take pride in your work and have fun without being a moron. (ex. don’t have alcohol if you’re under 21, don’t have alcohol in a wellness apartment, don’t do drugs, etc. It’s really not that difficult)
14. Wear sunscreen. This is more of a note-to-self, than a note-to-readers, but if you’re as pale as I am (which is doubtful), the sun is going to kill your skin. Remember, thousands of people see you at your job. Do you really want to keep hearing, “Wow, you have a sunburn!” all day long? No? Then make sunscreen your best friend. Bonus: helps you avoid wrinkles and cancer, not a bad deal, amirite?
15. Embrace the magic. Don’t get jaded. Do everything you can to enjoy your job. Let yourself still be excited when you see the castle. Treasure it. Maybe you’ve been to Magic Kingdom too many times in one week, but relish in the fact that you are able to do that.
I still have some time left in my program but it’s passing very quickly. I try to keep all of these things in mind as my program wraps up, and I hope these tips help you in some way too.