Once Upon a Dream

News Story categories: Communication Studies

RMC senior lands competitive Disney College Program internship

In March 2020, hundreds of thousands of domestic and international students were displaced from their normal college routines due to the pandemic. A good portion of them were members of the Disney College Program, a paid internship program housing around 8,000 college students each year between the company’s Florida and California theme park locations.

When the program resumed accepting students in June 2021, Emily Villacrusis ’22, a lifelong Disney fan, was one of the thousands of students who applied for the chance to live and work full-time for up to seven months within the company. This summer, she’ll get the chance to make that dream come true alongside other recipients of the coveted internship from around the world.

While Villacrusis has been pursuing her major in communication studies with a journalism minor, she has held close her love for all things Disney. Her enthusiasm for the parks, movies, and music started from an early age. She estimates she’s already been to Disney nearly 40 times, about two or three times every year since her family first visited.

Students in the Disney College Program can either work at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California or Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Villacrusis will be housed at the latter. One stipulation of the internship is that Disney College Program participants must be open to all available roles at the park, some of which include costume assistance, food preparation, guest services, vacation planning, or performing in-costume as a Disney character. Though Villacrusis and her cohort won’t be notified of their job assignments until two weeks before arrival, she’s holding out hope for a photography or public relations position.

That seems to be the only downside to the Disney College Program: the waiting. The program only accepts applications for a few months each year. Students are not notified when the application is open, either, so Villacrusis had to check every day for two months to get her chance to apply. Finally, at the beginning of J-term, she took her shot and sent in her information and resume. After a tense week of silence, she received her response.

“I found out I got accepted during show choir camp,” Villacrusis says. “I remember it was during a break, I was all sweaty, and I did not know who I could tell because I was in the middle of everything. So I had to just keep it to myself.”

Now comes the wait until June 20, when Villacrusis will make her way to Orlando to begin her training.

At the campus where she will live, Flamingo Crossing, her first week will be devoted to general training. When she isn’t roaming the iconic resort—free of charge, of course—she will be enrolled in a mix of company- and job-specific training. Part of that training is a course called “Traditions,” meant to help participants learn about the past, present, and future of the company while introducing them to the Disney culture that stretches back to 1923. Other opportunities for career development involve college-level communication seminars, hospitality best practices, an overview of Disney’s business and operations strategies, and even animal science lessons.

Once her training is complete, Villacrusis will emerge a full-fledged Disney World cast member—with a Disney ID badge to boot.

After the initial six-month period of her internship, Villacrusis hopes to extend her stay in the Disney College Program to become a full-time cast member. Her main goal during the internship is to network and make connections to find her true calling within the company while gaining transferable experience if she decides to seek opportunities elsewhere. For now, Villacrusis sees working at Disney as a dream come true. She has known for quite some time that she wanted to work in public relations, and she believes a spot on Disney’s PR team would make for a perfect career.

“They have amazing PR and handle things so well,” Villacrusis says. “It all just makes so much sense for me.”

Four other Yellow Jackets have accepted offers to the program through January 2023, including Claire Bonney ’22, who will join Villacrusis this summer.

“I’m extremely excited about this opportunity to work at Disney World this upcoming summer because it really is the most magical place on earth, and I simply cannot wait to be part of that magic-making,” Bonney said. “I have wanted to be a part of this program for years, and I’m beyond thankful this dream has come true. It’s just like Walt Disney used to say himself—’If you can dream it, you can do it.'”

Since 2005, Randolph-Macon has sent 26 students to the Disney College Program, one of whom is currently enrolled. Interested students can apply for admission to the Disney College Program directly through Disney’s website.