Written by Vivian Choy (4A, Therapeutic Recreation)
It feels like just yesterday I boarded a flight and headed down to Florida to start my journey with Disney. The feelings of excitement mixed with nerves are still so fresh in my memory; I cannot believe that a year ago, I applied to the Disney Academic Exchange Experience. The six month internship program with the University of Florida and Walt Disney World became one of the most remarkable memories of my university years. It was definitely a dream come true moment when I received my acceptance letters from the University of Florida and Walt Disney World to become one of the fifteen participants with the University of Florida academic exchange and Walt Disney World internship program in 2015.
My experiences with the University of Florida and Walt Disney World were amazing. I had the chance to step out from my comfort zone, expanded my horizons and my knowledge in the recreation and leisure industry, all while working at, “The Happiest Place On Earth.” Also, I had the opportunity to visit a few of the top resorts and hotels in Florida, as well as meeting with their managers, a group of the most inspirational professionals in the Resort and Destination Management field in the world.
I would have never pictured myself working in Walt Disney World before, but working at the world’s most famous theme park, interacting with guests around the world, and gaining various types of professional training in various lines of business, such as working in Operations at Walt Disney properties’ largest theatre, Fantasmic, helped my personal development immensely. My emotional intelligence, ability to respond to different situations, adaptability in challenges and the environment, public speaking and communication skills, and last but not least, time management skills have all greatly improved. Other than my personal development, another important memory from this experience was making friends from all around the world with different cultural backgrounds. The fifteen of us called ourselves the, “UF (University of Florida)/ Disney family,” which also included my roommates, co-workers and leaders. I cannot imagine living without any of them during my six months in Florida.
The internship experience with Walt Disney World has broadened my vision. Meeting all of these truly incredible people from all over the world has made me think beyond the destination of my future career. Joining this internship program was a critical step for me to step outside of my comfort zone. After living, studying, and working in Florida for six months, all of the knowledge and skills that I gained from the program has made me confident in my ability to take a bigger step towards my dream. I had always thought about finding a job related to my Recreation and Leisure degree after I graduate from the University, but working at Disney has led me to think more about all of the possibilities that I had never thought were available to me. I am not going to limit myself on just focusing on being a Recreational Therapist or pursuing a recreation/healthcare related field after I graduate, for there are so many more options. Without this experience, I would never have acknowledged my ability to dream big. Nothing is more powerful than imagination, and the strength to transform your imagination into a reality.