Reflections on My Disney College Program

©Julia Lillegard

It seems like forever since I blogged last.  And with good reason. . . it has been forever!  I’ve been so busy lately that I hardly get on my computer at all.  At any rate, I thought I’d share a few more thoughts on my Disney College Program.

My program ended May 11, 2012 – over a month ago!  It’s hard to believe that my nine months in Florida have come to an end!  I spent my last couple of weeks in Florida catching up on some last-minute Disney fun.  And let me tell you, did I ever make the most of my time in the parks.  I collected a few more autographs for my autograph book, a few more Sorcerer’s Cards for my collection (I have over half of them now), did a little pin trading and crossed a few more items off of the park guide maps.  As of the time I left, I managed to sample everything on the guide maps that didn’t require extra money.  I partook of cuisine from every pavilion in the EPCOT World Showcase, and I got multiple scores above 150,000 in Toy Story Midway Mania! (although I still want to hit 200,000.)  I experienced some pretty cool special festivities (such as the Food and Wine Festival and the Christmas parade), and I picked up some pretty great jokes on the Jungle Cruise, not to mention the kind of in-depth Disney knowledge that only a Disney geek or a cast member would know.  (Speaking of the Jungle Cruise jokes, I’m pretty sure that rhino actually did manage to “poke Ohantas.”)

I also made some pretty amazing friends at Walt Disney World.  I spent some of my last days hanging out with friends before I headed back.  I will miss my fellow toys from Toy Story Midway Mania! and my cousins from DinoLand, USA!  There’s nothing like seeing your friends from work show up in the parks on their days off when you’re working, or even when you’re not working, but playing in Magic Kingdom at 4 in the morning during One More Disney Day, or somesuch.

That brings me to another thing that has amazed me: how Disney has a unique ability to create a bond among people from all over the world and across multiple generations.  My friends from work, my friends from the neighboring apartment complexes, and the guests I met on a daily basis were all brought together by one man, Walt Disney, and his dream.  No matter our native languages, or where we come from, we all grew up on the same animated features from the same entertainment company.  We know the same songs by heart, compare favorites, and sometimes confess to crying when Mufasa dies as “The Lion King” plays on the Disney Channel in the break room.  Disney stories, parks, songs and experiences are things to which we all can relate, and people of all ages can enjoy.  I’m glad to have contributed to the Disney legacy through my time in the parks.

My last days were also dotted with some special events.  The Night of Stars, the semi-annual talent contest, was good fun.  I had been in Disney’s Hollywood Studios on my day off and was wandering though the Streets of America, having completely forgotten about the event, when I saw a red carpet next to the more-or-less hidden theater in the Streets of America, and a group of college program housing personnel checking people into the event.  I decided it just might be worth my time, and I was right!  Fellow participants displayed their talents ranging from baton twirling to singing and dancing.  In the end, the top performers from several categories, as well as an overall winner, were chosen to receive Mickey statuettes.  Dan Cockerell, the vice president of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, as well as many other Disney cast members, participated in the judging of the event.  There was some pretty amazing talent on display, interspersed with a running tribute to the ’90s.  I certainly hadn’t heard some of those Brittany Spears songs for a while.  And afterward, since the park was still open, I treated myself to one of those delicious raspberry frozen lemonades.  (Just don’t tell my dentist.)

The Backlands Attractions area leaders had a special going-away party for the outgoing “CPs”  (as we are known in the world of Disney.)  After closing, we were able to go to Pizza Planet (a truly authentic Toy Story experience), where a mechanic put the arcade games into free play mode.  One of my colleagues set up a skeeball tournament, and the leaders provided us with popcorn and pop (again, it’s best that my dentist doesn’t know about the latter.)  I managed to tie my first game in skeeball, but lost in the rematch and thus lost out of the tournament in the first round.  I attempted to hone my arcade skills on the other games, with limited success.  It was a fun evening, and a great way to say “See ya real soon!” to the friends I made at Toy Story.

I’ve had so many great adventures on my Disney College Program.  There are countless people, places, and experiences that have helped me grow as a person, or at least gave me something to talk about.  I will never forget the times I had ringing in the new year at the Chatham Square bus stop with sparkling cider and grape juice, finding myself in the Italian-speaking corner on the C Bus, or skipping the country on a last-minute cruise to the Bahamas.  I’ve made friends from all over the world, and I hope to stay in touch with them.  The program was truly an experience worth having.  I’ve enjoyed sharing my experiences with you, and hope that you enjoy(ed) reading about them.

At Disney, there is a common belief that there should be no such thing as “Good bye.”  Instead, we say in the words of Mickey Mouse himself, “See ya real soon.”  Although I’m no longer in Florida, I don’t like to think that I’ve left Disney for good.  I don’t know what my next adventure will be, but I hope to reinstate my employment for Mickey Mouse sometime in the future.  And when that time comes, I hope to have more adventures to relate as I “work for the mouse.”  So don’t think of this blog as dead.  Maybe just hybernating, or on vacation away from Disney.  You never know when it might pop up again.  So until next time, see ya real soon!

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