BYU students say Disney internships have pros and cons

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    By Emily Cannon

    Walt Disney World is known as a magical place where dreams come true. Participants in the Walt Disney World College Program receive a behind-the-scenes look at making that magic.

    Disney World has been recruiting BYU students as interns for more than 10 years, and although not every intern story comes with a happy ending, most students have had positive experiences.

    For some students, working at Disney is the fulfillment of a long-time dream.

    Beth Auble, 21, a junior from Hockley, Texas, majoring in theater studies, interned as a food and beverage hostess her first year and as a science communicator as a member of the advanced program, when she returned for a second summer.

    “I was so excited to go to Disney World,” Auble said. “I knew it would be an experience to work with wonderful people, and I dreamed eventually they would hire me to work with the shows at the park.”

    Auble still dreams of a career with Disney somewhere down the road, even though the work was hard her first year.

    There were weeks that year when she worked 50 to 70 hours at a Bavarian nut cart outside the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular at MGM Studios, she said.

    “How many people do you know that want to stand in the hot sun serving hot food?” Auble said.

    She said people who wanted more popular positions were lucky to get 30 hours each week. With a starting intern wage of about $5.90, saving summer earnings is difficult.

    “Students should know you don’t go there to make money,” Auble said.

    You can go there to make contacts, though.

    Anya Zholudz, 20, a junior from Belarus, majoring in business management, works as a campus representative for the program. In 1998, she spent a season working as a food and beverage hostess in EPCOT.

    She said the business programs presented an inside look at Disney’s successes and mistakes.

    “The seminars and forums also stressed the importance of networking,” Zholudz said.

    From the first day, students should work to find contacts in the departments related to their career goals, Zholudz said.

    “Disney is such a large company that there are positions available in varied areas such as horticulture and theater,” Zholudz said.

    Zholudz said she had a friend who was interested in animation and was able to have someone look over her portfolio and give feedback.

    Plenty of participants don’t share the lifelong dream of working for Disney, but take advantage of the opportunity to work, play and learn in Florida.

    Emily Bingham, 21, a senior from Springfield, Va., majoring in theater education, worked as a merchandise hostess at the Disney-MGM Studios. Bingham said she had never heard of the program and attended an informational meeting with no intentions of applying.

    “I was surprised that I got an internship,” Bingham said.

    While Bingham did not get the position she wanted, she said the retail experience she gained was different than previous retail jobs.

    “I was trained in 8 different stores. One week I even worked in the Magic Kingdom,” Bingham said. “The variety of experience was excellent.”

    In addition to working in the parks, students attend business seminars and programs.

    Students said some of the problems they faced involved living with people who standards were drastically different from those of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Bingham said she felt uncomfortable knowing she would find them smoking outside the apartment door or taking a beer out of the refrigerator.

    There is a large singles ward of the church in Orlando and many of the BYU interns at Disney World attend it.

    Bingham said she enjoyed attending the ward, but had to work most Sundays.

    “I think there were only four times in the semester I was in Orlando that I was able to go to church,” Bingham said.

    Zholudz said she agreed that there are complications in living with roommates with different values.

    “But students who want to participate in the program need to know about the drawbacks and enter the program with their eyes wide open,” she said.

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