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College student interns for Disney

Bridget Feeney | Tuesday, August 30, 2011

While many students spend their internships toiling away at investment banks or accounting firms, Saint Mary’s junior Tori Spencer spent hers working at the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Last spring, Spencer took a semester off and headed down to Orlando to participate in the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Taking a semester off for an internship is unconventional, but Spencer said she did not regret her decision.

“It was definitely worth leaving school for a semester. My family has gone to Disney for years, and I have always wanted to work for the company. It is a lifelong dream finally come true,” Spencer said. “And I will still get to graduate on time, despite the semester off.”

While in Orlando, Spencer worked at the Hollywood Studios, one of Disney’s four theme parks, in the Quick Service department handling food and beverage sales. She was responsible for manning the cash registers and cooking and serving food to customers.

“It wasn’t what I expected,” Spencer said. “Basically, I was working in fast food. You think ‘Disney,’ and you think ‘glamorous.’ But while it was very different than what I was used to, it was a really great experience. I loved the people I worked with and I always looked forward going into work every day.”

Spencer kept busy, working 40 to 60 hours each week while also taking a marketing course offered through the internship program.

“Disney offers different college courses to the program participants so we have the opportunity to gain credit for our schools back home,” Spencer said.

Spencer, however, will not receive credit for her internship because she changed majors right before taking her leave of absence.

Despite not having academic credit to show for her time spent at Disney, she said she does not feel like she came back to campus empty-handed.

“I made lifelong friends down there,” Spencer said. “I am still really close with all of my roommates. I met so many people from all over the country and the world — that was the best part of my experience.”

Though working for Disney was a dream come true for Spencer, participating in the program did not come without challenges.

“The hardest part of the program was being so far away from home for so long. I was also working crazy hours,” Spencer said.

Homesickness and long workdays were not enough to discourage Spencer from pursuing a future career with Disney, though.

“I really want to go back this summer or after I graduate and work as a marketing or wedding planner intern,” Spencer said. “Hopefully I will move up in the company to jobs more closely related to what I want to do. My goal is to become a seasonal employee, which would make me eligible for all of the benefits.

Benefits include free park admission and discounted prices at all of the souvenir shops, which Spencer got to enjoy during her internship.

“The Disney College Program was a great work experience. It definitely prepares you for the real world and you meet so many fun people,” she said.