[CONTRIBUTING AUTHOR: MORGAN AUSTIN]
(Charleston, IL) – Eastern Illinois University has announced that registration for an internship with Disney’s theme parks has opened for the spring 2020 semester. The internship would allow students from EIU to intern at any of the Disney parks in the world, including its world-renowned entertainment venues in Florida, Paris, and Hong Kong.
Dr. Mikki Sherwood, chair of EIU’s Department of Human Services & Community Leadership, says the internship—called the Disney College Program—has been in place since 1981. Sherwood has been working with EIU’s Disney interns since 2004. She also says any EIU student who wants to intern at Disney for professional and personal enrichment can apply. The internship regularly provides opportunities for Eastern’s students to earn credit through Human Services & Community Leadership or Hospitality and Tourism by taking a non-major internship class.
On average, EIU sends between five and 10 interns to Disney parks each year, but Sherwood said more students can sign up. In the past, she’s seen EIU offer as many as 20 Disney internships in one year, and that Eastern has had more than 370 students intern at Disney since EIU first offered the program.
According to Sherwood, the most common location students select to complete their internships is at Walt Disney World in Orlando, where the Disney Company offers a comprehensive program for students participating in the program. In Florida, students can work in any of the four Disney parks, in Disney Springs, in any of the hotels/resorts, or in either of Disney’s two waterparks. Students are encouraged to share their preference through the application process. Sherwood said her students have interned in a variety of positions, including merchandising, resort front desk and housekeeping, lifeguarding, and quick-service dining. She also said students have the opportunity to audition for character work in shows or parades if they choose to do so.
This internship offers many different learning opportunities for students who participate, including Disney’s world-class customer service training, participation in academic courses while working at the parks, and empowering students to contribute to enrichment activities, including meeting with Imagineers.
“These opportunities are significant,” Sherwood said. “Students report that the courses they take are enjoyable and of professional benefit. They also report that ‘making magic’ is the most important part of their job. Participants get great satisfaction in making park guests happy.”
When talking about some of the highlights of the experiences, Sherwood also revealed that students enjoy being behind the scenes and learning how Disney is run. In addition, she said, meeting celebrities is also a perk. Her students have seen or worked with Jennifer Aniston, Tom Cruise, Chris Pratt, and members of the Kardashian family.
Students who participate in this internship also have access to many different benefits that come with living around the Disney parks. Sherwood assures all her student interns that they will be provided with housing at apartment complexes that have a pool and game room, as well as mental health and relationship support programs. Rent will be taken from the students’ paychecks, and participants will have access to a student center where they can focus on their course work.
Disney is also flexible in creating schedules for students who need to work around EIU classes if needed. Interns are provided with uniforms and laundry access, and they receive free transportation to their worksites, shopping sites, the beach, and other local tourist attractions. Interns also receive discounts on lodging, merchandise, and food, including free access and guest passes to any of the Disney parks and waterparks in their area. While working with Disney, student interns are treated as employees, so opportunities also exist for position advancements and pay increases.
Students who are interested in signing up for a Disney internship for the spring 2020 semester can apply now through www.disneycollegeprogram.com. The application process will close near the end of October. Sherwood wants students who apply to know that the program is competitive, but that she is happy to provide support and advice during the application process and meet with students to explore other opportunities for course credit.
Sherwood can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (217) 581-6374.
For more information about EIU, or to learn more about its growing assortment of programs and services, visit the university’s website at www.eiu.edu, or call EIU’s public information office at (217) 581-7400.