Gabby Tolfa with Disney College Program certificateGabby Tolfa with Disney College Program certificate

Department of Communication junior student Gabby Tolfa completed the selective Disney College Program internship at Lake Buena Vista, Florida during the fall 2018 semester.

The Disney College Program provided memories and skills for her Mass Communication degree at CUW and for life after college.

According to the Disney careers website, the program offers participants to become “part of the magic that is known worldwide”.

Like other people, Gabby digs Disney, and that love was the initial reason she applied for the Disney College Program. She soon discovered the internship offered more than just a chance to hang out at a vacation destination.

“I’ve always really loved Disney, but also working for a company like that, I don’t think I could have chosen a company where I could reach a bigger variety of people,” she said.

The people Gabby met during the Disney College Program became more than just co-workers. She spent half a year with other college students from different parts of the world.

“For the people I worked with, I actually got to see them every single day for six months, so I got to actually befriend them and get to know more about their lives back home,” she said.

One student Gabby met was from China. The friendship she developed with someone who lived thousands of miles away actually made her world a little smaller.

“I knew we would have our similarities and differences, but getting to know people from all over the world on a deeper level I realized we’re a lot more similar than I thought we would be,” she said.

Conversations with Customers

One of Gabby’s responsibilities at the Disney College Program was to communicate with guests at merchandise stores. But she was doing more than just taking their money. Gabby was out from behind the cash register having conversations with the guests, talking about the merchandise and the theme park in general.

Of course Disney caters towards young people, focusing on making their visit an once-in-a-lifetime memory. You can picture children, or perhaps remember your own Disney vacation, wearing Mickey Mouse hats or Cinderella dresses. Gabby made these young guests feel extra important during her time with the program. She was especially fond of her interactions with young girls visiting the store.

“If we saw little girls dressed up in princess costumes we would always run up and ask them to sign our autograph book like they were the princess,” she said.

On-the-job Learning

Although Gabby had lots of fun during the Disney College Program, she also realized she was learning. Disney’s career website also states the program builds participants’ “transferable skills like problem-solving, teamwork, guest service and effective communication.”

Gabby is passionate about the service industry and realizes customer service is crucial to be successful in it. She had customer service experience, but the internship improved her skills unexpectedly.

“My customer service level was good but not as good as Disney wanted, so they really trained. They trained us in such a way how to speak to people and in such a high level of customer service that I will always use that in my future jobs,” she said

In addition to improving soft skills, Gabby networked with Disney management, providing important contacts for the future. But the connections she will remember the most are with those she spent the most time with, her co-workers.

“You work and live with these people so much that you really become a family. I just didn’t expect for the people and the experience in general to impact me as much as it did,” she said.

Visit the Department of Communication page to find out more about the degree.

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