Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, a small, redheaded child was introduced to the world of Disney. Little did she know that with the start of a new decade in 2020 she would be making magic — and lightsabers — at the most magical place on earth. That redheaded child was me.
I applied for the Disney College Program during the 2019 fall semester with little to no expectation of receiving an offer — I still wanted to try, though. Friends of mine who have been through the program detailed how amazing and exciting the experience was but also how long it took for them to receive an interview and employment.
Two weeks after applying, and surprisingly being asked to interview, I received an email congratulating and inviting me to be a participant in the program during the spring 2020 semester. The biggest thing I was worried about then was a Spanish test that I had that morning, and now I had to be thinking about if I should move to Florida in three months?
I had one week to accept the position and, honestly, the decision was not as easy as I once thought it would be. At the time, I was so happy with the friends I was surrounded by as well as the classes and projects I was taking on. Concerns about being away from members of my family grew and I was terrified that something was going to happen while I was away.
I made the decision not to talk to anyone — friends or family — about accepting the position as I wanted to reflect and think about what I thought was best for me. My grandmother is my best friend and I was the most worried about being away from her for so long. She was unaware of my contemplation so when she called me one Saturday night to tell me she thought I should take the position that was the sign that I needed.
One day before my deadline I paid the dues and accepted a merchandise role in Walt Disney World.
Jan. 21 was my official start date with The Walt Disney Co. and one of the days that my life changed forever. I moved into company owned apartments with two girls from two different areas of the world — Idaho and Puerto Rico. I am very close with one of them now and weekly adventures to the grocery store are a blast.
Additionally, I got my first training schedule and began learning how the magic seeps from within Disney into the parks and their employees through classes and employee interactions. We went through traditional merchandise training, but also learned about ways that we can make magical moments. Though these ways differ in my location, they still include playing with guests and bringing them into our interactive, heavily themed world.
OK, so I may not actually be making any lightsabers because I’m not trained there yet, but I am working in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. I spend five to six days a week on the planet of Batuu working within some of the most unique shops in the galaxy; we are on the outer rim after all. I have been so lucky and met some of the most wonderful people in the world, and aside from coffee, they are what keep me going throughout the long nights, early mornings and at least 40 hour weeks.
We have a shop — Dok-Ondar’s Den of Antiquities — that allows guests to view, hold and buy models of lightsabers that famous Jedi have used in the movies. You know, Darth Vadar, Luke Skywalker, Ben Solo … those guys. This is an experience that so many people have wanted since they were little and saw the first movies come out — they have quite literally grown up with the series. Seeing the excitement behind the eyes of guests and the passion and love they have for these stories and characters is an experience I will forever cherish.
It does get tiring, especially with the two online classes I am taking through WKU, weekly meal planning/shopping, and the general tasks. While I’ve had jobs with weekly paychecks before, this is the first time I am needing to buy full weeks worth of groceries on top of paying rent. Budgeting and meal prep have become my best friends. However, the people I get to work with every day and the laughter and passion that I get to share outweigh all of the challenges that we face. The people I have been honored to meet make it all worthwhile.
Not only am I getting to create happiness within the lives of the thousands of guests that visit every day — I am also witnessing it within my newfound friendships, the adventures and the story that we are living and creating each day.
I am forever grateful for this experience and cannot wait to see where I go from here. May the force be with you. Always.