BU sophomore, graphic communication major, and aspiring filmmaker Abby Gasperson recently participated in the Disney College Program. During the Fall 2022 semester, she completed a paid internship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.
“Being from Bluefield and growing up here my whole life, it feels like you’re limited to so much career-wise. Most people are going to the medical field or becoming a teacher or an engineer or something like that,” Gasperson said. “When I grew up saying, ‘I want to go into film,’ I always had teachers being like, ‘That’s not really reliable,’ but I think when you find programs like the Disney College Program, it makes it feel more real. You do have the opportunity, even if it’s not where you are at the moment.”
During her time at Disney World, Gasperson worked as a kitchen staff member, counter member, and dining room member at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café. Located in the Tomorrowland section of Magic Kingdom, a park with 57,000 visitors each day, the café is often dubbed the busiest restaurant in the world.
Participating in the Disney College Program taught Gasperson a lot about life, she shared. It was her first experience living on her own, paying bills, and working full-time. Though working for Disney was a dream come true, Gasperson also said it was one of the hardest things she has ever done.
“I had to spend holidays alone. I was working, on average, 40 to 50 hours each week, and it wasn’t like working at a fast-food restaurant anywhere else,” she explained.
While she did not use her graphic design skills as a Disney World cast member, Gasperson said her communication skills were significantly enhanced during her internship. She learned to communicate with people who did not understand English well and gained the nickname “kid translator” with her coworkers because of her exceptional ability to understand children. She connected with guests from Greece, Singapore, Brazil, and the Dominican Republican.
“I worked with people from all around the world,” she shared. “I worked with some international students from Australia, Great Britain, and France, but the majority of my coworkers, if they weren’t from colleges across the nation, were Haitian.”
As a Disney Park cast member, Gasperson was taught the 5 Keys approach to guest service: Safety, Courtesy, Show, Efficiency, and Inclusion. Cast members are trained to ensure the well-being of guests and set up their coworkers for success. They must also maintain a particular image and use certain vocabulary to create an immersive experience for visitors. Gasperson described it as having “a whole dictionary going through your head.”
“In Tomorrowland, we address everyone as space rangers instead of princess and prince. You are in charge of making sure you don’t break the theme because that would interrupt the feel of each section in Disney World,” she explained.
While Gasperson was not in a performance role, she did have opportunities to share her talents with guests from singing the restaurant’s custom birthday song to dancing to Hannah Montana at a Christmas party.
“They played the ‘Hoedown Throwdown,’ and the elves dragged me center stage and I had to perform. I wish I had video or proof of this, but I lived my main character moment that day,” she shared.
“A lot of people ask if I would want to do it again. Yes, if I could change my role. I think I got all that I could get out of working as a food and quick service cast member,” Gasperson said. “If anyone wants to do it, I encourage them to apply, but don’t underestimate the work that goes in,” she added.
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