Abbi Williams and her magical collegiate journey

Disney World, “A Place Where Dreams Come True,” rings true for MSUM student Abbi Williams. Abbi is a part of the Disney College Program and is currently working in Florida as a crew member while attending online courses through MSUM.

Abbi is from Lino Lakes, Minn., and is majoring in film production. Her major attracted her to Disney’s College Program, but she has always been a fan of the company, as she visits Disney every year with her family. Abbi is a merchandiser at Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts and her daily activities and responsibilities include cashiering, helping guests with questions and concerns, and stocking the store.

“I love all my coworkers; it’s a fun and laidback environment,” she says. Abbi values interacting with guests and helping give them the magical experience of Disney.

The process for accepting students into the program starts with an interview survey with over 100 questions. Interviewees are asked to rate statements from strongly agree to strongly disagree and from there, answers are analyzed. Selected students are invited for a phone interview and, if they’re a good fit, they are offered a position.

Students are required to work 40 hours a week while employed. Abbi gets off two days a week and much of her free time is spent working on her 12-credit course load. All her classes are asynchronous, and although it can be challenging to manage, proper time management and dedication help her stay on track.

Her experience has been nothing short of magical. Disney offers a fun environment to explore, and different classes students can take in their field of interest. Abbi recently applied to take a behind-the-scenes class, which will explore what goes on behind the curtain, including sneak peeks into Disney’s secrets of how they keep the magic alive.

Disney also offers community outreach options to students to give back to the community. Abbi recently volunteered to make costumes for children in the hospital. It’s another way for students to feel connected to one another and the community.

A huge incentive for students to join the program is the prestigious Disney experience and the comped park tickets. Employees gain free admission into all parks, and the company provides busing to and from the parks and their work locations. Another one of Abbi’s favorite bonuses is that every 150 hours a cast member completes of work is a free comped ticket for a family member or friend. Employees can earn up to 10 free tickets per the length of their stay, typically one semester.

Both Disney and Abbi, however, could not have anticipated an experience that was to come during her stay. When Hurricane Ian hit, Disney closed its parks and offered students the opportunity to stay as part of the “Ride Out Crew” or leave and go home to safety. Instead of coming home, Abbi decided to brave the storm and work to make guests as comfortable as they could be during this time. She worked 14-hour days and was allowed to stay in a room at the resort free of charge for her work.

Although an incredibly stressful and unforeseen experience, Abbi made the most of her time by working with her peers to keep guests calm and relaxed. Abbi’s former First Year Experience instructor and area director for Snarr Hall, Adam Szalacinski, visited Abbi shortly after the hurricane had passed.

“She seemed to be having the time of her life with the program despite the challenges Disney and Florida were facing that week,” he says.

Adam recalls Abbi’s excitement to apply to the program and says she’s always been a hard worker and that “you can tell she is right at home with the Disney Magic and creating memorable moments for guests.” Abbi’s drive and passion for creating magic for guests is easily seen by others and in her work ethic.

One of the biggest takeaways from this experience has been the life skills she’s learned while working for Disney.

“My public speaking and networking skills have really grown. I feel like I can talk to anyone now.” Disney has also set high standards for Abbi regarding company values and mission statements. “Working for this company has shown me what standards look like in the work force, and how well people are treated here. It makes me not want to leave,” she says.

Abbi encourages anyone who is remotely interested in Disney’s College Program to apply. She says the opportunities and experiences you will be given are unmatched and will stick with you forever.

Abbi has recently decided to extend her stay until May of 2023. She hopes to be reassigned as a cast member, ideally Rapunzel or Cinderella. Visit @happilyeverabbi on Instagram to stay updated and follow along with Abbi’s magical Disney journey.

Read more about Disney’s College Program and how to apply at:

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