Making Magic: Senior Lexi Kakis’ Semester in the Disney College Program
By Hannah Werthan
In August 2016, as most Molloy students were getting ready to start the fall semester, senior Media Communications major Lexi Kakis was headed in a different direction. The Rockville Centre native flew down to Florida to embark upon a life-changing internship as part of the Disney College Program.
Landing the Internship
All Communications majors must do an internship in order to graduate. Lexi did some research and found the opportunity to fulfill her requirement at the Happiest Place on Earth. In order to be accepted into the program, she had to successfully complete a web application, a web-based interview, and a phone interview. Her competition included students from not only the United States, but all over the world. Lexi learned she got in on February 22, and then the countdown began.
As a commuter student, Lexi had never been away from her family for an extended period of time before this internship. "Though it was hard to be away from home for so long, it was easy to make friends with people at work. We would hang out after our shifts and explore the parks," she says.
During the program, she lived in a two bedroom apartment with three roommates. They used bus transportation to get to and from work.
Orientation for the program was a three-part process: First, interns learned more about the resort; then, they got an overview of the location they were assigned; and, finally, they received hands-on job training. "There was a lot to remember, but all of the policies made sense. For example, as a worker of a certain store, you wore a specific uniform and there were certain lines in the park that you weren't allowed to cross in order to uphold character integrity," Lexi says.
A Day in the Life
Disney offers a variety of internships for college students, from Food & Beverage to Entertainment, so each intern's experience is different. Lexi was placed in Merchandising. She spent August through October in Blizzard Beach, a water park, and then moved to Liberty Square and Adventureland in Magic Kingdom until she left in January.
As a Merchandising intern, Lexi was charged with a variety of basic but important tasks, such as cash management and carefully wrapping delicate gifts. However, her job went above and beyond stocking and working at the cash register. She helped people from all over the world make their experience at Disney World one to remember. Disney calls this "making magic."
Lexi recalls when she was able to make a little boy's day. "A father came into the Pirates of the Caribbean store with his son who was crying because he had lost his pirate medallion. I was able to give them a new one for free. When the father asked about it, I said, 'Don't worry; it's on Mickey.' It was great to be able to help that family out," she says.
Another time, she assisted someone who was not satisfied with her ride experience. "A woman got off the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and was upset because someone was using flash photography. After talking with my supervisor, I was able to direct her to the FASTPASS line so she could go on the ride again," she says.
Lexi even became part of the evacuation team for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride once. She held a flashlight and helped direct riders to the appropriate person - whether that was someone to help out with FASTPASS or an HR representative.
A New Perspective
Lexi's work hours varied, especially when she started to work at Magic Kingdom, so she was able to see how Disney World operates at all times. "Even when I was leaving work at 1 a.m., I would see a bus pull up with workers that were just starting their shift. It opened my eyes to just how much goes into running the parks," she says.
"For the interns, working at Disney was a cool experience, but for the permanent employees, this is how they put food on the table. I have a lot of respect for them and what they do every day to keep the parks running smoothly."
Lexi is back at Molloy for her final semester. Though she has left Disney behind, Lexi still has some of the mannerisms she picked up there. "When I'm at work, I still think of customers as 'guests.' I also find myself doing the 'Disney point,' which is a point with two fingers instead of one," she says. Lexi plans to visit Disney World again eventually, and has not ruled out the possibility of working for Disney, but won't pursue a job at the theme park. Instead, Lexi hopes to work in the writing department of a TV show after graduation.