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©2019 BY ADRIANNA SANTIAGO

DUMELA!

Dumela, the Sesotho greeting commonly used in South Africa, is the themed greeting used at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge and now a word I hold dear to my heart. In the Fall of 2018 I decided to apply for the Disney College Program. I had always had a passion for the Walt Disney Company and decided it was time I pursued my dream of being a cast member. After a web based interview, a phone interview, being waitlisted and weeks of anticipation I finally received my acceptance into the program as a children's activities cast member for the Spring 2019 semester. Full of excitement for the magic to come I packed up my bags, said goodbye to the swamp and prepared for my move to the most magical place on earth. 

My Disney home was Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. As a children's activities cast member it was my job to get the party started. Literally. Every day I rolled out the party cart, grabbed my hula hoops, put on the microphone and kicked off our Hakuna Matata Pool Party. I did countless poolside crafts and am now an expert ice-cream, slime and Mickey tie-dye maker. Every day we had our campfire where I either built and sustained the fire or passed out s'mores kits and gave our safety spiel. At night, I was either partying it up at our Uziku festival or setting up for our movie under the stars. When I wasn't outside, I was in Simba's Cubhouse or Community Hall doing crafts with guests and watching animals graze the grounds through the window. 

 

I never thought I'd leave Disney with the skills to build a campfire that would make a girl scout troop leader proud or look at wood and feel joy knowing it'd burn beautifully. I also never thought I'd smell like campfire every day and fear the loss of my hair to a flaming marshmallow. My Disney College Program wasn't what I expected but it exceeded everything I imagined. I played all day and spoke to countless guests from all over the world about their stay at Walt Disney World. I celebrated with them, listened to them when they were disappointed and made magic for them to make it all better. I met amazing forever friends and had coworkers that made saying goodbye so much harder than I ever thought. 

People always ask me what about the Disney College Program  justified taking a semester off of school. Well, I'm a public relations major at the University of Florida's College of Journalism and Communications, and my entire role, while covered with a lot of fun, was entirely communications. I communicated between coworkers and coordinators to ensure that all functions were prepared for best performance, I marketed events and experiences to guests using my knowledge of strategic story telling to increase attendance, and I handled crisis communications when disgruntled guests were less than overjoyed with their vacation. After this program I have a new appreciation for the Walt Disney Company and I can't wait to come back and serve it further.