4 Ways Working at Disney World Helped Me Towards My Animal Science Degree

by Hannah Johnson about a year ago in courses

And How I Proved My Advisors Wrong

4 Ways Working at Disney World Helped Me Towards My Animal Science Degree

When I was accepted into the Disney college program, I was so excited to start my journey. My advisor, however, was much more hesitant on me leaving for Orlando for six months, pausing my classes and degree for the time being. I went anyways, and although in the back of my head I questioned if I was making the right decision, I started to realize that the lessons I learned by working with tens of thousands of people a day could easily be applied to my future career of being a veterinarian.

This company truly does have an opportunity for everyone. During my meet and greet with an animal caretaker, I learned a cool little trick that helped me justify spending so much time working somewhere that many people believed would be a waste of my time. I started keeping a small notebook on me during work, and every time something happened that could relate to my future career, I wrote it down to look back on later that night. Here are some of the best lessons I learned while working in the place where dreams come true:

1. Every animal has an owner.

Although I plan to work primarily with animals in the medical sense, I have to keep in mind that every animal has an owner, a human with human emotions. Working in Disney World, I worked with thousands of people every day, and I learned how to deal with all types of different emotions. I learned how to deal with a devastated child who just learned they weren't tall enough to ride Everest, and I learned how to deal with terrified children who were so scared to ride Everest, but wanted to prove to everyone how brave they were. I learned how to deal with angry parents who didn't understand why I couldn't let their child, who was just barely not tall enough, through the line, and I dealt with overjoyed parents after their child decided to be brave and ride with them. I learned how to react to almost every human emotion, and I learned how to appropriately help people in any way I could without breaking important safety rules. I learned people skills that I believe are unparalleled by any other company or line of work. These people skills will help me be able to react to any and every animal owner, regardless of the situation.

2. Things can change on the drop of a penny.

Sometimes things would be going very well at work, and then all of a sudden, the ride would break, or a train would have to be removed, or we would have to deviate from our regular way of operating. That would make things confusing, and I would have to think on the spot a lot to make sure we could still make everyone have a great experience. This reminded me often of working in a vet office, especially during times when we would have an animal healing from a procedure. The animal would be doing amazing, recovering better than we expected, and then all of a sudden something would go wrong; white blood cell levels would elevate, they would have blood in their urine, etc. It was difficult to respond to sudden changes, and I think if I had worked at Disney before working in the vet offices, my problem solving skills during these situations would have been much better.

3. Networking is everything.

When I first got my position in the Disney College Program and learned I would be working at Expedition Everest, I was contemplating not even taking the position. I was scared I would be wasting my time by not working directly with animals. I learned quickly that obviously that wasn't the case, and one the biggest reasons was my ability to network while on the program. One of my leaders got me in touch with an animal caretaker at Animal Kingdom, and I was fortunate enough to spend an hour talking to her and getting to know what she does. She also gave me more emails of people to talk to, and now I plan on applying for the animal hospital internship Disney offers. She really helped me solidify that I am not in fact wasting my time on my college program, and there is plenty for me to gain, even without working directly with the animals. Before meeting with her, I thought about ending my program early and returning home, and I am so glad I was able to have that meeting and stay for the rest of my college program (the last three months are going by way too quickly!).

4. Never assume anything.

Working the same job every day for months on end can make it very easy to assume you know what is going to happen in most situations. Often times, a situation would arise, and I would be able to guess what the outcome would be, but there were also many times that I would be wrong in my guess. I learned very quickly that I couldn't assume anything with my job. Just because I was in a similar situation beforehand does not mean the same thing would happen the next time. Everyone is different, and things can change very quickly, even if it seems like you are in a situation you've been in before. In a vet office, this can happen often, as you can be doing what you consider a routine procedure, and then a complication may come up. I think working at Disney will help me remember to never assume I know exactly what I was doing and always be ready for anything during any sort of procedure in my future career.

Overall, working for Disney has given me an experience I will never be able to get somewhere else. I didn't waste my time by coming here. I ended up having the time of my life. I even extended my program for another five months, and by the time I go home, I will have been in Florida for almost a year. I have also planned to return to Florida permanently after I finish my degree and graduate (hopefully in May). If you are in my shoes, even if you have a different major than me, and you are worried you are wasting time, remember my little trick. Keep record of everything that happens that could be related to your future career, and I promise you will surprise yourself—I did. Returning to Connecticut in January will probably be one of the hardest things for me, but Florida won't have to miss me for too long!

How does it work?
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Hannah Johnson

Welcome to my journal. All of these articles relate to me being unapologetically me, and learning how to come to terms with the person that I have grown into.

See all posts by Hannah Johnson