Dealing With Post Disney College Program Depression

Maybe it hits you when you start to pack up your side of your room and you find various mementos from memories you’ve made over the past four to six months; or maybe it hits you when you put on your costume for the last time and say goodbye to the fellow cast members you worked alongside who really became family. But really, it’ll hit you the hardest when you’ve said your final goodbyes to each park, you’ve watched your last Wishes, you’ve cried with your friends as you held hands leaving Magic Kingdom and you’re sitting in the car (or at the airport) leaving your Disney life behind.

It’s the sign you had a magical experience and that now, you have something to miss.

It’s Post Disney College Program Depression.

If you think it hurts like hell when you’re saying goodbye, it hurts 10x more when you’re actually gone and far away from the people who became the biggest parts of your life in such a short amount of time and the magical place that brought you all together.

You find yourself flipping through that DCP Facebook album you never quite finished because you got so caught up in having the time of your life. You click along and watch your journey unfold right before your eyes and you can’t believe that it wasn’t that long ago that those pictures were taken. It’s been a month, maybe two, but it feels like a lifetime has passed by.

Anything Disney related sets you off. If you go to see a Disney movie, the opening sequence with the castle makes you cry. If you listen to Pandora and a Disney song comes on, you’re a mess. If a Disney Parks commercial comes on the TV, you bury your head into a pillow because the sight of your happy place is far too much to bear. If someone asks you about your time at Disney, you give them a long spiel and in the middle of it start to get choked up thinking back on everything.

You constantly post throwback pictures from your program because you’re in denial that it’s over and you’re always checking the Disney Careers website because getting back to Disney would be (another) dream come true.

Moral of the story? PDCPD sucks.

Maybe it isn’t something that can be cured; how do you stop missing a portion of your life that changed you forever?

Maybe, instead, you learn to live with it. You accept that it happened, that it was wonderful, that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and that now…it’s over.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t try to lessen the pain, so here’s a few ways that you can help cure your PDCPD:

  • Talk to your CP friends. Yesterday I was thinking about everything and looking through pictures and suddenly I felt overcome with sadness…so much so that I started bawling. After texting my closest friends from my program about it, they both called me and even though hearing their voices hurt at first, I felt better after talking to them. Staying in touch with friends from your program is a wonderful way to keep the magic alive long after your program is over, especially because no one else in your life is going to understand what you’re going through except for them. Keep them close; lean on each other because they’re the best source of support.
  • Create a shadowbox or memory board. Having everything with sentimental value from your program in one place may actually make you feel better. Maybe you’ll cry putting it together, but once it’s done…I promise it’ll make you smile, seeing all of the memories and experiences you had in one special place. Pictures, movie stubs, fastpasses (if you were lucky enough to snag some paper ones), wristbands from HOB, four keys cards, your acceptance post card and, of course, your name tag are some things I would recommend gathering for your project.
  • Plan a trip. The best thing about doing a college program? Reuniting with your best friends in the most magical (or happiest) place on earth! (Or even visiting each other in your hometowns!)  If you have your heart set on meeting up with your friends again, put aside a little money from each paycheck and plan a trip with each other. Planning a vacation, even when it’s far away, will help to offset the sadness from your program being over because you’ll be too excited about reuniting with everyone and being at Disney again!
  • Look into future careers with TWDC. Just because your program is over, it doesn’t mean that your time with Disney is over forever. Completing a college program opens up a lot of future doors for you, especially if you go back to school and earn your degree. You can apply for professional internships, alumni programs, go part/full time right out of school or, if you’re feeling up to it, you can always apply to a program for the semester after you graduate. If you feel that Disney is where you’re meant to be then make it happen! The sky is the limit.

The first few months after your program ends are the hardest. You watch new CPs begin their journey and you wish more than anything that you could rewind and start yours over. But you know what? I think a silly, willy, nilly old bear said it best:

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – A. A. Milne (Winnie The Pooh)

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When you think about it, we are incredibly fortunate to have had the experience we had. Thousands of students apply every semester and we were among the chosen few (thousand) to participate. Some of us even got to extend our programs and continue making magic for longer than we expected.

We worked hard, we played hard, we loved hard, we cried hard, we failed hard and we succeeded hard. We found ourselves, we grew up, we made mistakes, we followed our hearts and our dreams and we never once looked back because we were living.

And that, my friends, is how I want you to continue to be. Be fearless. Be adventurous. Maybe you’ll never be the exact same person you were those few months but it doesn’t mean you can’t continue to grow and be the best that you can be. And, lastly, be proud of yourself, because you were responsible for making magic every single day and you did a damn good job.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” -Dr. Seuss

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What They Don’t Tell You About The Disney College Program

If you look up the ‘Disney College Program,’ you’ll get the basic run down. It’s a paid internship at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla. or the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, CA. for 5-7 months, depending on when your program starts/ends. You can be cast in one of several roles including merchandise, custodial, food and beverage, attractions, boutique host/hostess and entertainment. You can even take classes for college credit and attend seminars to improve your networking skills or to learn more about Disney history.

But the websites, pamphlets, newsletters, various blog sites and information sessions don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the Disney College Program truly is.

They don’t tell you that the first week is just as emotional as your last week.

They don’t tell you that going to Casting makes you feel like every dream you’ve ever had is finally coming true.

They don’t tell you that waiting for your Cast Member ID is torture. (I wanna be where the people are…and all of the people are at Disney and I can’t get in yet.)

They don’t tell you that Traditions will fill your heart with so much love for The Walt Disney Company.

They don’t tell you that the first time you walk into Magic Kingdom as a Cast Member you will feel like you’re finally home.

They don’t tell you that life is the bubbles those first few days when it’s nothing but going to the parks and waiting for training to start.

They don’t tell you that you will most likely come home from your first day of training crying to your roommates because it’s all so overwhelming and new and confusing.

They don’t tell you that the first few weeks of work are the hardest.

They don’t tell you that it gets easier.

They don’t tell you that being a CP means, essentialy, being a ‘closing person’ for 98% of your program, except for those really rare occasions where you get an opening shift and get out of work when there’s still sunlight. (Cherish those moments)

They don’t tell you that those nights where you work until 1am are the nights where you bond with your fellow cast members the most, especially other college program participants.

They don’t tell you that this is where you’ll make friends for life.

They don’t tell you that closing shifts almost always end with a trip to Steak ‘N’ Shake, IHop, Denny’s, McDonald’s or Taco Bell with your coworkers.

They don’t tell you that Trails End is literally the best place to get breakfast on property because 1) ALL YOU CAN EAT and 2) $13. (Those CM perks though)

They don’t tell you that time goes by a lot faster than you think, and suddenly you wake up and you only have a few weeks left to do everything you didn’t do the previous 4 months.

They don’t tell you that exploring the parks on your days off is awesome…but that you should venture out of Disney sometimes, too. (Beaches are only an hour/two hours away, and it’s nice to visit other theme parks even if you’re the biggest Disney fan out there–Universal and Busch Gardens are pretty fun.)

They don’t tell you that Wishes will always give you chills.

They don’t tell you that going to House of Blues is a must, at least once. (Except now you must be 21+ to get in; sorry young padawans)

They don’t tell you that work will be difficult some days but that your friends at work will always make it better.

They don’t tell you that you’ll develop a crush or two, and sometimes it’ll work out and sometimes it won’t.

They don’t tell you that your friends, though, will become the backbone of your program. You will literally spend night and day with them, whether they’re your roommates or coworkers.

They don’t tell you that everyone you work with becomes your second family, and that, if you’re lucky, they’ll always be there for you.

They don’t tell you that you will want every piece of Disney merchandise ever created, ears and light sabers included.

They don’t tell you that Transtar is a NIGHTMARE. (If you have a car, you are blessed. If you have friends with cars, you are blessed. If you don’t have either…make some friends really fast or may the odds be ever in your favor.)

They don’t tell you that meeting your favorite characters over and over again will never get old.

They don’t tell you that being The Rebel Spy is life changing.

They don’t tell you that going to the parks alone can be really nice sometimes. Therapeutic, even.

They don’t tell you that the parks are really amazing photography subjects and that taking a picture of the same thing is worth doing because no two pictures ever look the same. (And that’s why I have a million pictures of Cinderella Castle, various firework shows, Festival of Fantasy, Spaceship Earth, and the Hollywood Tower Hotel.)

They don’t tell you that getting pixie dust is always the answer to any problem. (But be warned; you will be permanently pixie dusted for life. That glitter is hard to get out.)

They don’t tell you that playing in the parks when it’s raining is actually the best because as long as you have a poncho, you’re golden. (Besides, we all know it rains for like, .5 seconds when it rains in Florida, anyway.)

They don’t tell you that a mental breakdown is possible and highly likely, because the stress can get to you. But that’s okay; it happens to the best of us.

They don’t tell you that you get homesick even though you’re having the time of your life.

They don’t tell you that you’ll make some mistakes, but it’s part of growing up.

They don’t tell you that the program will make you a better person.

They don’t tell you that closing a park is the best thing ever (because who doesn’t want pictures on an empty main street?)

They don’t tell you that you’ll memorize the words/lyrics to things like Festival of Fantasy, Celebrate the Magic, Wishes, Tower of Terror and The Haunted Mansion…or maybe that’s just me?

They don’t tell you that you’ll meet people from all over the country and world and catch the travel bug. (Because making friends from all over means not having to pay for a hotel when you travel, which is perfect.)

They don’t tell you that even though you’re the one who is supposed to be making magic, the guests will surprise you some days by making magic for you, whether it be getting a hug from a little princess or getting told that you made a whole family’s vacation by being so engaging and kind to them.

They don’t tell you that graduating from the program is bittersweet.

They don’t tell you that the last week is the hardest and that there is no way to prepare for it.

They don’t tell you that the last few shifts you work with everyone will be emotional.

They don’t tell you that you’ll cry pretty much every day that week. And yes, even when you think you’ve cried all the tears you can cry, you cry some more.

They don’t tell you that the last night of work is filled with hugs, plenty of pictures and promising to keep in touch. (And seriously, keep in touch. You’ll regret it if you don’t.)

They don’t tell you that the last time you visit each park will be hard because you can’t imagine a life where getting up in the morning and deciding to go ride Tower of Terror before work is not a thing.

They don’t tell you to take an obnoxious amount of pictures. Yes, it’s wonderful to live in the moment, but it’s also wonderful to have something to look at once your program ends to remember the amazing time you had.

They don’t tell you that the last time you go to Magic Kingdom with everyone will be the worst night you’ve ever spent in Magic Kingdom.

They don’t tell you that you’ll hold onto your friends for dear life as Celebrate the Magic starts.

They don’t tell you that trying to sing along to Wishes and bawl your eyes out at the same time will result in the saddest, but sweetest, eruption of giggles ever.

They don’t tell you that throwing your graduation ears into the air and trying to get a picture of it is actually kinda extremely difficult but also makes for some of the funniest fail pictures ever.

They don’t tell you that the moment you say goodbye, you’re already wishing you could hit the rewind button and start all over again.

And, lastly, they don’t tell you that this is a once in a lifetime experience, and that no matter what happens, it’s one of the best journeys you will ever go on. So cherish every moment, live in the present, be prepared to lose sleep, go on adventures, step out of your comfort zone, make connections and dare to dream ❤

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