GV student spends three magical semesters interning for Disney

Courtesy Photo / Laura Wizniuk
Laura Wizniuk worked at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride during a previous internship with the Disney College Program

Courtesy Photo / Laura Wizniuk Laura Wizniuk worked at the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad ride during a previous internship with the Disney College Program

Haley Otman

Many students try to spend a semester earning credits somewhere outside of Allendale at least once during their four years, but Grand Valley State University student Laura Wizniuk has made time to do it three times already.

Wizniuk is currently in her third semester of the Disney College Program, where she works at Walt Disney World in Florida. Her first Disney World internship was also her first time visiting a Disney theme park, and she was hooked.

“It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Wizniuk said. “There are some days when it’s really busy and stressful, but then you look over and you’re like, ‘There’s a castle there, I work at Disney.’”

As a theater major, Wizniuk said she hopes to get valuable experience that will help her after graduation. She took an entertainment class during her first Disney internship, in which she learned about Disney entertainment and took backstage tours, which she said fits with her career goals of working in entertainment shows and production.

Kristen Jack, a GVSU professor of hospitality and tourism management, has worked with the Disney College Program and said Wizniuk has put in a lot of work in all three of her internship experiences.

“I commend her in that although the DCP sounds perhaps at first like a ‘fun’ semester in Florida instead of Allendale, it is a great deal of work in that she completed an internship course and additional HTM coursework while typically working 40-plus hours in her role,” Jack said.

This semester, Wizniuk works in Magic Kingdom attractions at both The Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. She runs and operates the rides while conversing with guests.

One aspect of working for Disney that Wizniuk said she enjoys most is that every employee who works in front of guests is considered a “cast member.”

“If you’re in the park and guests can see you, you’re considered ‘on stage,’” Wizniuk said. “If you’re in Frontierland, you say ‘howdy.’ If you’re in Tomorrowland, you’re in the future.”

Although Wizniuk has left the campus of GVSU for Frontierland and Tomorrowland three separate times, she said she is still on track to graduate on time. She took 10 credits through GVSU in spring 2009, her first Disney semester. Two of them were HTM courses only available for students in the Disney College Program, called “Disney College Program I” and “Disney College Program II.”

Wizniuk has also met friends from all over the country and the world. She has had roommates from Missouri and Japan and a good friend from China, all experiences she would not have had without participating in the DCP. She also spent her second Disney College Program internship at Disneyland in California for a change of scenery from Orlando.

“On a daily basis, half of the guests that I talk to don’t even speak English, so you have to adapt,” she said.

Jack said the experience is an amazing way for students to widen their horizons.

“It is amazing to see the growth in confidence and knowledge in students from where they are when they leave GVSU to where they are upon their return,” Jack said.

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