Disney Cohort Wraps up for 2018

Six months of working in the “happiest place on earth” and studying at the largest hospitality college in the United States ended on July 5, 2018, for 34 students from China and Korea. The students graduated from the Disney Cohort, a program in partnership with Walt Disney World that is taught at UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The six-month program consisting of work at various Disney theme parks and properties and taking classes at UCF Rosen College.

During this celebration, they not only collected their certificates, but have their credit hours transferred to their respected institutions as well. These students were from our five partner universities in China:  Beijing International Studies University, Sun Yat-sen University, Hainan University, Nankai University & Huaqiao University, as well as two universities in South Korea:  Kyung Hee University & Sejong University.

During the program, the Disney Cohort students lived on Disney property and worked at the company’s locations for up to 37.5 hours a week. While working at Disney, they learned about working in various areas of the hospitality industry such as guest services, quick-service food, merchandise, and more. The students took four courses with us: Guest Service Management, Culture & Cuisine, Destination Marketing and the Internship Course which coincide with their work at Disney.  The students worked between 30 – 37.5 hours in two different Disney roles while here.  They lived on Disney property in one of four apartment complexes with students from all over the world.  They attended classes here one day a week, on Thursdays.

This year the students took part in activities that were both academically and socially enriching These exciting events included experiences such as attending Rosen College’s Spring Career Fair, a scavenger hunt & panel discussion on culturally significant topics, and a BBQ & Kayaking event at Lake Claire on the main campus. Students also enjoyed field trips to Bar Harbor Seafood and the Orange County Convention Center and learned about Hospitality from industry leaders who were kind enough to come in and share their expertise as guest speakers.

Making the transition from the far east to Florida was not easy for these students; it is a 29-hour flight, and the time-change across several time-zones can be jarring for some. One student in particular was very homesick but saw this as too much of an opportunity to miss out on, so she powered through the six-month program; her parents came to the graduation ceremony all the way from China. While in the United States, many students took the opportunity to explore. One student not only learned how to drive during this time, but even drove to Miami and Yellowstone after getting his license.

Because of the success in the previous years of the program, there are plans for expansion. Next year, we will welcome three new universities, two from China: Fudan Unversity & Jinan University, and one from Japan, Rikkyo University. Not only will there be students from China and Korea in next year’s program, but Japan as well. In addition to this, there are plans to increase the number of student participants from 50 to 60 to further accommodate these changes.

A few of the students talked about their experiences during the graduation luncheon, discussing the opportunity the program has given them. Student Liu Haiqi stated “I am so sad to leave my coworkers, they light up my day. It is my first time to earn money and living on my (own) in another country, but not only do I earn money, I earned working experience, earned a totally different view, earned friendship, and (earned) my life.”

Sheryl Goins, Disney Cohort program coordinator, summed up the program and it’s experiences this way, “It was very obvious that this program, although challenging at times, helps to build independence and character, encourages life-long friendships to develop, and literally changes lives… forever!”

As the Disney Cohort students head back to China and Korea to finish their educations and start their careers in hospitality, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality wishes them a lifetime of success in their endeavors.

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