I thought it would be good to post about this, as I know a lot of people who do the program struggle with the decision to self-term. I will honestly say that I didn’t struggle very much with my decision. That could be because I had already completed a program, but ultimately, I think I knew in my heart that it was time to get away from Disney and go home.
Just a little background info: I started the Disney College Program back in June as a Fall Advantage participant. I was hired as Quick-Service Food and Beverage. If you read any of my other posts, you would know that I hated my role and my location. Things never got better, they really only got worse, but I loved all the people I worked with, and I had my roommates and other friends to whom I could vent my frustrations. I never thought about going home (except during the summer, like once).
The reason I did the college program in the first place, since I had already graduated from college in May and had already done a college program, was because I had no plans for after graduation. I didn’t want to go to grad. school because I didn’t want to go into debt, and unfortunately, my degree is one that you must have your Master’s in order to be able to take a test to be certified to practice. So, using my major was out. I didn’t want to come back home and live at my parents’ house and get a retail job at Walmart or something like that (I’m really not looking down on Walmart workers, I just didn’t think that I would enjoy that very much). What could I do but go back to Florida and have a set job and live apart from my parents, while also having myself a mini-vacation and meeting tons of awesome people!
In the same way, I decided to apply for an extension because I still had nothing to do at home. Even though I missed my family and state, I just wasn’t ready to go back and live at my parents’ and worry about finding a place of my own and a good job. So, I applied for an extension even though I was really burnt out on Disney and the college program. I told myself that I would only extend if I got the role of Character Performer, because I knew that I would enjoy that role, and, well, that’s the role I got. So extending seemed like a given! It was like God was telling me that I was meant to stay in Florida and perhaps get a full-time job with Disney after my program was over. Never mind that I never actually consulted Him about this, I just thought that if He didn’t want me to stay, He could have made it so that my extension was denied or I failed the audition.
Little did I know that his plan for me was not to stay. He wanted me to come back home. I, of course, didn’t realize that until it was too late. When December came around, I had my doubts that I really wanted to stay, but because I accepted my extension, and I was nervous about finding a job back home, I decided to keep my doubts to myself and persevere. But, as my title gave this away, I ended up self-terming. I did it two days ago and came home almost immediately after. It was very convenient too because I made the decision right after I moved into my new apartment (but it wasn’t because of my new roommates because, honestly, they were awesome), so I just didn’t unpack anything.
Here are the reasons I left and some justifications:
1. I was depressed. When you’ve struggled with depression before, you know that it never completely goes away and always pops up at the most inconvenient times. People thought that I was depressed because most of my friends left at the end of the program, but my depression began near the beginning of December and reached a pinnacle on my 23rd birthday, which was the day before the program ended and everyone left. I still remember going to “Welcome to Entertainment” and meeting people I had auditioned with and trying to be excited, but deep down feeling exhausted for no reason.
2. Working in Food and Beverage at my resort location had left me kind of jaded. I was sick of Disney and really didn’t like it as a company. Even though I knew Entertainment was an entirely different department, I still couldn’t get past my negative experience working in food and with incompetent and mean managers.
3. There were many signs I got from God (I don’t mean like writing in the or anything like that, but just several things that happened) that he didn’t want me to stay. One of the signs was my car registration. In my state, you must have an inspection to be registered, and since my registration had expired, and I was all the way in Florida with no way to get it registered without driving back to my state, Housing wouldn’t give me my parking pass.
4. I hated Orlando and wasn’t too keen on Florida as a whole. The drivers were horrible, the grocery stores were overpriced and didn’t carry very much (and not very good quality either) produce and specialty items. Prices of groceries were too expensive. The foliage was okay, but I preferred my state’s and thought it was prettier. All in all, I just couldn’t see myself living in Florida for the long term. So why continue to work for Disney when I was unhappy, when I knew I was going to return home in a few months anyway?
5. I began to feel “too old” for the college program. I graduated college last May, which made me feel old already since I was doing the college program out of college. I know a lot of people do this, but I just felt like I was too old for it. Then, when I turned 23, I felt ancient and felt like I was still trying to live in a college-like life, when I really needed to be moving on into my real adult life.
6. Most of my friends left on January 5th and went back to their respective states. I still had a couple of friends that stayed, but the majority left with no plans to return. Since I was going to be living states apart from them even if I remained in Florida, I decided it would be better to go back to the place I love and plan visits from there.
7. The new shift rule that Disney decided to thrust upon their poor college program participants. I didn’t like how without warning, Disney thought it was okay to take away the ability of all college program participants to give away shifts/trade for off. Depending on your line of business and specific location, it can be rare for your days to get approved off when you submit it on the Hub. Giving shifts to part-timers and seasonal cast members was a great way to ensure you got the whole time off that your family was here or you got that last day that wasn’t approved off when you wanted to visit home. I think it was very disrespectful to do that to the cast members that are literally the reason the parks and resorts can operate the way they do. (Also, housing suddenly forcing us to use their own slow and unreliable network and making it so that we could no longer use our individual routers was pretty crappy)
8. I realized that self-termination would not affect my resume in any way. Since my spring extension was technically a new program, I had already completed the Fall Advantage program in Food and Beverage. In 2013, I completed the Fall Advantage program as a character performer. Since I had already been a character performer and that was already on my resume, quitting wasn’t detrimental, since staying wouldn’t have added anything to my resume anyway.
9. The last reason I left, which ended up being the ultimate deciding factor, was because I went through training and loved my fellow trainees, my trainers, and the job I was doing and still that wasn’t enough to motivate me to stay. I felt like it was time to leave when I realized that no matter how much I loved Entertainment, I didn’t want to stay with Disney (in the parks and resorts, at least) and I didn’t want to stay in Florida.
So, there are all the reasons I self-termed. I know a lot of people on the program struggle with the decision to self-term. If you’re struggling or unhappy, or dissatisfied, or have health problems and you think that terming would be the best decision, only you know what is best for you, so you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing it. My advice on deciding whether to quit the college program or not would be this: Is there any part of you, even the tiniest, little inkling inside you that you are going to regret quitting? If so, I would urge you to stay. If there is not little inkling and no doubt in your mind that you won’t regret it, then I would say you are free to go. That was how it was for me, and, honestly, even though I’ve only been home for a few days and am still looking for a job, I don’t regret my decision one bit.