A Gap Year with Disney

Kexin “Coco” Wang, Visual Communication Design MFA

“My internship experience was definitely irreplaceable in a sense that it allowed me to explore my own strengths, passions, and preferences as I was getting prepared to enter the real-world creative industry. Without all these hands-on experiences, I would have no idea of which career path or direction I should take even with all the technical and design skills that I had.”

Long time no see MasterRIT blog followers! A year ago I posted an article about my design intern life in NYC, soon after that, I had another valuable opportunity to work with Disney in California as a digital art director intern and my magical gap year journey started all from there. So today I am going to briefly blog about my experience with Disney in the past year and tell you a bit about what I’ve learned and gained which really made a big difference in my life.

First I want to point out that taking an entire gap year from grad school was a big decision for me. My original goal was to finish grad education as soon as I could and locate a job after, but I also couldn’t just let the opportunity go when it was offered on my plate. Since I did not have any work experience prior to graduate study, I thought it would be nice to gain some relevant workplace skills, knowledge, insights and passion for a field that I was interested in. Once I made up my mind, things just became much clearer and I believed professional experience is just as important as excellent academic records.

I worked at Disney’s in-house agency, Yellow Shoes and my job was to help the digital team create digital content that promotes Disney Parks and Resorts. The overall experience was definitely like “living the dream” – my family and I, like most people, are huge fans of Disney and it truly felt like a dream that I got to work for the company when I grow up. I was also fascinated by Disney’s corporate culture and how each individual employee enjoys going to work every day and creates the ‘magic’ every day to bring joy to the others. Even though every single individual plays a small role but the joint effort together connects people around the world. And I was so honored to be able to become part of that joint effort and deliver happiness to the people who have love and trust in the brand.

During the internship, I have also come across unusual opportunities where I got to work on a variety of real-world projects and execute them as well. And these are all based on my team’s trust on me and my partner, and the trust that we placed on ourselves. One time we were asked to come up with an April Fool’s day video which also promotes Disney World. We ended up having the most ridiculous idea of combining the park snacks with the iconic Mickey ears. We faced many difficulties along the way and almost didn’t think it would ever happen. But what was less expected was that we won the creative’s approval at the last minute and got to start the production which eventually led to a big success on April Fool’s day. We couldn’t have made it happen without the team leaders’ support and trust and it’s so rewarding to see your own idea coming into life and win the hearts of your audience.

Another thing I want to share is that internship creates great connections for you. Making new friends and building connections helped me step out of my personal comfort zone during the internship, and eventually made me feel at ease and even somehow “at home”. I was very lucky to have a great team to work with and was able to get all the support and help when needed. And working with different departments and teams is also a great way to acquire new skills and knowledge that can help in the future. Even just by sharing life stories with coworkers allow me to learn the career/life paths they took to get where they are today. I believe these connections and teamwork skills can probably have a lifelong benefit.

My internship experience was definitely irreplaceable in a sense that it allowed me to explore my own strengths, passions, and preferences as I was getting prepared to enter the real-world creative industry. Without all these hands-on experiences, I would have no idea of which career path or direction I should take even with all the technical and design skills that I had. It made me realize that with my skills and abilities, I would have the most added value if I work for a creative marketing organization. I am greatly appreciated and thankful to RIT’s co-op program which allowed me to grow and shine in a unique way. And I truly wish that everyone who is hoping to get an internship in the future will be able to enjoy their co-op experience and try to get the most out of it. And keep in mind, even if it’s not so much a good experience, it still helps you figure out a path you would want to avoid in the future.

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