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.

Working on campus – how to find a job

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

Working part-time is an integral part of a student’s life. It provides a chance to earn some money which could go towards rent, groceries, or for a trip out of town.

As per the Student Employment Office (SEO), RIT has over 9,000 student jobs on-campus. These range from dining services to administrative jobs, from working as librarians to being tutors and teaching assistants. The minimum hourly pay for an on-campus job, as per NY state law, is $9.70. The pay may go up to $15 or so per hour for some jobs. Dining services pay minimum wage. RIT states that no student may work more than 20 hours in a week (counted from a Friday morning to the following Thursday midnight). The student has complete flexibility to choose the hours for which they would like to work, subject to shifts available at their workplace. Managers at all jobs know students are eager to work but at the same time will put studies ahead of any job they do; they are usually able to accommodate any modification in work schedules to work around mid-terms or project submissions, if such requests are put in advance.

The SEO requires a student to report any new job that they get, and assign a badge/punch number for the same. This number is unique to each student’s each job. This is used to maintain time sheets. A student is issued an SEO card every semester, and this is a mandatory requirement to be taken care of by the student. This card is issued only once the SEO can see that the student is enrolled as a full-time student for the term in question (12 credits for an undergraduate and 9 for a graduate student). Salaries are paid biweekly, on the Friday after the end of a pay cycle. They can be picked up as checks from the manager or auto-transfers can be set up toward the student’s bank account.

When I first arrived at RIT in August 2016, I had not taken up a job immediately as I figured I would first see how hectic my coursework would be. I found out that dining services usually employ a lot of students. So about 2-3 weeks after start of the session, armed with my class schedule, I had first approached Gracie’s (located in Grace Watson Hall, near the Residence Halls) for a job; however, there were no positions available there by then. My roommate had just started working at RITz Sports Zone (in the lower level of the Student Alumni Union) and told me to try my luck there. It took me a few days to get a hold of the manager during her break, and once I spoke to her and asked her for a job for around 10 hours a week, she immediately looked at my class schedule and asked me if Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 10 AM to 1:30 PM would work for me. I said it would be fine, and that was it. I started the day after that. People at RITz were extremely helpful and welcoming. It only took me a few days to get used to working in an environment I had never seen before. I had always been a customer at a restaurant; I had never given thought to how things worked behind the scenes.

During my winter break, I came across an opening on the SEO website for the job of a Graduate Student Liaison at the Graduate Enrollment Office. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. The last seven-odd months that I have been working here have been wonderful, to say the least. I have had the opportunity of interacting with every graduate admissions counselor and with many of the incoming graduate students from India. I have had some insightful conversations with people and have learned quite a bit about the various questions that an incoming international student has, and how answers given by someone currently at RIT helps them out.

In conclusion, I would like to say that by working different on-campus jobs the past year, I have learned a lot about some of the efforts that go in to the functioning of a university the way it does. It has been a challenge balancing work shifts with my studies, one that I have enjoyed and managed quite well. I hope this serves as a helpful read to all newcomers to RIT!

Student Banking – What you need to know

by Krishna Tippur Gururaj, Computer Science MS student

A bank account is essential for a student. Whether it is about getting that little bit of extra money from your parents that you need for a weekend trip, or tuition fees from your sponsor, or for managing your own salary, one always needs a bank account or two.

Major American banks like Bank of America, and JPMorgan Chase are popular choices. The former has a branch located in South Town Plaza (a mile away from campus), and an ATM in the Gordon Field House. The latter has a branch located about 2 miles from campus. There is no ATM on campus however with a car, it is quite accessible. The other convenient option is Advantage Federal Credit Union bank. Its branch is located on campus and there are multiple ATMs across campus.

In Bank of America, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students under the age of 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $12 can be waived by having at least one qualifying direct deposit of $250 or more made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects that a minimum of $1500 be maintained in the account each day (a grace period of 60 days in the beginning). For more information regarding this and other fees, read here. 

In Chase, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement for students between the ages of 17 and 24. For others, the monthly maintenance fee of $6 can be waived by having one direct deposit made to the account each month. If this is not done, the bank expects a balance of $5000 to be maintained every day. For more information regarding this and other fees, check here.

In Advantage Federal Credit Union, the checking account has a zero-balance requirement with no restrictions on a student’s age. The fact that the branch and ATMs are located on campus make this bank quite an attractive and affordable option. However, the limitation with this is that since it is a credit union, its presence is local so there would be no ATMs if you go out of Rochester.

All banks would have the concept of a savings account as well. They are used to store money safely (cannot be withdrawn/used from a debit card) and earn interest on it. Check with the bank for the various options that they offer. Usually, you would need to make one transaction to/from the savings account to keep it active and free of any maintenance fee.

Opening an account in any of the banks is simple and fast. As an international student, on my first day in the US, it took me 20 minutes to get my account created in Bank of America. All they needed were my passport and I-20 (to ascertain that I was indeed a student). A Social Security Number is not mandatory to open the account; it can be updated in the bank once obtained later.

In my experience till now, I have found that using Bank of America is the most convenient option considering all factors since the branch is not too far to visit if need be, and an ATM is located on campus. When I am not earning enough from the on-campus job to be able to qualify for a waiver of the monthly maintenance fee, I just maintain $1500 in my account. I treat that as a safety net for emergencies.

Credit scores are an important part of a person’s life in the US. They are checked when you buy a phone plan, rent a house, buy a car, etc. As an international student, this was an alien concept to me. Credit cards, if used well, are a good way of building a good credit score. There are firms like Credit Karma which help individuals plan their credit card usage as well as possible to reflect positively on credit reports.

Applying for a credit card from Chase or Bank of America is quite straightforward although getting one may be random if one has no prior credit history. Advantage Federal Credit Union does not offer credit cards. There are some companies like Discover which offer credit cards to students on attractive offers; you would not need to open any separate bank account with them. Credit cards also offer cashback or rewards for using them. Ask your bank representative about all possible options while applying.