While her friends were stressing out in the Earl Gregg Swem Library in May of 2016, Emily Flack ’20 took a break from studying for her finals to submit an application to the Walt Disney Company. While her classmates were starting their summer internships in June of the same year, she was moving to Orlando to start her yearlong job as a performer at Walt Disney World.
Flack originally entered the College of William and Mary as a member of the Class of 2019, but took a gap year for her job as a performer. She said that taking a gap year to perform was one of the best decisions she’s made in her college career.
I really think that a gap year is very important to find out exactly what you want to be doing and who you are as a person,” Flack said. “Definitely going straight from my senior year of high school into my freshman year of college, I felt like I was going from studying to more studying, and I think taking that gap year and not having to worry about studying, not having to turn in essays or take a midterm, I just really got to focus on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. The good thing is, at least for me, that performing is what I want to do with my life.”
“I really think that a gap year is very important to find out exactly what you want to be doing and who you are as a person,” Flack said. “Definitely going straight from my senior year of high school into my freshman year of college, I felt like I was going from studying to more studying, and I think taking that gap year and not having to worry about studying, not having to turn in essays or take a midterm, I just really got to focus on figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. The good thing is, at least for me, that performing is what I want to do with my life.”
A theater major and music minor, Flack said her experience performing at the parks solidified her passion for performance and theater.
She said she plans to keep performing for as long as possible and is constantly in the process of searching for auditions to attend.
“You just have to keep the fingers crossed and keep going to auditions as much as you can and hope that out of the billions of no’s you get a yes,” Flack said.
Not only did her experience at Disney solidify her love for performing, but Flack said interacting with the children every day in the parks also brought out a passion for education.
“I’ve also thought about possibly trying to pursue education at some point since I love children, I love seeing children grow and learn, so that’s something that I didn’t really consider too much before, but after taking the year at Disney, it’s something that I’ve really started to consider,” Flack said.
Flack’s performer job at Walt Disney World fell under the entertainment umbrella of the Walt Disney Company. According to Flack, the entertainment portion of the company is responsible for all of the shows, parades and character experiences in the Disney parks.
Her main commitments were performing in a show at the Magic Kingdom and working at the Royal Sommerhus in Epcot, which is a place where guests can meet some of the characters from the movie “Frozen.”
Flack said that performing for a year also connected her with her family and her childhood.
“My family always went to Disney … and I remember every time I would meet a character or go see a show that was something that really stuck with me from a young age,” Flack said. “Even now, I still go to the parks and get excited to see Mickey Mouse. I mean, I know kind of how the whole thing works, but it’s still an experience that just resonates with you no matter how old you are.”
Flack said that her favorite part of her job was meeting and interacting with new people from all around the world.
She also said that working at such a heavily visited tourist attraction gave her experiences that she would not have been able to have to the same degree had she stayed at the College rather than taking a gap year.
Emily Flack ’20 meeting her favorite princess and beast. COURTESY PHOTO / EMILY FLACK
“Even though you meet people in college every day who are different than you, getting to see that on a really broad scale was something I think I really learned a lot about,” Flack.
She also said that she appreciated being able to share the stories she grew up loving with the children she met through her job.
“We always got to see Make-A-Wish kids, and those were always touching because all those kids wanted to do was feel magic and feel that moment of excitement and of course we always did whatever we could to make them happy,” Flack said. “They were sometimes tough, when children were very sick, sometimes they couldn’t even make it to the park and we would record something to send to them because they couldn’t leave their hotel room or their hospital, so just knowing that again those stories really do help people and make them happy is the whole reason we did the job.”
Flack said that these positive experiences she gained from working at Disney made her difficult decision to take a year off of school easier.
“I really had back-and-forth thoughts about it the whole time I was deciding,” Flack said. “But it ultimately came down to the fact that this was something I had always wanted to do and I knew that if I didn’t take that year to experience it that I would have regretted it.”
She said that she likes staying within her comfort zone, so moving down to Florida so quickly helped her push herself. The time between submitting her application and moving down to Orlando was only around a month, a timeline Flack said was fairly typical of the entertainment portion of the company.
I think just diving straight into it didn’t give me any time to back out,” Flack said. “So I knew that if I took the job, I had to do it, and I couldn’t have second thoughts about it.”
“I think just diving straight into it didn’t give me any time to back out,” Flack said. “So I knew that if I took the job, I had to do it, and I couldn’t have second thoughts about it.”
In fact, Flack said that the process of moving to Florida was logistically easier than the process of disentangling herself from the commitments she had already made at the College, like housing and classes. She said that Disney sets out-of-state hires up with a relocation package which made her transition easier than she expected.
“At first I was really overwhelmed by the whole thing because it’s very different going from being a student to suddenly having full adult responsibilities,” Flack said. “The biggest thing was just having your own responsibilities solely on you, so it wasn’t that you had dormmates to depend upon or hallmates. … I think actually the weirdest thing to readjust to [back on campus now] is the fact that the only responsibility I have now is just myself versus the job versus the car versus the apartment. It’s nice to be able to just focus on being me and not having to worry about being an adult for another couple years.”