Samantha Fagundes ’24 is currently living her Disney World dream. Surprisingly, it has less to do with mouse ear hats and more to do with heavy machinery.
Since August, she’s been operating “Dinosaur: The Ride” at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as an intern through the Disney College Program, which offers students studying a variety of different disciplines – from hospitality to teaching to social media management – a chance to work at the park for a semester.
“It’s a great experience,” she said. “It’s a feel-good job. You get to learn so much and you work and interact with people from all over the world.”
In addition to making sure hundreds of guests get on and off the ride without issue each day, Fagundes said she sometimes gets the opportunity to observe engineers in the ride’s maintenance bay.
“One time when the ride broke down, I was able to walk onto the track and watch them work on one of the cars and see the underneath of it,” she recalled. “That was cool.”
The internship, Fagundes explained, has given her valuable networking opportunities along with hands-on experience.
“Honestly, the goal would be to get into Imagineering, which is Disney engineering,” she continued. “Doing this (internship) is kind of like getting my foot in the door, meeting people and making those connections to hopefully get myself to that point.”
A self-proclaimed STEM girl, Fagundes said her father, an engineer himself, got her interested in the field.
“I’ve taken all the general engineering courses that Merrimack offers,” she explained. “I enjoyed thermodynamics a lot. I also like machine design because it was more about applying what I had learned to stuff in the real world rather than just studying theories behind it.”
Fagundes said she was familiar with the Disney College Program after her older sister tried applying.
“I got an email last winter saying applications were open so I just applied for fun,” she explained. “I ended up getting it. It all happened really fast and it was super impulsive but it ended up happening.”
Getting to Florida was a bit of a hurdle for Fagundes. She didn’t have any friends coming with her, meaning she’d have to spend five months by herself thousands of miles from home.
“I met my roommate through (Facebook) but I didn’t know her before,” she said. “At first, I was definitely very nervous. The first day there were some tears shed, but it’s been a lot easier than I expected.”
Once she touched down, Fagundes said keeping her mind busy with work helped ease some of the homesickness.
“I am a homebody for sure and that’s what was scaring me the most,” she said with a laugh, “but it’s been fine. I’ve been impressed with how well I’m taking it.”