Walt Disney internship: A student’s top tips to win a life-changing role

walt disney internship
As a Commercial and Sales Intern, Diego (pictured on the left) interviewed the Senior Vice President at Disney in front of his entire department. Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

Securing a Walt Disney internship, a stint at a company known for the world’s most iconic films and theme parks, is a dream for many.

Juan Diego Du Bois is no different. 

“As someone who has devoted a large part of his life to acting, I have always been interested in the world of entertainment and storytelling,” shares the student from Peru.

“I knew Disney was the best place for this.”

Du Bois is a King’s College London student pursuing the Business Management BSc programme, which includes the option of a placement, that is, spending a year working with a company.

The terms “internship” and “work placements” have been used interchangeably, but they often refer to two distinctive experiences. 

Internships allow students to gain experience in a specific field within a short period, whereas work placements — often taken as part of a degree — usually last for a whole year.

The latter will count as part of your module, where you’ll receive academic credit for the year.

You can think of those on placements as a more “senior” student intern or even a “longer” paid intern.

Whether it’s a placement or an internship, Du Bois saw this optional year in industry as an opportunity — one he seized to turn his dream of a Walt Disney internship into reality.

While previous students have landed placements at the likes of Google, IBM and Internations, Du Bois set his sights on sunny California and a company that raked in record theme-park revenue last year.

As a Commercial and Sales Intern at the Disney Destinations International (DDI) department, he gets to apply all he’s learned at the top five UK business schools at the world’s largest entertainment company

And he gets to travel too — a continuation of a life that has always been packed full of adventure, even before his Walt Disney Internship and before he stepped foot in London.

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Diego (fourth from the right) did his high school education at Markham College, a British international school in Peru, where he completed his IGCSE and International Baccalaureate Bilingual Diploma. Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

Where did you study before King’s Business School?

Having studied at a British international school in Peru (Markham College), I was exposed to the idea of studying abroad at an early age.

During high school, I joined different international programmes: Harvard University’s Model United Nations Conference in Boston, an international conference in North Carolina, and an exchange in South Africa. 

These opportunities fostered a deep desire to keep exploring new cultures and immersing myself in a global space during my undergraduate studies as I realised the importance of internationalism in one’s professional and personal growth. 

Thanks to my education at Markham College, studying in the UK for my undergraduate studies was an option since I was familiar with the system.

Plus, I had family there and London has always been my dream city. 

Still, I applied to US universities and got accepted into several institutions, particularly on the West Coast. It came down to choosing between King’s College London (KCL) and two American universities.

This was hard since I couldn’t travel to visit the campuses because of COVID-19.

Eventually, I went ahead with King’s Business School because of how flexible their business degree was.

I also knew London was the perfect city for me and my personality — a strong deciding factor as I would spend the next four years in this new city — and it would offer me many opportunities. 

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Half of the Peruvian community of Manchay lives in extreme poverty. During the pandemic, the community developed a system in which anytime a neighbour lacked resources, the neighbour would raise a white flag as a sign for help and all the other members would come together to provide food. Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

Before King’s, you set up the White Flags for Manchay during the pandemic. What was the inspiration behind it?

Along with three friends, we were tasked with leading the school during the 2020 academic year.

A big part of it was supporting the school’s social service initiatives. COVID-19 threw a spanner in our plans and we were very disappointed as we knew social service was one of the things students enjoyed the most.

By the middle of June, we learned about the Peruvian community of Manchay through a teacher. About 50% of its population lives in extreme poverty and they were severely affected by the pandemic.

Despite this, the community developed a system in which anytime a neighbour lacked resources, the neighbour would raise a white flag as a sign for help and all the other members would come together to provide food. 

This solidarity shocked us and, most importantly, motivated us to create a new project that — just like this system in Manchay — could allow students to donate and engage in a social programme while providing food and resources to Manchay.

That’s how we came to create “White Flags for Manchay”: the school’s first-ever 100% student-led social initiative. 

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Executing this social initiative during COVID-19 was challenging given that Du Bois’s team could not meet physically and had to track their deliverables in real-time virtually via Zoom. Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

What were some of the challenges you faced in executing this initiative?

Since we started this project during COVID-19, we have not been able to meet physically, and the only tool we have is Zoom.

It was challenging for us to keep track of the delivery and reception of the donations as we couldn’t go to Manchay to see if everything was in order.

Still, we adapted rapidly to these technological platforms and maximised them as tools to brainstorm and keep everyone updated with the project in real-time. 

Another challenging moment was encouraging people to donate. We set ourselves the goal of raising around US$70,000 to provide 180,000 meals within three months.

It was an ambitious goal, considering that we were in a time of economic distress. 

We overcame this by creating a donating competition between current and former classes. We saw this as an opportunity for people from the school community to come together for a goal.

Luckily, this helped us surpass our goal by raising over US$75,000, providing more than 183,000 meals and extending the project for six months. 

What makes me even happier is that after almost four years, the project is still ongoing, creating a stronger tie between Manchay and my school.

It also inspired me to study business and learn more about how to make a social difference from a corporate perspective.

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“London is my dream city.” Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

What motivated you to pursue a BS in Business Management?

I value how flexible this degree is. Having completed two years at KCL, I have taken courses in not only finance and economics, but also in psychology, philosophy and marketing. 

Interdisciplinary flexibility was something I realised through my father’s career.

He also studied for a bachelor’s in business management and ended up immersing himself in a variety of other disciplines, such as economics and even journalism.

The flexibility suited me since I was interested in various fields like economics, finance, and politics. 

My background in Peru also motivated me to pursue a bachelor’s in business management.

Growing up in a country challenged by poverty, political instability and decentralisation, I have always had this desire to help change my country’s panorama. 

I think a BS in Business Management is crucial as it helps you understand the public-private intersection and its power in creating better opportunities. 

Currently, you are a Commercial and Sales Intern at Disney Destination International. Why choose to do an internship abroad with Walt Disney?

As someone who has devoted a large part of his life to acting, I have always been interested in the world of entertainment and storytelling and I knew Disney was the best place for this.

I also applied for a role in business/sales since Disney is the master when it comes to sales.

Before applying, I spoke to a friend who did her placement at Disney and told me about all the opportunities the company offers.

This pushed me to apply, and luckily, I worked at the Disney Destinations International (DDI) department, which aligns with my passion for travelling. 

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“Since day one, everyone has been so warm and supportive and DDI truly feels like a family.” Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

Internship opportunities are two words that go hand in hand. What specific skills or lessons have you gained through your Walt Disney internship that contributed towards your professional growth?

The best part has been the people. Since day one, everyone has been so warm and supportive and DDI truly feels like a family.

I have bonded with many of my colleagues from all levels and learned a lot from them. 

As I work for two teams (Walt Disney World/Disney Cruise Line and Disneyland Paris) and engage a lot with other teams like Trade and Marketing,

I have learned about time management and how to organise myself to complete all the tasks. I have honed my Excel abilities by manoeuvring the platform to calculate one of our partners’ revenue levels and communication skills by constantly connecting with travel agencies. 

A lesson that I have learned is to always challenge yourself at work. For me, it was interviewing a Senior Vice President at Disney in front of my entire department.

Although I haven’t done anything like this before, I pushed myself as I knew that the experience would help me grow as a person and professional.

Ultimately, the experience was very rewarding and helped me gain greater confidence. 

On top of landing a Walt Disney internship, you were also an exchange student at The Wharton School. What was that experience like?

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Academically, Wharton challenged me every single day to think critically and to put the theory into practice.

Classes like “Business Strategy and Negotiations” have exposed me to think critically as if I were a company’s CEO or negotiator. 

I combined my passion for business and politics by taking a public finance class and a politics module taught by a former Pennsylvania governor.

Learning about campaigning from someone who has been at the forefront of elections and the helm of the Democratic Party was truly a priceless opportunity. 

Socially, during my time at Wharton, I met friends for life. In such a short period, I found an exceptional group of friends; one is my roommate here in London.

With them, we organised amazing trips across the US as we tried to make the most out of our exchange. 

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Du Bois was an exchange student at The Wharton School for the fall 2022 semester. Source: Juan Diego Du Bois

You are a recipient of the GMAT Talent and Opportunity Scholarship. How will that impact your future plans to pursue an MBA? Do you have any institutions and programmes in mind?

As a GMAT Talent and Opportunity Scholarship recipient, I’m eager to pursue an MBA by counting on the support of high-calibre professionals for my admissions and GMAT preparation. 

I’m very passionate about pursuing an MBA to enhance my development as a corporate professional, coupled with my passion for politics and public policy. 

Therefore, I dream of pursuing this MBA in the US, particularly in institutions like Harvard, Wharton, Kellog and Columbia due to their deferred option (which allows me to apply in my final year of uni but start two to four years after I graduate) and their flexible, liberal-arts curriculum that allows me to merge both interests. 

My dream programme is Harvard’s MBA/MPP (Master in Public Policy) joint degree and I will try to do everything I can to get accepted. 

What’s one piece of advice for students who aspire to make a positive impact in their communities?

Take the initiative. If you want to make a positive impact in your community, don’t be afraid to take the step and create your project, initiative or impact.

It doesn’t have to be a massive project; even small things — such as acting according to your principles and values in your day-to-day life — can help improve your communities.