What Really Happened During My Summer Internship

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“How would you describe your LEAD Internship to a friend?” I was asked by my coworker who sat behind a large camera. As I leaned back in the large chair that overlooked our resort’s 75,000 square foot pool from the presidential suite, I finally took it all in. How do I even begin to describe one of the most eclectic experiences of my life so far? For starters, I’m being interviewed by a film crew for a promotional video, in addition to jumpstarting my acting career by poorly recreating some of my favorite memories of the summer. Who else can say they spent their last week at work doubling as a movie-star-in-training? But it’s just one of the many, many, many hats I was fortunate enough to wear this summer during my program. My time at The Fountains was short, but the memories I made will last a long time.

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Ever since I began my path in the hospitality industry, I knew I wanted to focus onthe tourism industry. I wanted to harbor that excitement one feels when embarking on a vacation and keep that momentum going forever. Specifically, I knew I wanted to work at a resort. Yet I was always posed the question “What part of the lodging industry do you want to work in? What do you want to do at a resort?” and that’s where I always drew a blank. I knew I wanted to work in such an uplifting and exciting environment, but I never knew what specifically I wanted to do there.

When it came time to start searching for summer internships early last winter, I stumbled across the Bluegreen Vacation LEAD Internship. It was a company I never heard of, so I decided to read further about what it was. “Through hands-on training and mentorship with resort staff, interns will participate in comprehensive rotations focusing on operational procedures, advanced systems, and customer service across a range of disciplines including guest services, food & beverage, resort maintenance, housekeep, resort activities, and more”. So basically I had the opportunity to spend the summer trying out anything and everything involved in making the resort run, in order to find what I really enjoyed the most. It was the perfect program for me to finally have an answer to the question of what I wanted to do at resorts.

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After rounds and rounds of interviews, I was accepted to be one of the two interns at The Fountains resort in Orlando, and I was beyond excited. As summer came around, I was expecting to begin my rotations, and just spend a week doing work in each department. To my surprise, this internship was so much more than just doing work.

On Day 1 we were given a binder with all of the departments we would be shadowing during the program. What I didn’t expect to see in the binder were all the learning elements that we were able to participate in. After coming from an internship where I basically did manual labor for minimum wage, I wasn’t really expecting anything crazy, but just seeing that we had the opportunity to learn while we were here made me so excited.

Each week, we would take on the role of a different department, doing a mix of hands-on work, shadowing managers, and learning the behind the scenes of what makes each operation successful. In addition, we had weekly meetings with our mentor, the resort’s assistant general manager, to talk about both our experiences in the program, as well as the department’s strengths and weaknesses that could be adjusted. I like to call this part of the internship my experience as an Undercover Boss, because we were able to see each department with fresh eyes, and help the resort leadership team fix any errors that they might not have even noticed.

We also were able to participate in weekly video conference calls with the 10 other interns located at Bluegreen properties all over the country to compare and contrast our experiences. During these calls, we were able to network with each other, take classes on Timeshare 101 and Financial Acumen, as well as have inciteful Q&A sessions with the company’s executive members, creating amazing opportunities across the board.

Additionally, we were tasked with creating a capstone project highlighting three ways the resort could enhance the guest’s experience. Over the course of the summer, we were able to pinpoint problem areas and figure out ways to find a solution, in order to better the company as well as better ourselves. At the end of the program, we presented to all of the resorts leaders, as well as the regional manager, and the company’s learning and development team. It was an incredible experience to have my ideas heard and praised, and I look forward to seeing if they’ll be implemented in the near future.

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This internship program was more than just a job where I went to work, did my tasks, and went home. The LEAD Program quickly became the biggest surprise of my young 20-year-old life, as I was able to grow so much in 11 weeks, and open so many doors to my future. I was constantly asked by friends and family what I was doing and how I was enjoying it, and it was just so hard to put my joy into words, so I hope this does the trick.

I was amazed by how welcome I felt every time I stepped on the property. As I rotated through the 9 different departments, I was able to meet almost every employee that worked there, and they always made sure to say hi and talk to me after I moved on to the next rotation. The maintenance department was the best, as they would always greet me with “Good Morning Boss!”, and it went straight to my head. The goal of Bluegreen Vacations is to “share happiness”, and after a shaky few months of not knowing whether or not hospitality was the right field for me, I can confidently say that I am more than happy in this industry, and I thank everyone at the Fountains for helping me feel confident in this role.

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Don’t worry, this isn’t the end of my Bluegreen journey! Next summer I will be going back to The Fountains for a second internship, but this one will focus on one department the whole program. I will learn a more in-depth view of the department I select, and have the opportunity to work as a supervisor in that role. I already know which role I’ll be taking on, but I’ll keep it a secret from you for a little while longer so you have the excuse to visit my blog again in the future.

I am so beyond grateful for all the experiences I’ve been able to have so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store!

Until next time,

xoxo,

Daily Dose of Magic

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This weekend I was able to experience a small dose of magic, as I traveled to the other side of Orlando to hit up some of my favorite amusement parks. Disney has been off my radar since about January, but sure enough, that was stop number one on my two-day escape from reality.

I hadn’t stepped foot into Magic Kingdom since my last shift there on January 2nd, so coming back was definitely a little strange. My sister was in town with her high schools marching band, so I, of course, had to go support her as she marched down Main Street USA.

As I was driving through the property, nostalgia flew into my face in the form of cartoon billboards and confusing construction. It felt like it had been ages since I was last there, but as soon as I walked under the train station at Magic Kingdom, it felt as if no time had passed at all.

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I was able to spend the day with my cousin, Katherine, and a few of my friends that popped in and out of the park throughout. Although I am nowhere close to wanting to renew my annual pass anytime soon, it was so much fun to walk through the park that I spent every day in for 5 months last semester. And of course, I got some cute pictures along the way.

Finishing the night with the Happily Ever After fireworks definitely made my day, as they are probably the only thing I missed about my 4pm to midnight shifts. Yet doing a full park day really got the best of me, as I returned home with sunburned arms and aching legs.

You can watch all my adventures from that day here!

I was able to rest up and take it easy on Saturday in order to prep for a trip to Universal Studios: Islands of Adventure on Sunday.

Each year, UCF rents out a Universal theme park for the night, so that students can let off some stress for free. A major perk of living where you vacation, if I do say so myself. The drawback? It rained all (k)night, but that’s Florida for ya.

Rainjacket in hand, we braved the weather to head out for a night of roller coasters and overpriced theme park food. Minimal wait-times and good company made for a night full of memories.

Living in a tourist destination definitely has it’s perks, and I’m so lucky that I have the opportunity to drop everything and ride an attraction at any given time. I had a blast heading to the theme parks one last time before the summer crowds flood the city, and I can’t wait to explore some hidden gems to avoid the tourists this summer.

xoxo,

Magic is Universal

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So in case you haven’t heard, Walt Disney World isn’t the only magical place here in Orlando. Although I like to believe UCF is the most enchanting place in this city, I’m sure plenty beg to differ. Yet there’s a happy medium between the two, and that’s where Universal Orlando Resort falls. I moved to the city of vacations, so of course I had to experience all of the exciting things to do here!

This past Saturday, I was able to go to Universal for the first time in quite a while. As Disney’s competitor, I feel like UO often falls by the wayside, but after my visit there this past week, I can confirm that it has jumped to a number one spot in my heart.

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Deep down, I’m a thrill seeker, and as we all know, Disney’s strong end is not with their intense attractions. So Universal is an amazing change of pace in all of the right ways. We started the day off strong with all of my favorites, Rip, Ride, RockIt and Revenge of the Mummy (which is arguably the best ride crafted in any amusement park ever). It was so much fun riding real rollercoasters again, and we had express passes, so no waiting in line for us!

We then explored Universal Studios for a while, which is my preferred park over Islands of Adventure. I hadn’t been to this park since summer of 2015, so it was great getting to re-experience everything that I’ve missed in the past couple of years.

We of course then had to head into Diagon Alley to geek out over all things Harry Potter, before hopping on the Hogwarts Express over to IoA. This was my first trip without a drink of Butterbeer, but I substituted the beverage for Butterbeer soft serve ice cream instead, and honestly I think it might be better.

We then ran through Platform 9 3/4 so we could travel over to Hogsmeade at the other park. It was Emily’s first time experiencing all of this, and I can promise the magic was real.

After running around as witches and wizards for a few hours, it was time to revert back to our muggle selves and check out the rest of the park.

Suess Landing quickly became one of my favorite areas, filled with bright colors and whimsical atmosphere. I was able to run around like a child, and my worries disappeared.

The last item on our bucket list for the day was to ride The Incredible Hulk Coaster, which is always a crowd pleaser. In previous visits, I’ve always preferred the now extinct Dragon Challenge Coaster over The Hulk, but this trip made me fall in love with it. Maybe because I no longer had anything to compare it too? Or maybe because I didn’t get a migraine from being tossed around too much. Either way, I’m super excited that I now love it.

We pretty much finished up our time at IoA after that, because we will be back next month for Universal Knights. So we headed back to the Hogwarts Express to take us home to Universal Studios for the remainder of our night.

We grabbed some tacos and enjoyed the streetmosphere of the Mardi Gras parade before heading on our favorite rides one last time. You always need to end where you started, so we finished our day off with another ride on Rip Ride RockIt, and this time I was front car.

This day was beyond fun, and made me fall in love with the atmosphere of Universal so much. I have always really enjoyed the park, but Disney was my main priority when it came to Orlando attractions. Yet after this visit, I know I’m going to be longing to go back. UO annual passholder in the future? Or fingers crossed that I’ll become a team member at some point before I graduate. Regardless, I’m so happy I was able to make amazing memories, and discover that magic really is universal.

Paws-itively Perfect Afternoon

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How would you describe your perfect Saturday afternoon? A walk in the park, gelato in hand, and hundreds upon hundreds of puppies running between everyone’s legs. Welcome to Paws in the Park, the best way to spend a sunny weekend afternoon in a long time.

 

This past Saturday I had the opportunity to head down to my favorite spot in Orlando, Lake Eola, for a charity event dedicated to all things dog. The Pet Alliance of Orlando put on this wonderful day filled with vendors, dog shows, and of course, puppies. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, other than an obsessive amount of cuteness. Yet when we stepped foot in the park, I knew this was going to be a day like no other.

 

There were multiple stages set up with various competitions happening such as agility, sit/stay, and best in show. And let me tell you, all of the dogs should have won best in show. We then wandered around the park and found a splash competition, where you guessed it, the dogs jumped into a pool to make the biggest splash around. It got pretty intense.

 

Oh and my old boss Mickey was there too with the best pup in all of the festival.

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It was an amazing day filled with nothing but smiles and puppy cuddles, and I’m so glad I was able to stumble upon it. It definitely helped cure my sadness about missing my boy, but hopefully I’ll see him soon too.

Life’s A Beach

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For someone who’s spent the past eight months in paradise, it may sound surprising that I have yet to gain a suntan. Yet with only a week left in Florida, I’m determined to not return home as pale as I was when I left. First on the agenda to get tan? A failed self-tanning lotion. Have no fear, the beach was here to save me this time! And luckily, it was a successful trip!

Today I adventured to the shark bite capital of the world, New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Located just a little over an hour away from campus, this has been my second trip there this school year. Yet this time we were real Floridians and drove our dune buggy (Nicole’s Rav 4) right on the sand to start off the day.

85°s and sunshine greeted us as we sprawled out on the sand ready to soak up those rays. Not only was the weather perfect for splashing around, but it provided an amazing backdrop for photos (because if you didn’t post about it, did it really happen?)


After some super posed candids and amateur modeling sessions, we decided to head into the shopping district to grab lunch and find some pretty walls.


Once returning to our spot on the beach, it was time for a quick nap while everyone else boogie boarded. (I mentioned it was the shark bite capital of the world right? Yeah no way was I getting in that water!)

Yet no trip to the beach is complete without a sunburned back and a rising tide to scare us away. Maybe next time I’ll remember to reapply my sunscreen before getting in the car to head home. Life can be a real beach sometimes.

Regardless, it was an amazing final beach day before going home for the summer and I can’t wait for future adventures next fall!

xoxo,

Dad Gets Knighted

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I love my school with all my heart and I wouldn’t trade going here for anything in the world. Yet one of the not so great things about living so far from home is a lack of visitation from friends and family, which sucks because I just want to show off my favorite place to everyone important to me. So when my dad came to visit my home away from home, I made sure to show him as much as I could so he could truly experience what being a knight feels like.

We started out the weekend right, by properly feeding my poor college student stomach. We went to one of my favorite sushi places located in Winter Park and enjoyed soooo much sushi that I was eating leftovers for days. After grabbing food, I showed him around the town of Winter Park and we stopped in some of the cute shops and park. We cut the evening short so that we could get some rest.

The next morning,  we met up with my uncle and cousin and attend service at their church, followed by a hearty brunch at Sweet Tomatoes, a healthy buffet located in Alamonte Springs. Afterwards, my dad and I headed back to campus so I could give him a proper tour of where I run around all day.

We then met up with my boyfriend, Josh, for a proper introduction and a quick adventure. My favorite thing about traveling is seeing different downtown areas, so I couldn’t wait to show my dad Orlando’s. The city surrounds a lake, and to our luck, a food and wine festival was occurring so it was bustling as ever. We parked and walked around, taking in all the sights and sounds (and desperately avoiding all the evil swans). After exploring, we headed back to campus to get some over-sized pizza from Lazy Moon and hit the hay.

Monday morning, bright and early, we headed out to spend a day in Magic Kingdom! We set a goal to ride and see as much as possible, and I’m confidant that we were able to achieve that. We started the day off with all the thrill rides, followed by an amazing lunch  of fried shrimp and LeFou’s brew. I showed him around New Fantasyland, an addition to the pars since his last visit, and he even got to meet Princess Belle and serve as her royal knight.

Although it was insanely hot, we survived and made it all day long. We were even able to watch Wishes! fireworks from our spot in line for Mine Train. We ended the night strong with one last castle selfie and Mickey Ice Cream bar before taking the ferry boat back to our car.

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On our last day on Tuesday, we were able to finish up some grocery shopping, as well as grab a delicious bite to eat at Zaza’s Cuban Bistro. I had an amazing time showing my dad around the school I fought so hard to go to, and I hope he caught a glimpse of why I love Orlando so much! Keely will be coming down at the end of this month, so I guess that means my mom and pup Crosby will have to visit me at Disney next fall!

xoxo,

 

Pro Sports Fan??

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Wow you all probably though I was dead, which is understandable due to my lack of blogging. Yet I feel like I make this “sorry I’ve been MIA” statement every month or so, so I’m surprised you haven’t caught on to my laziness by now. And by laziness, I actually mean the complete opposite. I have been a busy little bee down here in Orlando with my second semester in full swing. With lots of classes, club, and volunteer opportunities, it’s not always easy to find the time to update all my fans, yet I’m doing so many exciting things that I want to share. So you see my predicament. Yet I have come to the conclusion that writing every once and a while is better than not writing at all, so I apologize to those of you who are as impatient as me and I will try harder to  be more exciting.

One of the most exciting things about living in Orlando, “The City Beautiful”, is that it is the number one location for meetings, events, expositions, and conventions in the country. (I learned that in my Events class to prove to you that I actually do attend school and don’t spend all my time with Mickey Mouse). With such a booming city with event happening out of the wazoo, volunteers are always in high demand. And what’s better than a perky college kid looking for experience and free things? (Probably a lot, but for the sake of this article, let’s pretend there’s nothing better!) Lucky for me, I AM a perky college kid looking for experience and free things so volunteering has been one of my favorite past times recently.

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Events that I have volunteered with in the past have ranged in all shapes and sizes, yet this past weekend, I had the opportunity to volunteer for one of the larger events of the year. The 2017 Pro Bowl took place in Orlando this past Sunday, and the whole week leading up to it, various organizations were looking for volunteers for the crazy amount of events happening around town. As the true Disney nerd I am, I chose to volunteer at ESPN Wide World of Sports, the facility located on property. They hosted most of the events that week from tournaments to practice fields for all of the players.

You might be wondering why on earth I decided to get involved with sports, and I totally understand. I was confused at first too. But rewards are large in a the hospitality industry and a ticket to the big game was well worth the couple hours I dedicated to helping out.

I spent last Friday quickly learning the art of flag football and score keeping for the national tournament that kids have been practicing all season for. Huge responsibility for someone who doesn’t understand the game, but I quickly picked it up and killed my job. Always produce perfection, especially when a free shirt, food, and Pro Bowl tickets are on the line.

The kids were excited to be there and the parents were constantly fighting the refs. What’s not to love about little league football? It was a really cool experience, and any sports fan would have probably appreciated it way more than I did, but I still had a ton of fun. All of the pros were there meeting the kids and watching the games, and the environment was really upbeat, despite the freezing 50 degree weather.

Overall I had an amazing time, and going to the game on Sunday was an amazing reward. Sports fans flocked Camping World Stadium to cheer on their team. With my newfound knowledge of the sport, I was able to understand and enjoy the game before going on a forty minute adventure to find chicken nuggets. Although the search was a bust, the night ended well with a win from the AFC (go Steelers!) and a lot of fun with friends.

Shout out to the hospitality industry for giving me an excuse to go out and try new things. The experiences are always memorable and the rewards are worth it! Now if only I could get a car so I can stop relying on my friends to sign up for the same things as me…
Baby steps.

Until next time

xoxo,