You do not have to win the Super Bowl to go to Disney World anymore.
For the first time, a retreat that sends students to Walt Disney World is offered during next semester’s Fall break from Oct. 16–20. The retreat is yet to be formally named because it is still under development, but it is centered on personal reflection. Similar to other retreats, there will be small group discussions and talks delivered by leaders. In contrast to other retreats, however, students will be able to explore Disney World during the day and sleep in the campgrounds owned by Disney World at night.
Disney World draws in more than 18 million tourists a year and is the most popular resort in the world, according to Forbes. Some see this retreat as just an excuse for a vacation in Florida.
“I think we need to understand why we’re there,” junior Leo Fitzsimmons, who is one of the retreat leaders, said. “Look at any little experience you had in the park in a new light and see if you can learn from it.”
Other students view the excursion outside of Chapman Lake as a more complicated concept. Eric Cross, a junior, praised the University’s Campus Ministries office for its ability to run enriching retreats of all kinds. He noted how successful the Harry Potter retreat has been for the past three years. Junior nursing student Andrew Hill anticipates the experience to be both a retreat and vacation. He reasoned that being at Disney World could help students relax and be more open.
Fitzsimmons has been a part of the planning since the beginning. He and junior co-leader Monica Vaidya discussed a Disney-themed experience after running into each other in Newark International Airport in Winter break of 2014. Campus Minister Fred Mercadante and Vaidya kept talking about the idea.
“At some point somebody said, ‘Wouldn’t be cool if we could do a retreat there?’ From that point we just started brainstorming,” Mercadante said.
Vaidya is afraid that posters could be misleading. Students might just read “Disney World” and stop there, thus missing the component of spirituality. The retreat has been announced before every Mass to gather interest.
Leaders have also posted information online through social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to engage the student body.
“We’re still planning. We don’t have a cap on it … I’m really hoping that we could get into the 20s if that’s possible,” Vaidya said.
The retreat leaders would like to see more people sign up before the semester is over.
Despite Disney’s unisex appeal, more women are interested in this retreat than men.
Films such as “Tarzan” and “Mulan” enthrall University students with their songs and the stories of “Cinderella,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Lady & the Tramp” have iconic scenes.
Yet, Walt Disney’s company has tended to be associated with princesses moreso than their masculine counterparts.
“Don’t think of being a princess as being the perfect girl, just think of it as being the perfect you, whether you’re a guy or girl. Just think of it as wanting the best for yourself, but being honest with yourself the right way,” Fitzsimmons said.
Fitzsimmons and Vaidya hope that participants at Disney World will “get in touch with their inner child.”
“You’re going to get to know these people over a span of four days … It’s the first one that we’re doing and it’s going to be a very beautiful spiritual journey,” Vaidya said.
Walt Disney once said, “Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”
March 27, 2015