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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Magical experience: HRTM student learns the ropes at Disney World

By most standards, a 'Mickey Mouse course" isn't something you would want to put on a resume. For New Mexico State University junior Monica Gomez, however, the experience is one she will never forget.

NMSU junior Monica Gomez poses in front of "Finding Nemo" statues at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Gomez worked at the park through an internship program she received through the School of Hotel, Restaurant & Tourism Management. (Photo courtesy of Monica Gomez)

"It was an incredible experience," Gomez said. "The people that I met and the personal and professional relationships I was able to start will advance my career and life."

Gomez, a major in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and history, is back in class at NMSU after taking six months to take part in an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. For an HRTM major, a 400-hour internship is a requirement for graduation and gives students an opportunity to merge the theory they have learned in the classroom with real life practice in the hospitality and tourism industry.

"Before I went out there, I wasn't as outgoing and now I have a lot more leadership abilities," she explained. "I've advanced everything in my life, even working now on (New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's) campaign staff."

During her time at the Magic Kingdom, the Las Cruces native worked mainly in outdoor sales, one of the more visible positions at the park.

"You deal with the most people in this department because you're outside, dealing with up to 40,000 people a day," she said. "It's a lot of work, but the professors at HRTM really helped prepare me for this experience."

Among the preparations from the professors was how to deal with guests and being hospitable, but one lesson in particular has proved invaluable.

"They taught me how to manage my time and be organized," she said. "If you're not organized in this line of work, you won't get far."

Her father, retired NMSU agricultural economist Bill Gomez, also helped lay the groundwork for a successful internship.

"I've done a lot of stuff working with my dad, working with Pepsi booths," she said. "He used to do the (Southern New Mexico Wine Festival) for years, along with my mom. It really, really prepared me for what I experienced at Disney."

Gomez is back on campus going to school fulltime and working fulltime, and has nothing but high praise for the Disney experience.

"It's really great for anyone that's really shy," she said. "It's great for communication skills. It brought me out of my shell and, with the preparation from HRTM, gave me another successful experience that will help me continue to grow."

She does, however, have one regret.

"Believe it or not, I never got a picture with Mickey Mouse," Gomez said.