Student Life

“I’ve been told I wasn’t going to succeed in my dreams.”

Hospitality management senior Andrew Simpson on overcoming doubt to pursue a dream more than 1,000 miles from home.

By Jenna Marina Lee |
August 6, 2018

photo of ucf student Andrew Simpson

UCF student Andrew Simpson intends to graduate in December 2018 and wants to pursue a career on a cruise ship. (Photo by Nicholas Leyva '15)

Through his time as a custodian, a swashbuckling pirate and a character attendant at Walt Disney World, UCF senior Andrew Simpson has never started a shift at his part-time job without strapping on his father’s watch.

Get to know the people of UCF, one story at a time.

His father gifted him the timepiece – which, coincidentally, has Disney roots – when Simpson started working in 2016. Three decades earlier, Simpson’s father was a chef of Cap’n Jack’s restaurant, which was located in Disney Springs (then Disney Village).

When Simpson’s father left his job after two years at the restaurant in 1986, his coworkers gave him a watch with an inscription that read, ‘Love, your CJ’s family.’ He kept it all those years, until Simpson followed in his footsteps when he moved to Orlando from Pennsylvania to start his collegiate career at UCF.

“I know I never would have made my dreams a reality without my family. They have helped me come here and be able to study in the heart of hospitality,” says Simpson.

Name: Andrew Simpson
Age: 21
Hometown: Scranton, Pennsylvania (of The Office fame)
Major: Hospitality Management

Why UCF?
“I had never heard of UCF when I was in high school, and I got three pamphlets in the mail from Florida colleges. I begged my parents to go look at these schools because I knew I always wanted to study in Florida. I also looked at schools in Philadelphia but they wanted to prepare me to work in Philadelphia for the rest of my life. I knew I didn’t want to do that. I hated the snow. I wanted to escape. It was definitely the best choice I ever made. When I saw UCF, I knew it was the right place for me.”

Dream job?
“Cruise director. I’ve always wanted to help people, and I want to do something where I can travel the world. It would give me the opportunity to wake up every day and meet new people from different parts around the world and get to know their stories.”

Last time you cried?
“It was probably recently. Now I’m going to get all emotional, again. I guess sometimes being far away from home is tough. I know what I’m doing here is right, but I do miss my family a lot. Not being with them for Thanksgiving or Christmas can be rough. When I was home recently, I brought back a Winnie the Pooh my parents gave me when I was born. One day my mom was like, it’s missing, it’s not in your room, where is it? I said, I had to bring it back with me because I was missing home a little bit. My mom started crying, and I did too, so that was probably the last time I cried. Except for right now (laughs).”

Worst advice you’ve ever received?
“’Stay in Pennsylvania.’” Of course, at first, I was really hesitant to move away from my family. I always had that feeling in the back of my head, what happens if I don’t like it? What if I don’t meet anyone? All the other students are going to know each other because they went to high school together. There were so many things I wanted to do with my life, and I wasn’t sure how it was all going to come together until I actually came to UCF. That’s when I started making my plans and making my dreams a reality. I would recommend it to anybody. You have four years to make the most out of your college experience, so don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone.”

Favorite professor?
“Dr. Wei Wei. She was an amazing professor. She taught us how hospitality worked in China and how different it was from America. She told us about her whole life experience. It was such a brave decision for her to move so far away from home. She just made us have a passion for hospitality. She was one of those teachers who was very tough, but she taught us so well that we were very well prepared. The professors have really been a highlight here for me. They really do care about us.”

Best experience at UCF so far?
“One of the highlights has been my cruise and operations class. Not a lot of students can say they studied on a cruise for school. Throughout the semester we got to learn all about the cruise line industry, whether it be parts of the ship or different roles we have on the ship. Our professor brought in different professionals from all different cruise lines. We took a cruise to Mexico, Haiti and Jamaica. We got to jump off waterfalls in Jamaica, which was the coolest experience ever, and do a chocolate tasting tour in Mexico. There was also time spent strictly for class, which was maybe for about 5-6 hours per day.”

Words you live by?
“’If you dream it, you can do it.’” If I ever see a picture or a box with that quote on it, I always buy it and put it in my room somewhere. I’ve been told I wasn’t going to succeed in my dreams, and I wanted to show people that I could succeed. I’ve already done that here.”