The Disney College Program
From the Perspective of an International Applicant
I would like to start this off by saying that the picture is not one that I have taken. Despite being blessed with the opportunity to work in the Magic Kingdom (cool right?) I don't think I took a single landscape oriented photo... Credits to the photo go to the Disney World website.
To start off with, an introduction. My name's Ashley, I turned 20 very recently, and I am a Canadian college student that just completed a six month Disney International Program. Packing up your bags and moving to sunny Orlando is the dream of many, and to my great surprise I was one of the selected few to do so.
The process was a long one that started with submitting a rather blank resume to a third party, a phone interview with said third party, a live interview with a Disney recruiter as well as one with the Dean of the American Institute I would be a part of. I submitted my resume in October and I found out my acceptance in March.
I was lucky enough that my Canadian college would not make me pay tuition to them while I was away but not all international students are lucky enough. That means that most have to pay tuition to their home school as well as to the American school that they complete assignments for. That doesn't include all of the other fees that have to be paid (Disney fees, travel expenses, health insurance, visa fees, lodging before and after your move in/out dates, etc.). International applicants must be registered with an American institute to partake in the program.
Let's get onto the good stuff though. As part of my program I would be required to change roles halfway through my program. I completed the first three months in quick service at Casey's Corner and Tomorrowland Terrace, and the last three months in attractions at Tomorrowland Speedway. As someone who has never had an actual paying job before and only had volunteer experience under my belt, I sort have got the short end of the stick with both locations. To an extent.
How can you get the short end of the stick? You're at Disney! Well let me tell you. I have never had a job before the Disney program. Casey's Corner is the second busiest quick service restaurant in all of the Orlando Disney properties. Each register would serve around 70-100 guests an hour. Also they won't cash train international students unless they'll be at that location for six months. So I'm shoved into an incredibly fast paced environment, and the only one that won't register train me.
By the time I'm getting the hang of things and have made great friends, I'm yanked out and sent to a new location. The Tomorrowland Speedway is the only attraction that is 100 percent guest operated on Disney property. Which means I didn't get to learn any ride control systems. Also the gas fumes kept me on a mild high and hurt my lungs, the sun and the gas caused it to be hot to the point of almost passing out, and the noise was so loud sometimes I can still hear the cars. Like tinnitus but with lousy go-carts instead of a ringing.
As much as I complain about it though the experience was, for the most part, positive! I've met many interesting people, gained incredible experience (such as how to hide the fact rude people made you cry at work), and got to spend as much time as I wanted in the Disney Parks.
My co-workers at both locations were what really got me through the program. At Casey's Corner it was so tiny in the kitchen that by just breathing you would be touching someone. But it meant that you were pretty close with most of the people. The more bold people would sing the whole shift while the "class clowns" would roast everyone for just about everything in a joking way. If you were on dinning room cleaning tables with the right people you would have a dance and sing along every time the Casey's Corner pianist came out. Speaking of the pianist. Jim happens to be one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. If you happen to stop and have a chat with him you'll see it quickly.
Speedway was a little hard to break into at first. Everyone had made their friends so being one of three new people made it hard to make friends at first. But once I did it was a great time. The work itself was slow. You can only go as fast as the cars and they only go 7.5 miles per hour. No matter how busy the attraction is, it feels slow having come from one of the busiest locations on property.
The hardest part of the program was physically packing and moving to another country. It wasn't too hard emotionally as I already moved away from home to school but it was hard to leave my Canadian roommates and it was hard deciding what I would bring with me and what I would leave behind. In the end I knew my shopping habits and packed only half of a large suitcase. I had to donate some stuff as well that I couldn't fit and I had a friend who road tripped back to Canada bring some stuff home with her. Shout out to her as she's the real friend that everyone needs.
I might have cried a little (lot) on my last day there but that'll be a trade secret between me and anyone who happens to read this. Another trade secret between us would be that if time reversed I would still do the program. Because despite all of the downs (trust me, there were a lot) there was plenty of ups too.