This week marks 2 years since I jetted off to Florida and started my summer working at Walt Disney World in Orlando. It was one of the best things I ever did, I loved every second and the experience I gained has opened up many doors since. So to celebrate, I’ve done some reminiscing and shared my highlights of the program below!
Learning the Disney way
I am a huge fan on Disney theme parks, I had visited Disneyland Paris & Walt Disney World, Orlando before the program and loved the way Disney’s theme parks create magic and an experience that in my opinion no other theme park can top. The shows, theming and customer service are all world class so the chance to go through their training programs and be taught the ‘Disney way’ was a dream come true for me (especially being a tourism student and wanting to further my career in this industry!). We had a week of training sessions learning the emphasis Disney place on the ‘guests’ experience and the role us ‘cast members’ play in bringing the stories to life. I use these techniques everyday in my current job roles and it was brilliant being able to learn some backstage knowledge of how the company and all its cast members create those magical experiences.
Behind the Scenes at Disney
On our first day working in the parks, we were given a full in depth tour of the park we were working in. Luckily, mine was Magic Kingdom, so we walked around the entire park including venturing into ‘backstage’ locations behind rides, plus into the utilidors (the underground tunnels), as well as being told secrets of imagineers who designed the park and things to look out for. This was something that no guest can do, unless you pay for one of the vip tours and even then they don’t go into the detail and the areas our tour went to, so I absolutely loved it and I got paid for it, bonus! It was amazing being able to see some of the backstage work that goes into creating the happiness in the parks, there are details that you don’t even think about so it was really impressive to see the amount of employees and the different departments that help create the magic.
One of the best things about living in Disney apartments was that you shared accommodation with people from all over the world who were on the same program as you. This meant that there was loads of opportunities to meet people from different countries and share your experiences. Also, everybody loved inviting people over for dinner parties to cook their countries traditional foods. It was great to chat about our differences and similarities in culture and see different perspectives. And food always makes it into my posts somehow…
When the program started I had just completed the final year of my degree, yippee! Though the graduation ceremony was that summer, the time when I was in Orlando so it meant that I missed out on having the whole graduation experience and getting that photo with the graduation hat & gown. However, the Disney Cultural exchange program I was completing actually had its own graduation ceremony which meant I could put on my Mickey ears graduation cap and enjoy a Disney graduation! The event included a free buffet, a DJ, lots of freebies and photo opportunities with Mickey & Minnie in their graduation outfit! Despite the queue being ridiculously long and the weather not on our side, we got the photo and continued the celebrations in Disney village with an ice cream sundae and day in the parks!
My Last shift
On my last shift my colleagues and managers were so kind to me and gave me such a memorable last day. The team were a big part of the area I worked in and it was hard to say goodbye but we had lots of fun on shift that evening, my team leader also let me stand outside and watch the night time firework show in its entirety for the last time, I had heard and seen this show almost every shift but it never got boring! I got the chance to skip the queues and have a private photoshoot with Mickey Mouse at the attraction I worked at and then had photos on an empty Main Street with the castle in the background. To complete it all we were given the photos free of charge so I have a souvenir of my last shift to keep forever.
2 years later I am still so grateful for the opportunity, these are just some of the main highlights I took away from the program and have loads more memories from my time there. If you are thinking about doing a program like this, I would definitely say to go for it as they are a once in a lifetime experience. I’d love to hear your thoughts & questions in the comments!