One year ago, I decided that I wanted to come work in the U.S. for two or three months. As a 20-year-old French student, I naturally started my research with restaurants and shops. But I found out that Disney had a special program called International College Program that allows students from all around the world to come work in one of the parks or resorts.
I immediately thought that it was perfect for me. Thanks to this program, I could work for two months in Walt Disney World in Orlando, meet people from different countries and visit the US.
In December, I filled in the survey with my different experiences, my studies and other information about myself. I interviewed in Paris in February with Disney employees. [See a student interview here.] Three weeks later, Disney emailed that we were hired to work at Walt Disney World, starting in June.
I was one of the lucky ones.
With two friends I made during the interviews, we spent three days in Miami Beach first. This little trip was a great way to acclimate ourselves to American culture and get some rest on the beach before starting work. Unfortunately, our three nights in a youth hostel were not restful, thanks to the couple who argued the entire night, (among other things).
The nex t stop was Orlando and Walt Disney World. We arrived at the Disney dormitory, June 20 around noon. We would live in the Commons, one of the four Disney residences. We received our keys, our housing ID and some documents. After pushing and pulling our suitcases across the dormitory, we found our apartments.
Then we headed to Walmart to buy pillows and food. That took much longer than we expected: We spent three hours in the supermarket, walking around and discovering new things.
Who eats pickles bigger than two fingers? Why do they have so many kinds of cereals? We managed to find our way back to Disney.
The first days of training were awesome! After a few weeks, we learned to deal with every situation possible. Their motto is that the guests are always right, and us "cast members" had to do everything to make sure they were happy. Any conflict that got out of our control had to be directed to our manager.
The first days at work were pretty difficult! It was hard to understand the American accent. Being that I was from outside of the U.S, I had issues understanding most of what was being said to me. As someone who learned the British accent in school --they pronounce every letter -- it was strange not hearing Americans pronounce the T in "water." But my British co-workers helped me, and everyone was very friendly. Then my job station was switched, and I had to learn new things again. Of course, it was very stressful because I had trouble understanding people a second time. I wanted to go back to my old work location.
But after one week, I made some friends and started feeling more comfortable. Now that I look back, I realize that with these changes, I had to adapt to the places and people I was working with.
As you might guess, we met a lot of amazing guests.
But we also met people who were not very friendly.
Working at a restaurant near the Fantasmic show location, we had a lot of guests grabbing something to eat before the show. The hour before the show was awful. We had to work very fast. People were ordering at the same time. One day, we ran out of pizza and salad dressing, and at least 30 guests stared at us, angry and hungry.
We had so many order tickets that we didn’t have enough hands to hold them. I'll let you imagine guests telling us to give them any kind of pizza, just the one that we had, and us telling them that we didn’t have any pizza AT ALL. It was crazy!
When I worked at the ice cream place, people were always changing their minds after they ordered or had special requests: "Sundae with extra whipped cream, but no cherry, chocolate fudge AND caramel. ... oh, and with one scoop of chocolate and one of strawberry. ... Is it possible to divide it into two plates?"
But we had lovely guests, too, like this little girl who said to one of my friends, after a very long day, “By the way, you are very pretty.” It was so cute, and we realized that guests could also make our day!
During our free time, we had a lot to do. With four amusement parks and two water parks to visit, you can’t be bored! As a Disney Cast Member, we had free entrance to the parks whenever we wanted. We had a lot of fun visiting the parks as guests with all our new friends and going to the different parties and events organized for the College Program participants.
I discovered how much American students love Justin Bieber and I experienced the 4th of July in the U.S. and Disney. (Free food and fireworks, yeah!)
After some days spent in Washington, D.C. and New York City, I am back in France. I can say that my experience in Disney was awesome. I met people from the U.S., Asia and Europe. I worked every day to make people happy. I created magic.
Of course, some days were complicated, and the work is exhausting, but at the end of the day, when you are very tired and you see a little girl saying to her parents that it was the best day of her life, you know that it’s a little bit thanks to you.
Beyond Disney, I absolutely loved my American adventure. Even if American people surprised me in a bad way sometimes -- No, Paris is not a country! It is the capital of France! -- I enjoyed the American way of thinking. People seems very open-minded and ... alive!
In the US, people are not scared to fail so they try new things and, at the end, they succeed. In France, we are always thinking of what could happen and we don’t do anything. This mistrust also means that we are afraid to talk with strangers because we can’t stop thinking that they might be dangerous or have bad intentions. Whereas, in the U.S., people seems friendly and helpful even if they don’t know you.
American people are everything that I like: dynamic, diverse and looking to the future. They don’t rest on what is acquired and they dare.
Disney College is accepting applications for the 2017 semesters:
Spring: January- May
Spring Advantage: January- August
Disney Culinary is accept application for the Spring 2017 semester:
Deadline: May 2017
Thank you to IAmMsKristina for permitting us to share her video.
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