In July 2015 I started the biggest adventure of my life (so far): I started the Disney International College Program. I moved to Orlando, Florida where I started living on my own for the very first time. This also meant starting my very first job there. I could literally go on and on about my time there, but tried to limit this posts to the highlights.
So for those who don’t know, the Disney College Program is a program for students all over the world who want to gain some (work) experience by working at Disney. You live on a Disney campus, work a pretty much full time job, take classes and, the best part, get free admission to all of the Disney parks. Everything was taken care of, there were free busses to all Disney locations and Walmart. I got a debit card to which they transferred my salary and automatically deducted my rent. The housing was great, they have four complexes and I lived in Chatham, which to my opinion had the nicest pool hehe. I literally had nothing to worry about other than work, school and the occasional homesickness.
You start with traditions! After a week filled with housing and paperwork sessions, getting comfortable and used to the Florida climate, you get traditions class. A class filled with company history, the Four Keys, and lots of magic! I got my first pair of Mickey ears there, and more importantly, my name tag!
I had a Fall Advantage Program, meaning I was there for six months, July to January. My location was at Disney’s Hollywood Studios which I was SO happy about. I worked in two roles while I was there, the first three months in merchandise, and the last 3 months in quick service Food & Beverage. Merchandise I loved, quick service, not so much. But it was the people that I worked with that made it an amazing experience nevertheless. Of course I had to wear proper costumes, and right above are some of the ones I wore!
In merchandise I worked in about 12 different stores and stands, including a Christmas shop, a Muppets store, an Indiana Jones area and in the Star Wars shop Tatooine. I looooved working at the Star Wars store, because it was always busy, I wore a cool space cadet costume and I got to build droids and light sabers. I really enjoyed working merch overall, and I loved my work environment. Sadly a big part of it is closed now for the new Star Wars land, so the Streets of America (including mr. Gold’s Pawn Shop) no longer exist… One of the most special things I got to experience as a cast member was seeing the park completely empty, which was so beautiful yet strange.
During quick serivce I also worked in lots of different places, including an ice cream parlour, a boat, a bakery, a turkey leg van, straight up American fastfood and a produce market. My tasks varied from being a cashier, to preparing food, to bussing tables. You can imagine this wasn’t the most exciting thing to do. But luckily I got to work with amazing people in this amazing place that made it all so much more fun! I could literally hear people screaming while they dropped in the Tower of Terror, and hear the beautiful songs from Beauty and the Beast Live.
I also had to take a course during my College Program, so I chose Creativity & Identity. Which was a pretty easy and fun course so I was happy with that! It was only once a week as well, and at the campus right next to me!
During my time there I visited the parks countless times. Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot and Animal Kingdom. Even though I was a cast member, it still felt magical visiting the parks as a guest every single time. It was so much fun to be able to just head over to a park for an afternoon, or if I fancied dinner in Epcot I just went there after work. I managed to do most of the rides, and see a lot of the shows but there are still a few things on my list for when I go back! Disney is just the best place on earth and it really feels like my second home now.
Disney also does special events, for instance with Halloween and Christmas. I went to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party in September with my roomies and it was so much fun. It was my first time celebrating Halloween ever! I went as catwoman and my roomies as Pink Power Ranger, angel and devil. It was just such a nice evening and I’d definitely recommend it to everyone!
Disney also organised loads of events for us cast members. There were monthly grocery bingos, excursions, housing parties, Night of Stars and the Disney Winter Formal and Graduation. The parties always included lots of food and Disney characters photo ops. And obviously lots of music and dancing!
My family came over to visit for a week in October which was so lovely. I had some free guest passes for the parks and we naturally made good use of that! Being a cast member you also get great discounts on merchandise, some table service restaurants and resorts, which was also VERY convenient. We also went to Kennedy Space Center for a day, went alligator spotting on an airboat, and went to the Cheesecake Factory at Mall at Millenial.
And obviously I did a LOT of shopping during my six months in the States. (Yes that is a Santa Toothless)
Orlando is obviously famous for its theme parks, not only Disney. I am a Harry Potter geek so I got myself an annual pass to the Universal Studios! I loved going to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. It was always a little trip away from Disney, but still in a magical environment. The Forbidden Journey and Escape from Gringotts are probably my favourite rides EVER. They are just, wow. I think I visited Universal about once a month. Also Butterbeer = divine. Especially Frozen Butterbeer *yum*.
Being there in the month December brings around Christmas. I was already prepared for spending it working so I didn’t really mind that much. But it still was weird spending the holidays without my family. That being said, if there’s any place to be alone at Christmas, it’s Disney. The people are lovely, the decorations are gorgeous, and the New Years fireworks were spectacular! 2015 was also the last year they showed the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights in the Streets of America which was amazing.
And last but not least, I met the most amazing people during my program. I had the best roomies who are still some of my best friends today. And I met so many people from all over the world who I am still in contact with. Which is probably one of the best parts of the entire program!
I had the best time during my Disney College Programm and I hope this post helped you in any way if you are looking into doing one as well. Or if you’re not, that it has made you excited to visit Disney! And let me know if you’re interested in anything more specific, I feel like there is still so much more to talk about and so many more photos to share! (Which will probably happen let’s be honest)
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