BY CATHERINE MULDOON
After graduation, most people continue their education or begin their career, and some ambitious grads do both at the same time. When I graduated from St. Joseph’s last May, I decided to move to Disney World.
It wasn’t quite that simple. I was accepted into the Disney College Program which is an internship with Disney for a semester, and you can apply until you graduate from college. For the fall 2012 semester, I was able to stay in “the place where dreams come true.” There were days when I wouldn’t describe it in exactly that way, but the overall experience was more valuable than I could ever have imagined.
The first few days were a complete blur because as CP’s (College Program) we were corralled around through different queues, verifying information and signing our lives away. We got our housing assignments, work locations, schedules for the week, costume requirements, and piles of paperwork to look over.
Every new Disney Cast Member also attends Traditions; it is the equivalent of orientation, but it is so much more than that. It takes place at Disney University, (yes, it is a real place!) and it goes over the company’s mission, and the 4 key basics: safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. They then show videos of cast members, Mickey brings everyone their nametags, Walt welcomes everyone with a video, and there is a tour of the tunnels in the Magic Kingdom.
My role was Concierge at Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, immersed in themes of horses, health, and history, modeled after Saratoga Springs, NY; I did the same for Disney’s Old Key West Resort, themed after the Florida Keys. But before I could work as a concierge, I underwent extensive training to “earn my ears,” first as a front desk cashier, and then as a concierge. I went to classes at Disney University to learn an entire computer reservation system for hotel and dining reservations. In addition to all of that, I learned the Disney approach to guest service, which includes how to greet guests, how to solve guest recovery situations, and how to adapt to guests needs.
To be honest, I hated the first two months of my program. I felt like I was training forever, while everyone else had earned their ears. I was jealous of people on vacation while I had to go to work. Manager’s and guest’s expectations are very high when it comes to Disney Resorts. They expect all requests to be met in an efficient manner, and they expect cast members to go above and beyond to make magic for each and every guest. It was an overwhelming experience at first trying to find my own way of handling each situation that came my way. It wasn’t until early November that I really started to love my role. The guest situations didn’t seem quite so difficult to handle, and I had grown so close with my fellow cast members. My closest friends were from places like England and Australia, and my roommates were from places spread out across the U.S.
It was strange at first for me to be away from home and away from St. Joseph’s, but now it feels strange coming home. I’m going to miss waking up and deciding to play in the parks that day, but I will take away with me a widespread knowledge of how things are run in large companies. I have enjoyed learning all about Disney history and resort management, and I’m looking forward to using my skills toward my career.