I fairly regularly have conversations with people who have done one of the Disney International College Programs thinking about doing a Cultural Representative program and asking if it is really different. I have a lot of thoughts about it and decided it was time to get a post together. I also asked my friend Alex who also did an ICP to help me.
First though, some introductions. Hi, I’m Dan, if you are reading this you should hopefully know who I am by now since this is my blog, get with the program people! Alex who helped put this together was a Merchie while I was doing my CRP but more importantly was also an ICP on the Academic program back in 2008-2009, we technically worked in the same park at the same time but never knew each other such is the strange life of Walt Disney World. But anyway, to the point.
The first and single most important thing in this whole post is this… Your CRP will not be the same as your ICP, it probably won’t even be close. That’s not to say you won’t have a great time, I am 95% sure you probably will, but whatever pre-conceived view you have will probably be wrong. It will be very different in many ways, some good and some maybe not so good.
On your ICP you could work anywhere, any park, any line of business and you didn’t really know where that was or who you would be working with until you got there. On the CRP you know exactly where you are going to work well ahead of time and if you even vaguely use Facebook you will know who you will be working with, for bette. Also ask yourself can you work in one line of business, in one park for a year? You can’t pick up shifts, you can’t cross train. It’s one location. Not necessarily a bad thing but definitely different.
If you were on an Academic ICP like Alex you will have had classes to take each week and at least one of your days off will have been spent working and not getting paid so you could get your degree. On the CRP you won’t have that so unless you chose your days off are your own. The flip side of that is that on the ICP you worked with lots of part-timers and other CPs who you could give away shifts to and you had no minimum hours to maintain. On the CRP everyone is full time and must average 30 hours a week which means giving away is difficult so working less than 5 days a week is a struggle. That means your days off are more precious, I’ve said it many times before but it is probably worth repeating, use your days off wisely! You might get 100 in total, do something fun, a mini-adventure on every one.
On your ICP you were most likely the token international in your work location. Both Alex and I agree that while from your ICP you may have a handful of lifelong friends most of them you probably lost touch with within a few months of coming home. From your CRP whether you like it or not, you will find friends for life, you might even find a relationship. You will live with them, work with them, socialise with them and live in each others pockets for a year. On the ICP you may have worked with them or lived with them but probably not both! I’ve been home two years and I am still in touch with many people from my program. From my ICPs I am in touch with less than five. You will also probably have much fewer American friends, it can be much more insular in the Pavilion, if you don’t work with them it is much harder to meet them.
On the ICP being an international was probably the butt of a few jokes in the break room but was probably not a major part of your experience. As a CRP you are a *cultural* representative, your culture is what you are there for. This means guests will mention it ALL THE TIME! At this point I feel a direct quote from Alex will explain it best:
The UK Pavilion is commonly referred to as “London” “England” and the “British Pavilion” and many other things that its not actually called. You WILL get asked stupid questions (I was asked corkers such as “Is Guinness a country?” “Do you have the internet?” “Do you know the Queen?”, “You guys have really jumped on the whole ‘keep calm and carry on thing that chive started haven’t you…” The best advice is never think you have heard it all because there is always one little gem just waiting to come out – case in point, during Food and Wine being asked if the band was coming out and “Did they play sea shanties?”