Am I the first person to ever be allowed to guest post on Dan@Disney? I think I might be. I feel honoured!
When I went to Walt Disney World for the first time at the age of seven, I knew, without question, that that was where I wanted to work. I didn’t have a specific moment of revelation; I simply grew up knowing that, someday, that was where I was going to work.
I was 23 when I found out that I would be able to make that dream come true, and I had to wait another seven months until my start date. You would think that after all of that time, I would be desperate to get out to Florida. But the nearer I got to the time, the more I didn’t want to go. Crazy, right? I had an absolutely amazing time once I was out there, and even ended up extending for three months!
So, here are all of the worries/concerns that I had, and how it all turned out happily ever after (well, sort of).
What if I don’t make any friends?
This was a big one for me. I was going out to the States to live and work with lots of people, most of whom I had never met before. I was terrified that nobody would want to be my friend.
But here’s the thing: everybody feels the exact same way. So few people go out there actually knowing anybody that everyone is looking to make friends.
I’ll admit, I didn’t fall in my end of program friendships straight away – it took time. There will be people you get on with but they’re not destined to be a close friend. That’s just how it is. But I got there, and now some of my ‘Disney friends’ are people I hope will be in my life for a very long time.
What if I hate the job?
(I was in food and beverage so I can’t really speak about the merchandise side of the street, but the people I knew in merchandise had a great time – it’s a lot more of a relaxed role)
For the most part, even if you have food and beverage or retail experience, you don’t quite know what you’re getting yourself into so it’s natural to be concerned. While you’re still on podium, there’s a variety of roles, so if you don’t like one particular role you won’t have to do it for long. And the great thing is, there’s almost always somebody who is either willing to help you out or even swap with you (some people love greeting. Other people hate it. It takes all sorts). Once you become a server it is a different matter, but you can always pick up more food running shifts, or take your bar test to try and get onto the bar if you can’t get to grips with serving. I’ll admit, I was not a fan of serving at first, but by the end it was second nature and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
What if all of my friends at home forget me?
They won’t. That’s really all there is to it. For a year, you will be absolutely terrible at keeping in contact with them, and that’s okay. They will ask when you can Skype and you won’t even remember to reply to that message let alone actually get around to Skyping. Messages will go unanswered for days, weeks at a time. Missed phone calls will go unreturned. But really, that’s okay. You will be busy. And the people who truly are your friends will understand that. They’ll still be there when you come back. If they’re not then, sorry, that’s their loss.
What if I don’t want to go out and get drunk/visit the theme parks/eat at Panera every day?
There’s a lot of things on the program that are very much group activities. It’s fun to do things in large groups, because you get to socialize with more people, and create new memories. But if you don’t like doing a particular thing that everybody else seems to, the solution is simple: don’t do it. Try it once or twice, because you might be surprised and realise that you do like it. But if you don’t, that’s fine. Not everybody wants to do everything. It’s your program. You do it your way.
What if it ruins the Disney magic for me?
This depends on how you view Walt Disney World and the company in general. I, personally, am fascinated by the inner workings of the theme parks so for me being able to go backstage and see things that guests can’t was one of my favourite aspects of the program (I still never got over the fact that you can see cast services from Test Track). You will see things that you can never unsee (let’s just say that grey t-shirts with barcode labels on the front can be rather upsetting), and you’ll probably be surprised by how much chaos and drama goes on backstage, but remember – you will only be seeing one aspect of the backstage areas. There’s still a lot of magic that will go untouched.
The year is an absolute roller coaster, and almost everyone has those moments of thinking ‘I just want to go home!’ But talk to your friends, ride Soarin’, and go out and dance stupidly in Cowboys; take your mind off it. You’ll be glad you stayed.