Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New WDW CPs: Things I should have done

So... now that I'm hitting the two-month mark, I'm in the middle of some major Disney withdrawals. It seems to be hitting a lot of my fellow Fall 2011 CPs, so there must be something about this amount of time away from "home." Anyways, I decided to post on some of the things that I should have done differently, and that I plan on doing differently if I do a second program. Hopefully this will help any new Disney College Program participants!

1. Prepare for humidity. I moved to Florida at the beginning of September, and even then, the humidity was dreadful. If you're like me and from the West Coast(especially the Northwest), you do not understand humidity. Ladies, plan ahead and bring makeup that won't melt. Bring along your liquid foundation and cream eyeshadow if you want, but know that it will all slide off for at least the first few weeks. It's a rough adjustment, and it's better if you just accept that you won't look pretty during it. And bring shorts. And loose shirts.Sure, you can wear skirts, but if your inner thighs touch AT ALL when you walk, you're gonna have some problems. So just bring shorts. Or do what I did and wear jeans on your first trip to a park. And then buy several pairs of shorts at Wal-Mart the next day.

2. Prepare for rain. It rains all the time in Florida. ALL THE TIME. I've been living in a desert since I was fifteen. When I was younger and lived in a rainier place, rain was no big deal. I could just spend time inside. But  on your college program, you'll  be spending lots of time outside. You'll want an umbrella. You'll want a poncho.

3. Prepare for cold. What I said about shorts? Bring long pants, too. And layers. Get gloves and a hat. When your trainer tells you to check out a coat from costuming as early as possible, LISTEN TO HER. I would have had trouble no matter what because my area had multiple costumes and coats, but the odds are that you'll only have one costume to worry about, and one coat to check out. So check the coat out as soon as you can. If you're arriving in January, your coat selection should still be okay, because of all the Fall CPs who just returned theirs. And if the closest fit you can find is still not a great fit, check it out anyways. You can always trade it out later.

4. Honestly, just be prepared to be outside a lot. So bring clothing for all sorts of weather, bring fantastic walking shoes(not just for work), bring sunscreen, bring bug spray.

5. Bring a camera. I so wish that I had brought my camera. My phone has a pretty decent camera, so I figured I would just use that... yeah, no. You'll want something else to take pictures with.

6. Get a pass for another theme park. Yes, you have free access to everything Disney. And of course that's enough to fill your entire program with fun activities. But sometimes, it's just so NICE to go somewhere else for a day. And Universal and Sea World have some pretty cool stuff, too. You're living in Central Florida, maybe for the only time in your whole life. Take advantage of that. Also, you can get the cheapest passes possible without feeling like you're missing out, because even though there will be blockout dates, those dates usually match up with busy times for Disney, so you'll probably be working anyways.

So those are my six major things that I didn't do ahead of time... that I would do next time. Hopefully this will help someone out!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

New WDW CPs: Choosing a role

So I've been getting some questions from friends considering applying for the Disney College program... and one of the big ones seems to be: What roles should I apply for?

I don't know that I'm really the right person to answer this. I applied for all of the roles(except for the hospitality ones. I knew I wanted to work in a park). And then I got Merchandise, which I'm pretty sure is because I had been working at a grocery store for almost two years at the time of my interview. That said, knowing what I know now, here's what I would apply for if I went again(which I am seriously considering). Keep in mind that this list isn't necessarily in order of which job I would like to have the most. Also, this is a list based on my personal experiences, and what I know that I would personally like.

Attractions. Cast members in attractions are at the lowest possible wage, but it would be awesome to work in one of the attractions. My backstage tour of the Haunted Mansion was amazing, and I would love to learn about all the inner workings of a ride(or multiple rides). If I could choose an attraction, I'd definitely want to work at one of the animal-centric ones, mostly because I really want to work with the Animal Programs at Disney someday. So Pangani Forest Trails, Maharajah Jungle Trek, Kilamanjaro Safaris, or something in The Seas. Or a spieling one, like the Jungle Cruise or Innoventions.

Merchandise. I already know the system, and I already know that I enjoy merchandise. Merchandise cast members get paid a little more than attractions, and if you have merchandise training, you can pick up shifts anywhere at WDW. So if you want to pick up some extra hours, you can. For me, I would absolutely try to get back into my old area, because I loved everything about it(especially the Glow operation). But pretty much all areas have their perks. If  I couldn't work in Adventureland... I'd probably want to work... man, I don't even know. Somewhere with one of the candy stores, probably, so I could get production-trained. But again, that's because I already worked there. I really can't think of a bad merch location.

Front Desk/Concierge/whatever this role is called. Apparently these cast members get even more than Merch cast members, and like merchandise, if you're trained on the computer system here, you can pick up shifts at any of the resorts. Honestly, whenever I went on the Hub to look for extra shifts, they all were either in Merchandise or Front Desk shifts. Given a choice, I'd want to work at one of the DVC resorts, because there's some additional training for that.

Custodial. All of the people who worked this said they enjoyed it. I don't know what the wage is, but I do know that they tend to get more hours, even during the slow weeks. The custodians also get to go EVERYWHERE in their area. The Magic Kingdom custodians knew that place, onstage and off, better than just about anyone you can think of. And when I was chilling with my Glow cart by Casey's Corner during Wishes, the custodians from the area were usually there, too, and it felt like they had a cool team thing going. Given a choice of parks, I think I'd actually want to work at Epcot... like I said, custodians get to go pretty much everywhere, and there's some REALLY interesting stuff at Epcot.

Quick  Service Food. They get paid a decent amount, and with QSF, you actually can pick up shifts elsewhere(depending on your location). I don't really have a preference for where I'd want to work. I would just apply for this so that there would be a fifth option. And it's not a bad role, as far as roles go.

There are some things to keep in mind. Sometimes, location is everything. There might be a role that you want only if you could get a specific location. But you don't get to choose your area. You don't really even get to choose your role. So if you would only be happy in Attractions if you got to be a Skipper on the Jungle Cruise, and NOTHING ELSE, feel free to apply for attractions. But apply for roles where you feel like you'd be fine anywhere. Attractions roles vary widely in "awesomeness." Other roles also vary... not necessarily as much, but they do. Also, think about what you want from your program. I just wanted to have fun- work for Disney, make new friends, see some behind-the-scenes stuff, play in the parks. Any role was fine for that. If you have more specific goals, remember to factor those in. Lastly, and most importantly, be flexible. And be open to loving whatever role and whatever area you get placed into.

New WDW CPs: Housing

Considering the Disney College Program? One of the first things they tell you is that the program includes Living, Learning, and Earning. This post is going to focus on the Living portion. When I applied, the Disney College Program website had a pretty limited amount of information about the different complexes. And when I searched for information on different apartment complexes, there were a few posts, but not a lot. So hopefully this post will give some people the information they need. :)

There are four complexes for interns in Florida: The Commons, Vista Way, Chatham, and Patterson. The Commons is just for people on the Cultural Representative Program(and not all CRPs live in The Commons, either), so that won't be on the list of complexes for you to choose from if you're doing a CP or ICP. So here's the rundown on the other three.

Vista Way: I did not live in this complex during my program. I also know some people who moved out of Vista, but I also know some people who moved into Vista. Jokingly referred to as "Vista Lay," Vista is generally considered the party complex. It's the oldest complex, and it does show it. The apartments are cheaper than the other complexes, and Vista is close to restaurants and a Walgreens- the other three complexes are about a mile away from the nearest businesses. Most of the housing offices and resources are located at Vista Way. The bus office is also located at Vista, and the bus drivers often take their breaks at Vista... or leave the other stops early so they can spend a little extra time at Vista. The bus stop for Vista is actually located behind security, and some of my CP friends had trouble when they took a bus over to Vista, left Vista to go to a restaurant, and came back when it was too late to either get into the complex without someone signing them in(or too late to get in at all).

Chatham Square: This is where I lived for most of my program. If you're a student at any of the LDS schools, you'll automatically be placed in Chatham. The rent is higher than at Vista, but the apartments are newer. They also tend to be pretty roomy, although the layouts do vary. Chatham is generally called the "quiet" complex, but all the housing events actually happen at Chatham field. This was right next to my apartment complex, so it was pretty convenient for me to be able to grab some of the free food on my way from the bus stop to my apartment. The bus stop for Chatham is right outside Security.

Patterson Court: This is where I lived for the last few weeks of my program. The rent here is the highest, but a lot of people feel that it's worth it, since it's the newest and the apartments are nice. And they are, compared to the other complexes. There's also lots of palm trees at this complex... not that big of a deal, but I associate palm trees with Disney, so that was cool for me. In my experience, Patterson was just as quiet as Chatham. The annoying thing about Patterson is that it shares a bus stop with Chatham, so it takes longer to get to the bus stop. Also, all of the apartments at Patterson have this distinctive... smell. It's not exactly a bad smell, but it's definitely there. I have no idea what it is. Oh, and my apartment was smaller than my Chatham one. And the security guards seemed more laid-back at Patterson, which was weird, because they all work at all of the complexes. But other than that, I really felt that they're about the same in terms of general lack-of-crappiness and lack-of-noisy neighbors.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

For New WDW CPs: Transportation

This is my first post, because it was the first thing that confused me. So: Transportation around Walt Disney World. Most of you reading this probably came down without a car. Or you came with a car, but then your mom or dad drove the car back home. Either way, you're in the same boat I was in: sitting pretty at Housing without a car, wondering how you're going to get anywhere.

Well, my friends, the answer is the glorious bus system! If you didn't get a bus schedule the day you arrived, go to your Front Desk and get one. Now. Insist. They might tell you that it's available online. It is, but it's hard to get to, and it's important for you to have one on hand. You won't always have internet access.

Now that you have a bus schedule, the next step is to program the Dispatch number into your phone. Call this when the bus runs late. Yes, sometimes the buses are late due to traffic, but more often than not, the buses are late because they sit for way too long at Vista Way(their break room is there). Your rent goes to pay for the bus system, so there's no reason to tolerate tardiness. Especially when it can make you late for work.

Speaking of being late for work, I recommend going at least a bus ahead. Example: The A bus that picks up at Chatham at 3:32 would have gotten me to the Magic Kingdom at about 4:15(my shifts usually started at 4:30, but you can clock in 15 minutes early). There was a 3:12 bus that got me there around 3:55ish, and a 2:52 bus that would get me there at around 3:35ish. I usually tried to go for the 2:52 bus. It gave me more flexibility in terms of costuming or stopping at the cafeteria or going to the bathroom or whatever. The 3:12 bus was fine as long as I had everything ready- costume, lunch, etc. I took the 3:32 bus once, and I clocked in with two minutes to spare, and that was after sprinting through the utilidors. Lesson: take an earlier bus. This will also help if a bus is late or doesn't show up at all.

In the first week, everyone tells you to make friends with people who have cars. This is such good advice, but I have one caveat: don't drive with them until they're familiar with the area. I made that mistake on my first day. We got crazy lost- toll roads, back roads, everything you can imagine. Thank goodness we were only going grocery shopping.

Now, buses: So the CP buses will take you pretty much anywhere on Disney property, which is cool. But once you're there, there's another way to get around. Disney encourages the use of their mass transportation system. Animal Kingdom to the Magic Kingdom? Take a white bus. Magic Kingdom to Epcot? Take the monorail. Epcot to Hollywood Studios? You can actually walk, or you can take a Friend Ship, which will stop at a bunch of resorts along the way. Something trickier: Let's say you're at a park, and you want to go to Downtown Disney. You want to have dinner, watch a movie, go to Cirque du Soleil, whatever. So you go to the bus stop, and realize.... there are no buses from any of the parks to Downtown Disney(parking is free at Downtown Disney, and they don't want people in the parks using that). Fortunately, there's a way around that- you don't have to go all the way to housing and then take the F bus. Instead, hoof it or bus it over to the nearest resort and wait at the resort bus stop... for the Downtown Disney bus! See, they want people to go to Downtown Disney to spend money. They just don't want people using it to get out of paying for parking. And you aren't! You're using it so you can spend money at Downtown Disney, which is exactly what the buses are for.

So that's... pretty much it for transportation around the resort. Even if you have a car, you'll probably end up using the on-property system to get around, since there's no reason for you to drive from park to park when it's faster to just use the mass transit system. And if you have any questions about ANYTHING, new CPs, please feel free to leave them in the comments. There's no such thing as a dumb question. :)

Conclusion/See ya real soon!

Well... I'm back in Yakima. For now.

Thoughts upon ending the college program:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I don't want to grow up! I want to stay in Neverland forever! I miss my friends! I miss my job! I miss the parks! I want to stay at Disney forever!

In other words, I had an amazing time. I can't see myself not working there again, to be honest. Granted, it hasn't even been a week since I clocked out of my last shift(I forgot to take a picture of my last Mickey...). So the glow might just be taking some time to wear off. But it was a really awful last week, and if I miss THAT, well, that has to mean something, right?

I feel like I learned more about myself and life during this program than about anything else. Yes, of course I learned a lot about Disney. I learned my way around the utilidors. I learned how to run the registers there, and how to use a cash apron. I learned how to load a glow cart into a too-small elevator. I learned that when the QSF and Stands people left the grease bin open, it stank up the Adventureland utilidor a million times worse than usual. I learned the ins and outs of transportation around the resort as a CP without a car(so easy. Time-consuming, but easy). I learned that guests can often make your day, but they usually can't ruin it. I learned how to say five, seven, ten, and fifteen in Portugese. I memorized whole parades, castle shows, and fireworks shows. I learned what the best food items are, at least in the Magic Kingdom. I learned about using cast discounts.

But those are lessons specific to my life at Disney. Here's what I learned about myself and life in general: I learned that I like living on my own. I learned that I can make friends pretty easily, if those friends want to be made. I learned that people everywhere love talking about themselves, and if you let them, they'll be happier for it. I learned that it's easy to love absolute strangers. I learned to be proud of who I am, whether that's a Mormon, Alaskan, Washingtonian, CP, Merch cast member, Glow girl, or whoever. I learned that's it's important to be able to be open with people, especially ones you live with. It's easier to get everything out there instead of bottling stuff up or feeling awkward. I learned that while I love biology, I also, to a certain extent, love retail(possibly because I'm good at it, but there are worse reasons to like something). And I learned that the best sorts of magical moments are ones that comes straight from the heart.

I'm going to miss everyone so much. To both sets of roommates that I had, you were all amazing. To all of my Adventureland cast members, you guys rock. To the Glow people, more specifically: I will never, ever forget you. To the amazing members of the Buena Vista Ward, thank you so much for being awesome. The Church is SO true. And to Walt Disney World: See ya real soon!

(I'm going to begin a series of posts geared for new CPs. But I'll definitely be posting more stories from my program as I remember them. Ciao!)