Confessions of a Disney Reject...... [What I wish I had known about the Disney College Program…]

11.11.12


Hello…. Is there anyone out there? I’m baaaaaaack.
It’s taken about four months, and COUNTLESS drafts of this post, but I am ready to share with the world some of what happened in my two “magical” months in the faraway land of Orlando, Florida working for Disney. Please understand that my entire experience is NOT limited to 4,131 words.
For all you readers who are interested in the Disney College Program, I hope this post will give you a bit of insight. I have included my specific advice for you in red.
My experience in Florida will be split into two blog posts. This part one post will detail my overall experience with the Disney College Program, specifically housing, work, and transportation. My second post [stay tuned] will outline the more personal and spiritual effects I experienced.
Now before we begin, let me get one thing across. I am not a partier. I don’t drink. I don’t do drugs and get high. I don’t sleep around. I am not a selfish person. I am unfailingly kind and compassionate. I’m a hard worker. I’m a good person. And yes, I am a bit naïve, it’s true. I AM Disney. I was raised in Disney, I breathe Disney, I LOVE Disney.
And the Disney College Program lifestyle is completely different from what I expected. First thing that I cannot stress enough: The Disney College Program lifestyle is anything but “G” rated. Don't get me wrong, I didn't expect it to be "G" rated, exactly, but I didn't know that I would be persecuted so much for my "G" rated personality. Yes, there are good times to be had; it just depends on your definition of a “good time”. And I have a very different opinion of fun than getting wasted every night, puking my guts out all over the welcome mat, and sleeping with a new guy every day. I include this as merely a warning for any Disney- nerd who is like me. Someone who’d prefer a milkshake in a pillow fort while watching The Little Rascals than to “gettin down in da club”. That said….
Let me begin by talking about my Housing situation.
As you can probably decipher from recent posts (i.e. here or here), I did NOT have a good housing experience. This was probably the main contributor to my overall negative experience at Disney, as I literally did not sleep more than 3 hours a night in the two months I was there. Now, there are three complexes to choose from: Vista Way (for the hard core partiers), Patterson Court (for the rich and snobby) and Chatham Square. I lived in Chatham Square, an adorable apartment complex with a sparkling pool and a small gym that I spent a lot of time at. I LOVED Chatham. I chose an apartment with four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, and eight housemates. That was my first mistake. I chose the option with the most people, figuring that I could make more friends, while saving a bit of rent money. But oh boy, was I in for it.
My first roommate was a super sweet girl from Michigan, we’ll call her Q. And we got along great… except for the fact that she slept naked, without blankets or sheets, and LOVED getting high. Now, I was pretty nonjudgmental and would just turn towards the wall when I slept. And she never brought drugs into the house, so that was never an issue. She was pretty respecting of me and my beliefs. In fact, all my housemates were… for the first two weeks. We got along great! We played at the Parks, stayed up ALL night talking like ten year olds at a slumber party, and laughing our butts off at old youtube videos. We’d have dance parties in our living room at 3am to the Backstreet Boys. It was a good time. But after week two, the honeymoon phase with my roommates was OVER. And the problems arose like wildfire. Two of my housemates, we’ll call one C and the other N, were fighting because C snored. Now, to say she snored “loudly” is the understatement of the century. And to say they were “fighting” sounds pleasant compared to all the hurtful words and violence that arose because of N’s cranky attitude. [In fact, we were all “escorted” by security to the Housing psychologist for a mandatory session on more than one occasion, because of all the violence and bullying that went on.]  Now, I don’t like conflict. And so, knowing that N and Q got along really well, I had the brilliant idea to switch roommates. I was convinced this would solve everything. And, because I’m the heaviest sleeper I’ve ever met, it wouldn’t be a problem for me either. Win-win. And so it was that I, Kynia, took one for the team and was now rooming with C. But despite my comfy bed, long work hours, sleeping pills, earplugs, and headphones blasting the newest Linkin Park album, I could NOT sleep. Now, C was a sweetheart, but honestly did not care that she snored ridiculously loud and would not do anything to change it. It was absolutely ridiculous. And so it was, that I ended up on the couch. Now, this wouldn’t’ve been a problem except for the fact that I was the only one working morning shifts, so my housemates were getting home at 9/10/11pm/12am and would make dinner and socialize. Loudly. They’d bang pots and pans while making dinner. They’d play card games, and laugh like hyenas. They’d slam every door and cupboard. They’d play scary movies at one in the morning and scream bloody murder.
[I’m going to Segway here a bit… indulge me.] They’d steal my Kit Kats and drink my milk. They’d YELL curse words at each other and use the F word every other word around me, on purpose. They mocked me constantly for my beliefs and made it their personal mission to try to slip me up. They’d come home drunk and try to kiss me until I’d lock myself in the bathroom for a few hours. They’d wake me up to tell me something “important”, when they knew I was having a hard time sleeping because of them, etc.
In essence, they were incredibly selfish. And would not respect me. At all. Despite the fact that I was compassionate, kind to everyone, and a mediator in all our arguments. Despite the fact that I’d do all the dishes, take out the overflowing trash, and never said a hurtful word to any of them, no matter how much I wanted to. [I’m sorry if I sound self righteous, but I really tried to treat each one of them with the upmost respect, hoping I’d receive some back. No dice.]
Now back to the noise issue. By apartment rules, quiet hours were designated from 1-5 am. And so I’d wait patiently for the clock to strike one and I’d go out and ask them to quiet down. And you can bet that when they didn’t quiet down after my warning, I went to Security. It was relatively ineffective. Each time I would explain the situation, and Security would SEND ME BACK AND TELL ME TO TELL MY HOUSEMATES TO QUIET DOWN. Needless to say, I quit going to Security after a while.
Now, during these few rough weeks, we’d had meetings with the psychologist to try to sort out our violence issues, which was NOT working. And by this time, a housemate J, was “emergency moved out” because of her violence towards the other girls for their noise at night. [Housing decided to move her, and not me, because she was violent. And I wasn’t. Even though I was being persecuted for my religion and bullied. Go figure.] So, a room opened up. And I moved in with roommate number three, D, who happened to be bisexual. And all I’m going to say here, is that she made sharing a room very uncomfortable. No, I did not [and still don’t] judge her because of her sexual orientation, I was merely annoyed that she was trying to force herself upon me. Moving on… who would’ve guessed that she too snored? Not as loud as C, so with earphones, I was able to sleep. But she was uberly messy. Which really wouldn’t bother me if her used condoms and Plan B pill packs didn’t find their way over to my side of the room. She would bring boys home almost every day, never the same one twice, and kick me out of the room to entertain them. She defiled our shower with men. She even went so far as to have sex in our CLOSET WHILE I WAS IN THE ROOM SLEEPING. Needless to say, I woke up and dealt with the situation.  On one occasion, she brought alcohol in the house, which is STRICLY forbidden in an under 21 apartment. And after a BOLD talking to from me, she never did it again. By this time, I was beginning to learn that being rude was the only way I could protect myself. And I hated it.
And so, I began this routine of sleeping as soon as I got home from work (from 5pm-8/ 9pm), and then I’d be up for the rest of the night. Netflix was a blessing.
After too many days with NO sleep, I finally decided that I shouldn’t have to put up with this. And talking to the housing attendants in the office wasn’t solving anything. So I went DIRECTLY to the housing manager, D, and explained to him EVERYTHING. He knew exactly who I was, though we had never met. He also knew exactly what was going on, because at this point, we had already had TWO meetings with security and the housing attendants. Let me repeat: He knew EXACTLY what was going on. So, naturally, he told me he was unwillingly to “emergency move” me and put me on a waitlist of 23 people to be moved. After another month, I had moved one space up.

Housing Recap: The housing management is ridiculous. Come with a buddy! Come with someone that has your same values that you'd be comfortable sharing a room with. This will prevent ALOT of problems, and will help you feel safe in such a different environment. Along the same lines, be sure to choose a housing option with the least amount of roommates. It is more expensive, but it's so worth it. Less drama, less clashing personalities, less problems to deal with. Also, I’d recommend Patterson Court, as it is QUIET, all the furnishings are up to date (so your A/C won’t break at the end of May, like ours did), and it’s relatively cleaner.

Now, let’s rewind for a minute and explain my work situation. Working for Disney is rough. There are many procedures and policies you must learn. You have to constantly be aware of the image you’re projecting. You have to especially be careful of what you say and how you say it. You get negative “points” for tardiness, for calling in sick to work, for not smiling, etc. Over three points is a reprimand. You can get “reprimands” for leaning or slouching, bad attitudes, and for calling in to work. Four reprimands and you’re terminated. And you can even get terminated for pointing with one finger, and I don’t mean the bird. Now, none of this was going to be an issue for me, honestly. Because as I said before, and if you’ve met me, you’ll agree: I AM DISNEY. I was ready and excited to work hard for such an amazing company.

Well, I started out as a Deep Water Lifeguard at Typhoon Lagoon. Which required two weeks of intense deep water training and a whole new lifeguarding program, but I worked hard and excelled. [Literally, I received a score of 100%.] However, when I actually started at Typhoon, I was given three--repeat THREE days--of training. I had never been there before, so in three training shifts [24 hours total], I was expected to know the layout of the park, the nearest restrooms, the nearest trauma bag/backboard to every single lifeguard spot, the rules/clean up/set up duties of each zone, and all the         e vac/ e stop plans.
I was a little overwhelmed. But for two weeks, I plugged away. While handling stress of the drama happening at home, stress of training for work, stress of handling emergencies, and even the stress of having my Chacos stolen, I wasn’t a very happy camper. After being pulled into my manager’s office to talk about the points I had accrued for not smiling while on stand, I explained my entire situation. It was decided that for my health, I needed to reduce the stress in my life and I was soon after re-casted. [It wasn’t until AFTER I had been transferred that I learned I could’ve asked for more training days at Typhoon.]
Nevertheless, I was moved to the All Star Movies resort in Food Service. My first training day was SO fun! I met the overall director for the All Star Resort(s), B, and she was absolutely hilarious. She gave me a personal tour of everything and welcomed me with open arms. The second training day was drastically different. I met with my area managers and they were definitely a contrast to smiling, loving B. They were rough, impatient, and easily annoyed by me or a question I’d ask. To make matters worse, I missed my third day of training because I was “escorted” by Security for another mandatory meeting with my bat- crazy housemates. Now, Security did give me a note excusing all points for my absence that my managers WOULD NOT ACCEPT. And thus, I added to my points.
The next week, as I trained, my managers made my life miserable. They put me in spots I had not trained for, expecting me to set up shop by myself, and then they would stand there, watching me. They made it pretty apparent that they did not want me there and that they did not like CP’s. Honestly, I felt prejudiced against from the first moment I walked through the back door. And being the only CP didn’t help me either, as my Disney employee of 9+ years coworkers wouldn’t take five seconds to learn my name because they knew I’d be leaving soon. Eventually, because of all the stress, drama, violence, and perhaps even homesickness, I got the flu. I literally did not leave my apartment bathroom for two days. And trust me, each time I called in sick to work, I explained my situation and made sure each of my managers were notified; I did NOT just pull a couple “no shows”. And thus, I got my first reprimand for calling in sick twice. For the cherry-on-top, before I was allowed to come back to work, I had to go the emergency room and get a doctor’s note saying that I was fit to come back. I waited for five hours in the waiting room and another hour for a doctor to whom I explained the ENTIRE situation. We laughed together hysterically at the ridiculousness. After which, he wrote me a STELLAR note for a cured “respiratory infection” [thanks for the BS note, Doc J] and billed me 208 dollars. The next day I woke up not-so-bright and not too eager for work. When I got there, my managers sent me home, saying that even though I had this doctor’s note, I had to take it to another place and have them clear it, fill out necessary paperwork, then return back to work. Because my only transportation was the college program busses, I had to take a bus from work to the bus station at home, wait there, take a bus from home to Epcot casting, wait in the lobby there, wait for a bus, take an Epcot bus home, wait for a bus, and take the next bus back to work. Each of these bus routes are about an hour, mind you, so I literally spent the majority of my day on a bus. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the busses and am grateful for them, but wouldn’t it’ve been a lot more efficient for my managers to tell me beforehand? So I could’ve had my note ready to go the morning of. Call me crazy.

After this whole fiasco, I was pulled back to my mangers’ offices’ on two separate occasions and was encouraged by all but one of them to self terminate. They explained that since I wouldn’t be here for very long, I would not get fully trained. And therefore would spend the remainder of my shifts bussing tables in the dining hall and refilling the napkin and utensil cart. I assured them that I wanted to stay, and that I was in fact a good employee. But in the weeks to come I “forgot to clock out” twice, and received a second reprimand. I was pulled to the side by my manager, J for Jerk, and he explained that self termination would be beneficial to me because [And I’ll NEVER forget these words because of how threatened I felt by them] “at any point, we have the power to say ‘you’re done, be gone by 11 am tomorrow’”.
Yes, I felt threatened by my mangers. And yes, they were encouraging me to quit.
But it wasn’t just them. Most of my co-workers were Puerto Rican, and would laugh at me in Spanish over my head. They had been there for at least nine years, and would scold me if I did even the slightest thing wrong.
And so, I continued my shift of 5 am to 2 pm or later, depending on the day. I got up early enough to ride the bus at four am, and would get home around 4 or 5 every day. Now, when my housing situation escalated, I approached my managers and asked politely if I could move to the night shift so I could be on the same schedule as my housemates, but they refused. I constantly kept them updated on my situation and they were unable (and obviously unwilling) to help me in the slightest. I began to be mocked by my coworkers for many things which boiled down to my religion. So finally, as a last resort, I went directly to the casting director, D. She was a lovely woman who had every good intention of helping me. She told me to write an email that she could forward directly to B [my overall manager] and by extension, my area managers. B would discuss it with them and handle it. Unfortunately, no matter how I tried to explain it to her, D didn’t understand how petrified I was of my area managers and how writing an email specifically saying how they threatened me and made my life miserable didn’t exactly sound like a stellar plan to me. She told me to think it over and “hang in there”. Ironically enough, the next day, I got my third reprimand for leaning too far over a table while I was cleaning it. Excuse me for thinking that my managers were literally trying to fire me. I never wrote that email.
Now besides all the drama of mean managers, the hours were long. I received one hour long break at the beginning of my day (usually around 7/7.30 am), and then I would work continuously, in the same spot, for the rest of the day. This is why I actually liked bussing tables, because I could wander to the outside tables every once in a while and enjoy the sunshine. Despite feeling labeled as a bad employee, I found little ways to enjoy my job. [Including having wand fights with two little kids who had recently been to Harry Potter World, dancing while vacuuming and singing Disney songs as I worked.] I was kind and smiled to everyone I met, even though I was so miserable inside. I tried to be a good Disney employee.  


Work Recap: If you’re coming with the college program, you can expect to be scheduled anywhere from 50-63 hours per week, especially in peak seasons like Summer and during the Holidays. They like to work the CP’s because we get paid less than regular employees (barely minimum wage in most locations) and don’t receive benefits. If you’re taking college classes, you will receive anywhere from 30-40 hours a week, so that’s marginally easier, so to speak. Just be prepared to WORK. A common joke down there is that “CP” doesn’t stand for “College Program”- it stands for “Company Property”, and you’ll soon find out why…You get burned out pretty quickly.
Be aware that you won’t have as much freedom as you think you will.
**Now, being a CP isn’t all bad. We get into the parks for free, discounts on food or merchandise, there are different housing events you can go to (if you don’t have work) and there are plenty of awesome people to meet. That being said, it IS a good learning experience. And if you’re at a standstill in your life, it is a great adventure, I suppose. Just warning you about what you’re in for.

The last thing about the Disney College Program that concerns people is the bus system. As you probably saw earlier (i.e. the Doctor’s Note fiasco), it literally takes anywhere from an hour to two hours to/from a specific location. Meaning, you better go to Walmart on your day off because it’s going to take you four or five hours. But they are free! That means you don’t pay for gas, insurance, car repairs, parking tickets or accidents… etc. Which can be a selling point for some people. But truth be told, the busses were inconvenient. And depending on the bus driver, sometimes they would leave ten or fifteen minutes early, and if you weren’t there that early, you’d miss your bus and be late for work. (which would give you more points, of course)
That being said, if you are able to bring your own car, I would encourage you to do so. If not, come prepared with some inspiring literature to read or the newest All American Rejects album to enjoy every day on the smelly, leaky busses.

To finish the story, after two long, hard months, I did end up self terminating. I had received three reprimands already, and honestly I could NOT live in these conditions any longer. I used the remainder of my point allowance to call in sick every day to work to do other things. Like play in the Parks one last time or spend the day at Universal Studios [which was AMAZING, by the way]. I arranged my flight home, packed my stuff, and handed in my Disney ID card to a SMILING manager who politely said, “Thank you. Have a nice flight home.” And of course, I smiled even bigger and said, “I plan to” and spun on my heels and never looked back.

Overall, the Disney College Program was a miserable experience for me. But I’m glad I did it, if even for such a short amount of time. Quite frankly, I’m proud of myself for lasting that long under such stressful conditions. And trust me, I didn’t just get up one day and decide to quit. I tried EVERY different avenue, as I’ve tried to illustrate for you. When you’ve wanted something for this long, and when you’ve dreamed of something your whole life, it’s impossible to just “give up”. It literally took everything I had to call it quits. But, my friends, life is far too short to be miserable, even for “just 8 months”.
And just because this dream didn’t work out, doesn’t mean I’m done dreaming. In fact my dreams are still coming true. And that’s what makes this whole experience worth it. Because I went through 2 months of hell, I am now able to appreciate the good life I have now. And I face each day with optimism, confidence, and hope, because I know that nothing can compare to the total misery of my experience working for Disney.

I hope this post has been enlightening to those of you who may be considering the Disney College Program, or for those of you who are merely curious about my adventure. A huge thank you to all those who supported me in this particularly rough time in my life. I love you all bunches!
Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions and/or clarifications you may need. And thanks for reading! Now go out and live your dream!

Mischief Managed.

_Kynia

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4 comments

  1. I want to give you a great big hug after reading all of that. We need to talk sometime, you are and amazing person Kynia!!!
    Love Ann Zahrt

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  2. I'm in your situation right now most likely going home this weekend after roughing it for five months. Self term has been suggested to me twice now. So sorry that your religious beliefs were mocked, that behavior should not be accepted at Disney at all. Hope life is well for you!

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  3. Anonymous17.7.14

    OMG! Reading this reminded me of my experience at The National School of Dacing (here in Mexico), the horrible roomies, the authorities telling you you are no good, when you are actually a good girl...! I hear you!

    On the other hand I'm trying to apply to a International Disney Program to work at EPCOT, and I shall follow your advice on roommates terms. Thank you for sharing your experience. On the other hand, I also have the falling that after surviving that school and environment I may stand a chance.

    Ps: Not cool for the Puerto Ricans to make fun of you in Spanish…

    Gracias!

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  4. I am a hopeful for Fall Advantage 2015 and I'm getting as much information about the DCP as I can. I have three friends who went and they had the times of their lives, but I know that they had their hardships too. Your post has prepared me for what to possibly expect, so thank you! It's total crap that you had to go through what you went through, so I salute you for staying as long as you did. Would you ever try it again if given the opportunity, or can you never return for work if you self-terminate?

    PS - We kind of sorta have the same name!! My name is Nykia. The K and N are just switched. xD

    ReplyDelete