A Disney fairy tale

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale. A girl goes to uni in the big city and learns about the world of entertainment production. She studies for three long years and learns about all the creative, business and law elements that make any piece of entertainment tick. She then graduates and goes to work at the home of entertainment – the most magical place on earth – Walt Disney World.

Luckily for me, this fairy tale is becoming a reality. In January 2018 I’ll be moving to Orlando, Florida to embark on the adventure of a lifetime! As a participant in the 2018 Disney Australian Cultural Exchange, I’ll be living and working with fellow program participants from all over the world as an attractions cast member (what Disney calls the park staff!).

Disney World

Disney World, Florida | image credit: Josh Hallett via Flickr

You may be wondering, like many people who I’ve told about my newest adventure, how on earth I got to be in this position. After hearing about the program from a few friends who had done it before (which sees students from all over the world move to Orlando and work in the Walt Disney World parks for six months), I decided to apply online.

It was just like any other job application – you submit a cover letter (using as many Disney-esque phrases as possible!) and resume, tell them about your previous work experience and study history. A few months later, you might get an email about attending a face-to-face interview. This stage is really exciting because Disney sends one of their recruiters out to Australia to interview potential participants. You’ll sit in on a presentation with all the other applicants from your city where you learn more about the program, then you’ll have a one-on-one interview with the recruiter.

From here, it’s a seemingly never-ending wait for an email, until it finally arrives. While a few people I know jumped up and down screaming, I myself took to spamming my best friend with Disney GIFs until she got the hint…

However, while this all sounds magical and like a dream come true (it kind of is…), not every aspect of moving overseas it straight out of a fairy tale… Namely, the work visa process.

To get a working visa for the US as an Aussie citizen, you need to have a company sponsor you. Luckily, Disney does this! You then need to fill out some truly confusing paperwork (trust me, I’m a nut for filling out forms and these did my head in!) and schedule an appointment with the US Consulate. Unluckily for us Brisbanites, the closest US Consulate office is in Sydney. Which means a sneaky day trip (or several-day trip if you’re lucky enough to get a few days off in a row!) down to Sydney. While it was a big pain, I ended up having a great day in Sydney as it was my first time down and it had been on my travel list for a while now!

Sightseeing in Sydney after getting my work visa!

Now that I have a working visa and have found a roomie (we actually met by chance at the interviews!) all that’s left to do is pack and save like crazy. I’m really excited to get over to the US and begin work! I won’t find out my exact location and attraction until I get there, but I intend to make the most of wherever I’m placed.

To anyone thinking of applying to the Cultural Exchange Program, I say do it! There are intakes twice a year, so applications should be open online for a mid-2018 start very soon. I can’t speak from experience just yet, but I’ve heard so many good things about people gaining personal growth, worldly experience and extra sparkle from this program! So take a chance – you never know where it could lead…

2 responses

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  1. avatar
    Zack P

    Hi there Olivia!

    I’m still in High School right now, and I know that I’m going to be studying a bachelor of Creative Writing next year at uni. This is on the top of my bucket list; this exchange is literally my dream. I’ve done the research, and I know that I have to wait until I’ve completed a year of my degree before I can take part in the process. What I’m wondering, however, is how you are selected for your role? What exactly do you have to do to be selected for whatever it is you end up doing in the park? Are you allowed to choose? Do they assign it to you? Any help/advice you have for me would be amazing.

    • avatar
      Olivia

      Hi Zack!
      So glad you’ve got your sights set so early on – it makes the whole journey so magical! With regards to roles, we have the face-to-face interviews as our primary way of communicating with Disney’s recruitment team. During the interview, the recruiter will discuss with you different role options and ask about previous work experience to try to find a good fit for you. Of course, if there’s a particular role you’ve got your eye on, you can totally bring it up and ask more about securing that role.
      The biggest bit of advice I could offer you role wise is to keep your mind open. You may have your heart set on one particular role, but get offered another! Or even if you get offered your dream role, it may be nothing like you expected it to be – that was certainly the case with me. Don’t limit your options and just make the most out of whatever role you’re given and enjoy the journey!

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