Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Student completes magical Disney placement

Walt Disney World is the dream holiday destination for millions of people every year. Student Hayley Gibson was lucky enough to go to Florida as a child and dreamed of having the chance to work there, so when Disney representatives came to UCLan offering placement opportunities she couldn't wait to apply.

Hayley commented: "After an informal interview I was invited to the next stage where you could choose what jobs you'd do. I was so determined to go to Disney I selected every job role! I figured I would learn just as much in any of the roles purely for the fact I was working for such an amazing organisation.

"I was selected to work for six months in quick service food and beverage, followed by the same amount of time as a character performer. I got to work at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival which was an amazing experience, especially being an event management student. It was great to see how Disney puts everything together.

"The job itself wasn't difficult, but this shouldn't put people off because you learn so much about the company and that's what sets it apart from doing a similar job here in the UK."

Hayley spent the second part of the year in the Entertainment Department working as Pluto. She said how people reacted when they saw the characters for the first time made this the favourite part of her placement.

"I'll never be able to accurately explain the feeling you get when you see people's faces when they meet you for the first time," said Hayley. "The job was so much fun - I can guarantee I'll not have another job where I can run around dancing all afternoon in the middle of Animal Kingdom in Florida!

"I did meet and greets, character dining and dance parties, across all the parks and resorts. I could go for weeks without being in the same location more than once, meaning I met even more people."

During her time at Disney, Hayley was given extensive training for both her roles. Despite having no performing background, she particularly enjoyed learning about entertaining guests.

She said: "I'm generally not an outgoing person and found it difficult to get in front of a class and perform, but the trainers give you so much help it's difficult not to have fun and enjoy it. After training I felt so confident and I couldn't wait to get out into the parks."

Hayley lived with six other English girls who were also in Florida on the placement programme. Although she found this difficult at first, Hayley soon settled in.

"The living arrangements were similar to university halls in the UK, but each complex has its own outdoor pool and gym. The only thing I was nervous about was sharing a bedroom, as I do like my own space, but you soon adjust and it was comforting to be with people in the same position as me.

"The lifestyle was very similar to being at University, except before or after work I could sunbathe! The one big difference in America is you can't walk anywhere, everything is so spread out. Disney provides transport to and from all the parks and resorts and also to the Mall and Grocery store which was so helpful.

"The nightlife is similar to the UK student scene, as every night there's a different place open with cheap drinks. There's a party bus which picks you up for a small fee at your complex and will take you to these locations and at the weekend will take you downtown. The party bus also runs beach trips throughout the year and trips to Miami."

Hayley said the highlight of her year was having the opportunity to work at the Give Kids the World Village. This is a place where terminally ill children and their families are provided with memorable and magical experiences.

"Being able to spend one on one time with these children as one of their favourite Disney characters is such a unique experience and so emotional. Tears were definitely shed beneath the costume, but I would jump at the chance to do it again," said Hayley.

"Overall, my placement year was undoubtedly the best experience of my life as it helped me grow as a person. I became more confident and also enhanced my CV. I gained knowledge in a variety of roles and received training from one of the world's leading companies which I can apply to all my future job roles.

"I also met people from around the world and made amazing friends. It was definitely a unique experience that I wouldn't change a single minute of, and I'd definitely recommend it to any future students."

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