Monday, 20 September 2010

Attention Star Tours, we are clear of day guests and work lights will be coming on immediately...

I've been back just over a week now and it's been crazy, trying to catch up doing everything I've missed for three months. I've seen my friends, been to Bournemouth beach, attended a surprise birthday party and gone back to Clarks. I've just about started attempting to tidy my bedroom which is a complete state since I unpacked my suitcases but didn't really put anything away... once it's tidy I think I'll feel a bit calmer!

As promised, this is going to be my final post on this blog regarding the 2010 ICP and I am going to attempt to compare the two International College Programs I have participated in... not to establish which was "better" but rather just to show the differences.


2008: I lived at Vista Way in apt 3302. This was a wellness apartment as I was under 21 and I lived with four girls from Barbados and one girl from South America. Although I kept the same roomates for the whole program I didn't really get on with them too well as we had many differences about the air conditioning plus our shifts were completely opposite so I didn't tend to see them or hang out with them much. There was also a slight language problem as I found them very difficult to communicate with.

2010: I lived at Vista Way again in apt 1608. A non-wellness apartment this time meant there was no worry about having alcohol in the rooms. I shared with many different girls over the 10 weeks with only two of them being with me for the whole time - 2 Americans. They were great and I had a good laugh with them. Other than that, we had two English girls, a Ukrainian, a South American and two more Americans come and go. The air conditioning was always nice and cold and apart from a few gross things in the fridge, the apartment was generally in alright condition!


2008: Emporium, Main St USA, Magic Kingdom (Merchandise). An amazing location to be placed for Merchandise, it was constantly busy and there were always guests to talk to. Up sides included being able to see the parade/Spectromagic/Wishes every night, changing around different parts of the store, merchantaining and air conditioning constantly. Down sides included having different managers every day, not many friendly CPs, having to get the A bus and finishing at between 1-3am most nights.

2010: Star Tours, ICON Area, Hollywood Studios (Attractions). A Star Wars themed simulator ride, been there for 21 years with no refurbishment but was closing on 7/9/10 for a massive 8 month overhaul... so therefore it was the winding down stage of the attraction. But this meant that the Star Wars geeks were coming in their hourdes to ride it before it closed, we got a very special celebration night just for us called Last Tour to Endor which was the most legendary night EVER and I got to do some magical moments for people who wouldn't be riding it again (as it stood then anyway). Up sides included the amazing team of cast members who made up my Star Tours family, having a lightsabre as part of my costume and the lightsabre fights that ensued both with guests and fellow cast members, seeing and dancing to the Block Party Bash at least twice a week and being the only English cast member at the attraction. Down sides included the bright orange and blue elasticated ankle costume (hot and unattractive!), working outside in the heat, arguing with guests about the height restriction (although this was quite entertaining at times), the repetitive nature of the job and the Yoda rotation.


2008: I had a close friend, Victoria, who I spent most of my free time with. We hit up the parks all the time and as we both worked in merchandise we had a lot in common. It was her second program which was also good because she could tell me loads about it! I had a few friends at work but didn't really tend to see them outside the Emporium and quite a few people I knew from the flight over who I saw from time to time throughout the program.

2010: Although I knew lots of people from the flight over, I didn't see them much for the bulk of the program. I spent lots of time with Hannah and Katie but they were the only British people I spent a decent amount of time with. I made a close friend, Nick, from work whom I have already planned to go and visit in November (in America!) and I also had a lot of fun with my friends from work who I did a lot of eating food with after the shifts had finished... Ihop, Wendy's, Chick-fil-A, Buffalo Wild Wings and Orlando Ale House come to mind!


2008: With no friends who had cars, I didn't really leave Disney. A couple of trips to the Florida Mall and the Premium Outlets but that was about it.

2010: When my family came over I got to spend quite a bit of time staying at their villa rather than my abode at Vista Way. We also went on an airboat ride in Boggy Creek, went to the Kennedy Space Center and ate in Celebration. With my dear American friends who could drive, we went to lots of different restaurants plus, of course, Universal and HARRY POTTER! :D At the end of the program I also flew to Atlanta, Georgia to visit Nick and we did lots of sightseeing. So I even went to another state during the 2010 ICP!


2008: Booked the flights in March (£650) and the insurance, visa, program assessment fee and extra stuff all in May/June. In total I think I spent about £1000 before I went. The exchange rate was $2:£1 which was amazing so I was able to take more spending money over with me (about £300 so..$600). I was earning about $6.50 an hour (only £3.25!) and I earnt a total of about $2500 I think. I went straight home after the program so took home $500 (£250).

2010: Booked everything a lot earlier in the year. Flights were only £450 so total spent before leaving was only about £750. I took £300 of spending money again (but this time that only equated to about $450) but earnt more whilst at Disney, probably a total of about $3000 as I was earning $7.25/hour this time. However, due to having an extra week on the end (including my mini break to Atlanta!) I only came home with $140 (£100).

So, in conclusion... both programs were amazing, life-changing experiences and I wouldn't have done anything differently. During the 2010 ICP I had some hilarious experiences (eg: 5 people in a 3 person truck, the man who got hit on the ass by an exit door, the tv screen falling off the wall and "Does the omelette come with eggs?", "It doesn't matter!", "Rediculous!", "Don't eat the fruit!"), drove on the wrong side of the road, stayed in a Disney resort, visited another state, drank alcohol legally in the USA, went to Six Flags... and made some friends for life. I experienced memories that I will never forget.

I thoroughly recommend anybody goes and works for Disney on the International College Program but don't expect to earn any money, be happy to work stupidly long hours, deal with really dumb people and answer the same questions over and over again. In exchange you will have the most amazing summer and I think that's a pretty good deal.

Wishes can come true, if you believe in them with all your heart,
And the best part is, you'll never run out of wishes, they're shining deep down inside of you, 
Because that, my friends, is where the magic lives.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

All good things must come to an end...

Okay, so be prepared for a very long blog post as just like 2 years ago, I am sitting at Gate 85 at Orlando International Airport using the free WiFi before boarding my flight to London Gatwick.

Ok, so back to my last full day on the program:

2nd September: Me and Hannah got the A bus bright and early to Disney University where we visited Partners so she could withdraw all her money and then visit Cast Connection and Company D for the last time. I got a couple of bits and bobs including (another) Cast Member hoodie which was reduced and I've got to wear on the plane right now! :D Then we headed back to housing to dump the stuff we'd bought and I did a bit more packing/attempting to shut my case before meeting her on the E bus to Hollywood Studios as, of course, I had to do my last tour to Endor! We got to the Studios (accompanied by her roommate Gemma) and we went to the Sci-fi Diner for lunch which was great :D Then I headed to Star Tours whilst they went character hunting - I did my last tour to Endor (the flight attendant was Mikey!) and had to sort out a couple of admin issues with Linda, one of the icon managers including such exciting stuff as getting my last shift authorised for payment seen as I 'apparently' clocked out twice?! Anyways, once that was sorted and more photos had been taken, I went with Hannah and Gemma to watch the Bloc Party Bash - I saw the show by the hat and then went round to Star Tours to see the end and I filmed it so I can watch it forever more :D As we were boiling hot by this point we decided to go on the Great Movie Ride before heading back to housing.

Once I got back, it was time to meet Kevin as he kindly drove me to the All Star Music Resort which was where I was staying from Thursday until today. I handed in my housing ID and key and was not sorry to say goodbye to Vista Way! We went to the All Star where I got changed and then we met Hannah and Gemma before driving to the Contemporary for dinner. It was really nice (and rather posh!) and I even ate scallops! :O Then we walked to the Magic Kingdom (which only takes about 10 minutes) just in time for Wishes.

It was slightly strange because 2 years ago when I watched Wishes on the last night it made me feel very emotional and sad to be leaving. Well, this year, I just didn't get that and I routed it down to the fact I had so much exciting stuff to look forward to over the weekend and during this week that it wasn't a time to be sad! After Wishes, I said goodbye to people and popped into the Emporium (of course) to get a pair of earrings I wanted and a ring that I'd had my eye on before walking out of MK to the bus stops. As I walked alone out of the park, it dawned on me that this was quite a poignant moment (deep thinking for an airport right now, I know) but the fact I was walking out alone for the last time filled me with a feeling of determination for when I return home. It felt like I was closing the Disney book for now and I'd completed my time as a Cast Member so I felt very contented rather than sad. :)

I got the bus back to the All Star and collapsed into sleep as I was so tired!

3rd September: My official last day as a Cast Member... so I got up in time for Kevin to take me to the airport (yay, car!) so I could get my domestic flight to Atlanta, Georgia! :D I was flying AirTran which is the US equivalent of Easyjet but it was perfectly acceptable. The flight only took an hour and I had to wait about 30 minutes for Nick at Atlanta Airport as he was driving from his University in Auburn, Alabama! I managed to meet him okay and we headed for a shopping mall about 30 minutes from the airport in the search for a pair of shoes I'd seen in Charlotte Russe which I LOVE but cannot find in a Size 9 (US) anywhere :O Bless him, he ended up driving me to about 5 different shopping centres in and around Atlanta looking for these shoes and we couldn't find them anywhere :( I fully appreciate his patience though, thanks Nick! Then we headed to Cheesecake Factory which was AMAZING... the portions were massive and we took our actual cheesecake home to eat later! After dinner, we drove to his parents house which is the middle of nowhere but is a beautiful area. It was an amazing house and it was so dark at night we could see millions of stars which you just wouldn't see anywhere near a city! We were both really tired so we headed to bed around midnight.

4th September: Six Flags! I was very excited about going on some big rides so we got up early and drove to Six Flags Over Georgia which took about 45 minutes. When we got there, we realised it wasn't going to be as crazily busy as we'd thought it would be - in fact, the longest we queued all day was about 20 minutes! We went on all 8 of the main rollercoasters - I thought I was going to die about 3 times. Seriously, after going on those coasters, it makes Disney look so SUPER safe and secure! There were 2 rides (both wooden coasters) which I felt like my spine was about to be crushed and 1 ride called Ninja which I am pretty sure gave me concussion because it hit my head against the sides so much... but the other rides, particularly Batman and Goliath were really cool :D We went via a couple of shopping malls on the way back to his house and got back in time for my first American Football game. Nick's team (Auburn) were playing and it was the first match of the season so he was glad that he caught the game even though I literally didn't understand any of it. We had some yummy kebabs with baked potatoes and this amazing sweetcorn stuff which was a good meal for dinner :D then Auburn won the game so smiles all round. After staying up for a while watching You Tube and films we were both falling asleep so went to bed around 1am.

5th September: After an amazing lie-in which was well overdue, we got up around midday and had some pizza for lunch before heading to Stone Mountain with his Mom which is a local national park-type place, it's the biggest piece of exposed granite in the world apparently. As it was Labor Day weekend, they were having a special laser show and fireworks which was amazing! We also went up the Sky Ride to the top of the mountain which was great views and really cool :D We headed back and got home about 11.30pm before staying up chatting to his brother, Alex, before sleep at about 2am... we didn't really think it through seen as we needed to be up early the next day at 7.30am!

6th September: The day to hit downtown Atlanta. Firstly, we went to the CNN building and had a tour of the building which was interesting - especially to see how a TV station works differently in America to the way it works in the UK. Then we went to the Aquarium which is also the biggest (I think) in the world before grabbing a snack lunch and then heading to the World of Coca-Cola which I loved! You could see how a bottle of Coke was made and the history of the company, it was very interesting. After that it was time to get some dinner and then head to the airport :(

As this was the third goodbye I'd said to Nick, it wasn't too bad and I'm sure I'll see him again soon but I was very sad for the weekend to be over because we'd had so much fun and it was great being out of Orlando. When you visit somewhere like Georgia, you realise that not all states are as concrete and impersonal as Florida is...

I got back to the aforementioned theme park state and it was time for one of the scariest things I've ever done in my life...

Renting a car.

And more to the point - driving a car, in america, on the wrong side of the road! Plus the fact it was dark! It was only about $200 to rent the car for three days and so split between the three of us (Hannah, Katie and Moi) it was only about $80 each and the convienience made it worthwhile! I drove back to the hotel without any major incidents and parked up before meeting the others in the room. We decided we wanted a little joyride so drove to Walgreens so I could buy some credit and then back to the All Star before collapsing into sleep again.

7th September: Universal day! Been looking forward to this day since we last went to Harry Potter World :D Unfortunately, this time I had to pay the $112 entrance fee ($119 with tax!)... we went to the Studios first and did most of the rides in the park including Jaws which I didn't do last time and the Simpsons Ride which was AMAZING. I really loved it. Including all the jibes towards Disney which was just amusing. We also did Rip, Ride, Rock It twice and The Mummy twice plus Disaster (which had changed since 2007), Men In Black and Shrek 4D. Then we headed over to Islands of Adventure and literally spent the rest of the day in Harry Potter world... did the castle ride twice and I did the Chinese Fireball side of the dragon ride. I got a griffindor t-shirt and a Hogwarts branded glass before the park closed at 7pm. Then we drove to Downtown Disney for a bit before going back to the hotel... exhausted again!

8th September: My last full day in Florida! Had a lie-in and then we went to Ihop for brunch which was immense as usual. Then headed back to the hotel and I went and lazed by the pool for a few hours which was amazing before we got our stuff together and I drove Hannah to the airport. That then left Katie and I, so we went to the Florida Mall where we got Chinese Food (YUM) and I looked for the elusive shoes which was a let-down again! Then we drove back to the hotel where we picked up our laptops and went to McDonalds to use their free Wifi :D Spent a couple of hours there before heading back to do the inevitable re-packing. Just about got everything in the cases!

9th September: TODAY! Had breakfast and then finished the re-packing. Drove to Downtown Disney where on the spur of the moment, I checked in at the Virgin Atlantic DTD check-in.. only costs $10 and it was worth getting rid of my heavy bags! Then we went to the cinema and caught a film called the Switch which was cute and a good old rom-com with Jennifer Aniston in it - you really can't go wrong. LOL. 90 minutes later we emerged, ready to drive to the airport. Got slightly lost on the way despite having sat-nav but got here in plenty of time and have sat at the gate since about 3.30pm. I am going to be boarding in about 45 minutes.

I don't really feel sad about leaving, I am really excited to be seeing my friends from home again and am looking forward to the cold weather! But, it's slightly bittersweet to be shutting my Disney ICP book again even though I feel ready to. I will post again soon with a comparison of my two ICPs and what happened during the flight home! :)

Thursday, 2 September 2010

May the force be with I, for the last time, will not be.

Well, I'm sitting in my apartment at 8am with my Last Tour to Endor t-shirt on, waiting to go and meet Hannah so we can start a jam-packed last day. Yup, LAST DAY. Already. I can't believe this summer has gone so fast - there were moments when it went slowly and I really wanted it to hurry up and end so that I could go home but on the whole, it's flown by. Especially the last 8 days!

As you know, I was doing 8 days running courtesy of Deployment who think it's fun to make the ICPs have no days off in their last week (y'know, for packing?!) and I updated a couple of days in on my last post. Well, the rest of the 8 days went by pretty smoothly there was just a couple of incidents I will comment on...

1) He came back. He bloody came back. The man who decided threatening to punch us and report us for having his child too small... I knew he would come back but he'd changed the shoes on the child, must have stuffed them with tissue or something, because the child had grown the required 1/2 inch within 2 days... well, you can't win 'em all.

2) Hilarious moment... and of COURSE it was on Sim 4. I am there just happily loading my sim...we all walk in and whilst I'm doing the seatbelts and stuff, I think nothing is out of the ordinary. When I walk back out of the sim, everyone in sight is doubled over with laughter because one of the screens above the doors had completely fallen off (apparently accompanied with a large CRACK noise!) and was just swinging there, right where someone's head could have been! It was quite funny, the way it was just hanging there. Something is breaking on a daily basis now at Star Tours - partly because the maintenance guys just can't face fixing an attraction which is closing in a week. Obviously, the safety stuff is fixed but superficial stuff.... nahhhhhh. So, it got velcro-ed back on... and then promptly fell off again about 5 minutes later. It required Raymond to go and get a proper drill and drill it back into the wall before it stopped swinging off.

3) Saying goodbye... really sucks. When I left the emporium there was just one or two people who I felt sad about saying goodbye to. But, at Star Tours, we're just one big (slightly bitchy at times) family and everyone knows everyone else. I am so grateful for the way I was taken in as a CP and involved instantly in the socialising and fun times. Although the job itself is slightly repetitive and can be very tedious when there's a lack of guests; the cast members made up for that.

So... all in all, I think it would be appropriate to comment on my final day at Star Tours. It started off very early - I was up at 6.30am in order to *begin* (!) my packing which was fun and then at 9.30am I got picked up by Kevin (who has rented a car!) to go to the Florida Mall for a couple of things. I got some lovely jewellry from Charlotte Russe (of course, as it is my favourite shop in the USA) and a couple of gifts for people before we went to McDonalds. Then, I got back to Vista, got changed, picked up my freshly iced Orange and Blue cookies (iced at midnight the night before!) and went off merrily for my last day. I managed to get into the bottom of a rotation on Sim 5 which meant I was back at the computer by about 2.05pm and the lovely Jason assigned me PAC 1 :D VERY HAPPY about this especially because it's not supposed to be assigned until 2.30pm. So, I took it upon myself to do some tasking until about 2.40pm when we set up the rope for the parade. More standing around, chatting, dancing and photo-taking was undertaken until the parade came through at about 3.30pm - it was loads of fun as usual :D We took down the poles and went back inside to cool off... and I got my break at 4pm. Woooo!

So, after my break, I got assigned Jedi 2 before I got dropped then back to the computer to get the Yoda rotation (of course, it had to be the Yoda!). Went to greeter for about 45 minutes before being rotated to Sim 2. Then I got my second break at 5.30pm... after my break, I bumped out Hayley at Sim 3 which was my last Starspeeder! I was only there for about 25 minutes before the last Wookie rotation came out and I had to do my final spiel, final seatbelt check and my final Jedi Jest (see title of post!). It was kinda sad, I did feel like crying a bit especially when Melissa got the whole sim to give me a round of applause! However, then I rotated into Tower and got to close Tower which was pretty uneventful but fun of course.

And then, in a funny twist of fate.. I ended up closing Star Tours with the man I began it all with - Jonathan, my trainer. We did lost & found together before I got changed, wall clocked out of costuming, handed in my costumes and then he gave me a ride to his apartment. We were soon joined by takeaway pizza and 7 more lovely Star Tours peoples :D We watched Star Wars, Episode 5 and they had to explain the whole thing to me of course but it was very fun :D

And that pretty much ended my day at Star Tours on the 1st September 2010. I will do another post during the next few days comparing my two programs because I feel that they need to be compared and contrasted!

In other news, I am no longer cruisin' the Bahamas this weekend :'( but instead, I am going to visit Nick in Georgia which is going to be super exciting - we're going to Six Flags, the Aquarium, the Coca Cola Factory and Stone Mountain among other things... roll on Friday!