Recently we caught up with an alumnus from our program. Cole is from Calgary, Alberta and participated in three Cultural Exchange Programs in 2014, 2015 and 2016. His roles have ranged from Guest Operations at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, attractions to entertainment.
Q: Did you have any similar experiences back at home before you worked the roles you did during your programs?
A: Back home in Calgary, I have worked retail for the past five years and also instructing hockey with Junior High School students. Going into the whole process I thought my interview would be more focused on the strengths that came from working in those fields, but I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to diversify my résumé and work in roles and fields that I had no previous experience in. I was excited to see that the recruiters at my interview could tell from my expressions and personality that that role would be a good fit for me…and that I could experience a new role.
Q: What would you say was a challenging moment and how did you overcome it?
A: A challenge that I faced while on the program was simple “adult” things that you don’t really experience while you’re living at home. I quickly had to learn how to cook, clean, do laundry and also budget with the money I earned. There were a couple times where I might have spent too much one week, but it’s just something you learn that maybe the next week you need to cut back a little bit. It is important to know that this is an opportunity of a lifetime and even though you have to learn to be responsible and independent, you are allowed to treat yourself to a good meal or some of your favourite souvenirs.
Q: What kind of cultural activities did you participate in for your required Cultural Exchange activities?
A: A lot of Cultural Activities that I did were food-related because a lot of the time co-workers or friends would offer to drive me home but on the way, we would always get a bite to eat. Usually it was at places that we didn’t have in Canada so it was cool to try other local foods. One cultural activity that stands out for me was one of my best friends from the USA took me to the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral to watch an actual rocket launch. The whole experience seemed so surreal…seeing the rocket go up was amazing and something I didn’t realize was that from where we were watching, you could actually feel the launch. The sound waves piercing your body seconds after seeing the rocket begin its ascend was incredible and nothing you could experience anywhere else in the world.
Q: Did you participate in any housing events?
A: I tried to go to as many housing events I could especially the welcome events and also the service celebration parties. Welcome events were such a great way to meet people and it was always themed and decorated so well and it was just fun overall. They always had food, characters and a dance floor with a live DJ, so there was always something to do. Of course you had to make sure that you would be able to go to the service celebration because that was your way of congratulating yourself on accomplishing this amazing journey. You also get to take pictures with Mickey and Minnie with graduation ears on, and the really cool diploma for completing your program is a bonus.
Q: If you could have done anything differently, what would it be?
A: Though I have no regrets about anything I did on the program it would have been nice to see more of what Orlando and Florida has to offer. In previous years I was able to go to the beach with friends but unfortunately this year it didn’t work out. Disney gives you plenty of time to explore and opportunities to do this and you just have to choose what you want to do.
Q: What have you done since your last program?
A: I have gone back to school to complete my final year of education at the University of Calgary majoring in Economics and minoring in Management in Society. I’m looking forward to graduating in the spring of 2017. From there I would like to look at future options to possibly continue my Disney career. I have also gone back to work at the National Sport Academy instructing hockey during the week and working retail on the weekends.
Q: Do you still keep in contact with other alumni?
A: Of course!!! Some of my best friends I met while down at Disney. You create such a good group of friends while there that it’s just like a small family. I am constantly on Facetime or texting my friends who are still in Florida plus those who have gone back home to different cities all around the world. With technology today it’s so easy to keep in touch and its so rewarding to have such amazing friends who are so diverse and so genuine. After doing the program I can’t imagine them not in my life now.
Q: Do you have any other plans to work with The Walt Disney Company?
A: After working for this amazing company for the past three summers, I couldn’t imagine not working for them in the future. I have learned so much professionally and also personally that I owe a lot of my personal growth to the experiences that I had working in Florida. After being a character performer, I would love to explore opportunities in that department so possibly auditioning for Disney Cruise Line to experience a different line of business that Disney has to offer. I’m excited for the future, and can’t wait to see where the opportunities take me.
For opportunities like Cole’s, you can visit thedisneyip.com.