by Kaitie Smith and Brittany DiCologero
In this CP Q&A, Kaitie, a Fall 2011 alumna from San Antonio, Texas, fills us in on her role in Tomorrowland Merchandise. Kaitie recently graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), where she majored in Interdisciplinary Studies with an EC (Early Childhood) – 6th grade concentration, and has begun her teaching career this Fall.
Q: What made you want to do the Disney College Program?
A: My friend, Danielle, mentioned it during a conversation, and I thought, “Oh – that sounds like fun. Maybe I’ll apply!” And I did! It was really spur of the moment; applications were about to drop the next week, I think.
Q: What was your role and location? Was it your first choice? If not, what was?
A: I was Merchandise in Tomorrowland. I didn’t really have a first choice. I had never been to Disney prior to my program, and I really had no clue what the different roles were, or what would be expected. I had no point of reference for what I wanted to do there!
Q: What was your training like?
A: My training was a whirlwind! Honestly, I was prepared for the position. I had done a lot of customer service type jobs prior to the DCP – including working at SeaWorld San Antonio, so I was pretty comfortable with everything the position required of me. The most memorable part of my training was Traditions. When they took us to the park, and we popped out on Main Street USA, and I saw the castle for the first time, I just started bawling. I felt like such a baby, but it was so emotional for me! I had just driven for three days, with only my roommate, and left my family for the first time, and that moment was filled with a sense of, “Oh. This is why I did this. THIS is the reason I am here.” I had a very personal magical moment my very first time in the park, and it was wonderful.
Q: What were the best things about your role?
A: The constant interaction with Guests was one of my favorite things. I am a people person, and I just loved the opportunity to make family vacations memorable. On top of that, the group of people I worked with were fantastic. We laughed ALL the time, about the silliest things. I made some really great friends during my time in T-Land Merch, and we stay in touch to this day, four years later!
Q: The worst?
A: The days were LONG. And tiring. And stressful. The thing you have to understand about Disney, and working there, is that it is never enough. There will always be something else you could be doing, or should be doing, or that someone will tell you to do. It will often feel like you’re not making a difference, but you ARE. I always tried to remind myself that if I made at least ONE person’s day better, I had done my job. I went to work, I was kind and polite to everyone, and I went above and beyond when I was able. But with 30 Guests in line to buy ponchos during a predictable 2:30 PM downpour? Not every Guest is going to feel the Pixie Dust in that very moment. That doesn’t mean that I can’t make a difference to one of those people.
Q: Would you recommend this role to a friend?
A: I absolutely would recommend Merchandise to a friend. I think it’s one of the easier jobs at Disney. It’s definitely not as stressful as, say, Quick Service. It has it’s moments, but overall, it was a wonderful experience for me, and I think others would benefit from the experience as well.
Q: What advice would you have for new CPs in this role?
A: This isn’t really role-specific, but spend as much time as possible at the parks during your off days. You will regret not spending more time there when you go back home. There will be days when you’re so exhausted, all you want to do is sleep; go to the parks anyway. You are young. You can survive without a couple hours of sleep. When you are back in your hometown, and your memories are starting to fade, you will wish you had MORE memories, of MORE times playing in the parks. Don’t take that perk for granted.
Q: What have you been up to since your program ended?
A: I’ve been in process of finishing my degree, as well as working full time. I took a year off of school about a year and a half after I got back from Disney, and worked in a school here in San Antonio that services students with special needs. I absolutely fell in love with the field, and am now set to graduate from UTSA this May with my Bachelor’s in Education. I plan on teaching elementary special education. I also continue to participate in local community theater. I love musical theater, and it’s a great outlet for me, creatively. I guess I’ve grown up a lot since my time with the DCP. I’m really not at a place anymore where I can justify even thinking about applying for another program, and it makes me sad, but also hopeful for my future. Maybe I’ll find my way back to Disney again as a Cast Member, but if not, it’s one of my top vacation destinations, and I’ll see Mickey again real soon.