|By Sam Vlas|
Welcome foolish mortals to “A Dutchman in Orlando”. Now this title seems pretty straightforward, but let me explain… As some of you may know, I was an International Cast Member at Walt Disney World from July 2014 to last January. It was an awesome, educational, meaningful, emotional, fun and eye-opening experience. I meant to do this series while I was in Florida, but every minute of my spare time was spent in and around Walt Disney World. I collected enough stories to share with you guys and I hope this will help those of you who want to be a Cast Member through the Disney College Program. So, if your imagination is ready, here we go…
A Dutchman in Orlando – My Adventures as an International Cast Member in Walt Disney World
• PART 1: The Beginnings (The Application Process, Interviews and Acceptance)
• PART 2: Packing for the Trip (+ Packing list)
• PART 3: First days in the Sunshine State (Traditions, Magic Kingdom)
• PART 4: Role #1: Outdoor Foods at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s
• PART 5: EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
• PART 6: Role #2: Left Block Merchandise at DHS
• PART 7: Shenanigans
• PART 8: The “other” parks
• PART 9: Reflections of Orlando
This thrilling ride began last year, in September to be exact, at my school: the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries. It was the very first class of the then newly created course “Visitor Attractions”. Our lecturer, Pieter Cornelis, just came here from the NHTV (a leisure oriented university in Breda) and we had a blast learning more about the exciting theme park industry. Pieter had already set up an exchange program with Walt Disney World while he worked at NHTV. So when the opportunity arose to create a similar program at our school, we were immediately interested. Every week we asked him about how the program was going along and, after a little while, we finally got the news that this program was going to happen.
From there on, things picked up fairly quick. Over the weeks, 15 students expressed interest in the program. All of them are very passionate people, so that couldn’t go wrong. The first big step was to apply for the Program via Yummy Jobs, which is the mediating agency between Disney and us. We had certain things to prepare (like a resume and motivation emails) for the Pre-Screening Interview, which was held January 31st of this year. It was a nerve-wrecking experience since I had never done this type of interview before. Luckily, my passion for Disney and theme parks helped me express my sincere interest in this program. Not long after that, I got the email that I passed the pre-screening interview; the first of many steps was made.
Then it was time to face the Final Boss, the people from Disney. March 24th was the date when the casting agents from Disney would arrive at our school. Everyone was very nervous; this was the only chance we had to prove that we were “worthy” of an internship at Walt’s world. We all dressed up nicely (which is a thing we should do more, it adds so much class (PUN!) to a school day) and we all went for it.
We had two interviews to go through. One was with a representative from the sponsoring school CMU (Central Michigan University) and one with Sue, a darling woman who was the casting agent for International Programs for Disney. I can guarantee you, my dear readers, that these were some of the most nerve-wrecking moments of my entire life!
After that we played the waiting game… Everybody was in doubt whether all the hard work and preparations would pay off. Around the middle of April, we finally got the mail that would change our lives… at least temporary.
And thus our epic journey to Walt’s world could finally begin. For me it were the Realms of Food & Beverage and Merchandise which would be my home the coming months. Nothing could prepare me for the journey ahead. And after many other preparations, the time had finally come. On July 14th we departed from Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, headed for Orlando, Florida. Our Disney adventure finally began!
Stay tuned for Part 2, where I arrive in Florida and dive into the first days of Cast Member-ship!
Sam Vlas comes to us from the Netherlands. In everyday life Sam is a Communication major, studying International Event, Music and Entertainment Studies at the Fontys Academy for Creative Industries in Tilburg. He is following the Theme Park course, since he is an aspiring Imagineer. Sam has been a life-long theme park and Disney fan since he was a kid. He has been going to Efteling, which is a world class theme park in the Netherlands. When he was a teenager, Sam became more interested in the technical side of things. It was around that time that he found out that Walt Disney was an actual person, not just some company name. Since then he has been pursuing a creative career in the theme park industry. Sam has participated in the Academic Exchange Program in Walt Disney World from July 2014 to January 2015. You’ll be hearing much more of that in the near future! Besides Disney and theme parks, Sam has a broad interest in everything fantasy, sci-fi and horror. He writes short stories and is currently working on his own website “Dreamventurer”, which he hopes will be released very soon! Sam will write about many different aspects of the company, from the very well known places and movies to very obscure corners of the Company. Since he worked in Orlando, he'll be able to share some Cast Member stories too. Everything Disney grabs Sam's attention, so if he finds something exciting, he will be sure to share it!