About 10 years ago, I embarked on a journey of a lifetime. I don’t just write those words to fill up space on the page. It was literally one of the best experiences of my life. One of my most memorable jobs was working for Disney. When I was young I always dreamed of going to Disney as most children do. I always told myself that one day I will make it. So when recruiters came to my college for the Disney College program I saw it as the perfect opportunity. Exactly ten years ago around this time, I was getting on a plane to live and work in Kissimmee, Florida to work for Disney. Here are my reasons why working for Disney was great.
I was so eager to go that when I applied, I signed up for all the jobs. The recruiter told me I had a better chance of getting in if I did it that way – so I did it that way. I remember the day I found out. I was at school and my mom got home before me. She was more eager than me. She opened the mail before I got home and told me over the phone. I am still low-key bothered by the fact that she opened my mail. I wanted to experience the anticipation of opening the mail myself. I was still so happy about finally being able to go to Disney. I was going to be a custodian and it didn’t phase me. I was 19 and I had plenty of time to build my resume. When I applied for customer service jobs after Disney I made sure to put on my resume that I learned Disney’s “customer service techniques” which really helped.
In the beginning, I felt discriminated against because they made me dye my locs all black. They told me it needed to look professional or something like that. They had strict policies when it came to appearance. When I first arrived on the bus there was a person to check me in and inspect me. They had to make sure I ( as well as the other recruits) didn’t have visible tattoos or piercings because apparently we could get sent back if we didn’t meet the guidelines. The woman told me that my hair needed to be one color. I thought I was going to get sent home because I had no idea how to dye my hair. A girl a met, who later became my good friend, Cortney was there with her mom (may her soul rip). Her mom came to help Cortney get settled and she really helped me out. We went and bought the hair dye and she did it for me. I later found out that it was total bs because there were plenty of girls (white) who had highlights or different colors in there hair.
One of the main benefits of working for Disney was getting that customer service training that it is known for. Disney was probably one of the best companies I worked for. I mean yeah they exploit college students and cover it as an “internship”, but I actually was able to connect with a writer that worked for Disney (in those years I really wanted to be a writer). A student could definitely make connections there, but they would have to put in the work and I was too naive to understand the importance of making connections. I attempted to make a connection with the Disney writer but didn’t follow through. I was so caught up in working, schooling, and hanging out with friends. I wish the older Jahmella (me now) was there to keep me on track. Regardless, I still had a good experience and as I mentioned it did help me to get jobs in retail.
Another benefit of doing the program was that I got somewhat of a college experience. I was a commuter when I went to Maryland, so I felt like I didn’t get the full college experience. While working for Disney I was able to get a replica of that experience. On my first day of orientation, I met some really cool people who I still stay in contact with now. I have lost contact with one of my friends recently, but we stayed in touch for years. People talk about the friends they have for a lifetime from college, but I didn’t really have that. Instead, I have friends from Disney. I was only in Florida for a semester, but it feels like I was there longer.
I lived in a three-bedroom apartment with three baths and five other girls. It was different for me because it was my first time living away from home. We didn’t own a t.v because we all had our own laptops and YouTube. This was around the time YouTube started to become a thing. That is the interesting thing about my generation. I think of us as a hybrid generation because we remember the days before the internet, but we are also the first generation to use the internet as well and personal computers. We were the generation of Myspace and other social sites that were overshadowed by Facebook. Facebook is so prevalent that sometimes it is hard for me to remember the name of Myspace, which exists now as a platform for musicians. Anyway, Youtube was me and my roommate’s form of entertainment and occasionally we would spend time together by sharing funny videos with each other. I really believe Youtube was the stepping stone out of cable. Who needs cable when you have Youtube?
We were 6 very different young women from different parts of the country, one of my roommates was even Canadian. We learned to get along, but of course, with 6 different young women living together, there was bound to be drama. I remember a particular running joke two of my roommates had against another one because they were jealous of her. She had a few guys chasing her and they were spreading rumors about her. She was mixed, Mexican and white, had nice tanned skin and long legs. She was a beautiful girl, with great hair, and a sweet demeanor. Of course, guys liked her. There was this one guy in particular that would always proclaim his love for her in his foreign accent “Sophia I love you”. Think of a guy saying this in a Spanish accent, I thought it was the funniest thing ever. She wasn’t the only oddball out.
One time all of them went out to a club while I was at work (at that time I was totally against clubs and didn’t understand the point – a super Christian girl, but they still didn’t ask me) and all five them forgot their key. I still cannot figure out how five girls can forget their keys at home. Not one of them was responsible enough to say, oh we should bring our key because Jahmella may not be home. Or even simpler, we should bring our key because it’s where we live and we need to get in because Jahmella is working. I don’t remember if I was sleep or at work, but either way it inconvienced me. Then again we were between the ages of 18-19 so I guess there’s that.
It was fun living in that community. Even though we didn’t have a t.v. our neighbors, the guys across the hall did and we had movie nights with them sometime. This was before Netflix, so Netflix and chill was not even a thing. And it wasn’t just the guys across the hall that were cool. Everyone who lived in that apartment complex all hung out with each other. All of us were not besties, but we got along well. This was when I had my first Friendsgiving. All of us were together when Obama became president-elect. Everybody ran out of their apartments to celebrate in the middle of the night. Then, we all went out for Ihop at 2 in the morning. And yes half of us probably had to wake up early for work. It was a moment to celebrate. I will never forget that time I came home to missing couches and blinds. I didn’t know what was going on. Turns out the boys across the hall stole our couches and blinds as a prank. My roommates spent hours fussing at them to get it back. They returned our furniture eventually.
Working for Disney was awesome because I had unlimited free access to all the parks. I would go to one or two parks almost every day with my friends. It was the perfect reward after I hard day. Everybody hyped Space Mountain and Magic Kingdom while me and my friends were all about Hollywood Studios. We would ride the Tower of Terror and Rockin Roller Coaster back to back. We also liked the Yeti at Animal Kingdom. We went to shows like Fantastic and the Little Mermaid, which were theatrical and amazing. We never did as much as we planned because we thought we had enough time. I learned from this that it is better to make the plans because time runs out fast.
I was a full-time student and I was taking two courses online worth 6 credits. The other 6 credits were the Disney College Program itself. My ambitious self before Disney wanted to take 15 credits, but advisors advised me not to do it. While I was at Disney I barely studied for anything. I’m glad I took their advice. I was a pro at procrastinating and I did everything at the last minute. I remember one night specifically ditching my friends to go to the computer lab to study. I couldn’t focus at home. My friends came up with multiple solutions for us to hang out and for me to continue to procrastinate, but I didn’t back down. While I was on the bus to get to the computer lab I met some new recruits who were excited to be there. They invited me out, but I turned them down twice. In perfect procrastinator fashion by the third time I was offered free food that I could not turn down. So instead of studying and hanging out with my friends, I went to Putt-Putt and Fridays with some people I just met. I ended up getting a C in that class which I thought was good considering the amount of effort I put it.
Outside of Disney me and my friends, Cortney and Ciarra, just hung out. All of us were the only black girls in our apartments which at first was awkward. We went to Universal Studios with one of my friends who was a Disney alum who was trying to get into Full Sail. We went to a weird museum that had an earthquake simulator and Chick fil lay, well that was me, I love Chick fil lay. We were broke but still spent money like we were working with something. We got paid minimum wage, but we were working full time. I thought I was doing something then. I would work 16-hour shifts to make get paid overtime. Sometimes my regular schedule was a night shift (4-12:00am) and a morning shift (8-4) the next. So that meant I would get home have a couple hours of sleep and have to get up for work. I didn’t mind volunteering a double shift, but I hated working nights and then mornings back to back, it sucked. Regardless, I still had one of the highest-paying jobs.
Despite all of that I still consider this the best customer service job I’ve ever had and nothing after that compared. I think retail companies are not up to par with Disney’s customer service because they try their best to make every employee feel important, even though we still have crazy schedules and weird regulations about our appearance. Customers are the priority in retail, but doing your best to make your employees feel good about the service they are providing is just as important. At Disney, I felt like my job was important. Besides work stuff, I was happy to be at Disney.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post. Now I have something I want you to do. Comment below your worst or best job experience. Why was it so bad or great?