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Training at Disney

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When Monday rolled around, I had to get up at 5:00am for my first official day of training. This was a paid, 7:00am to 2:00pm session. The first four hours were going over safety and how to act as employee at the happiest place on Earth. And let me tell you, it’s hard. There are all these rules about pointing with two fingers, going above and beyond to make every guest feel like an individual, and then constantly being happy. Don’t get me wrong, there is a reason Disney has the best customer service, but it’s a lot to take it all at once!

We got a quick break, much like in High School. We ate lunch in a cafeteria and clock in and out whenever we left the classroom.

The second learning session was the four keys of Disney; safety, courtesy, show, and efficiency. It went super in depth about how and why Walt Disney World, and Disney cast members are looked to with standards above and beyond any other theme park or employee. What I took most away from these sessions is that Disney does everything for a reason. Actually everything. I cannot stress that enough! It’s actually crazy how detailed everything is once you start looking for it.

I had Tuesday off so I went to the parks once the sun started to set, I road Tower of Terror and Rocking Rollar Coaster three times each with my roommate. It was a great time. Very little waiting in lines.

I had to get up at 5:00am the next morning to make it to training at 7:30. Buses are a rough way to travel.

This training was a lot more fun than the other days, I actually got to be in the park. We talked a lot about what Animal Kingdom represents and how the park is about the animal and guest happiness.

Later, when the park opened, we walked around, made note of all the things guests can do, and where everything is located. The best part was riding the Safari ride (where I will work). I saw the baby elephant! But I am still looking out for that baby hippo.

After our lunch break we were taken to costuming. It was a cosplayers dream! Racks and racks of all the costumes Animal Kingdom employees have to offer. I love my safari uniform, it is going to be perfect for traveling through the savanna.

I can’t wait to start driving!

My first day of on site training was off to a rough start. I was ten minutes late because I carpooled with someone who did not know where she was going. It was a mess. But, the rest of the day was chill.

I got shown, in depth, the part of the park I would be working at. I can now point out all the hidden Mickeys and characters in Africa.

I then went on the Safari and saw the baby hippo! The rest of the day was spent memorizing animals at the reserve and facts about them. It was a long day.

The second day of my intensive training was spent learning to drive the safari trucks. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, but it is defiantly scary. The roads of Africa are super bumpy, and at some points you need to be so precise about how you turn or a tire will pop. And then Disney fires you… or as they call it, termed.

To my surprise, I was actually really good at driving! It’s not a stick shift like I had been told, thank goodness, and it isn’t too different from a minivan. You just need to take much wider turns.

I spent some time running fast pass, or check in, as they say at Kilimanjaro’s safari ride. As well as the radio language, such as, 10-4 (ten four) means “okay,” or “afermative.”

Once I felt good about those, it was back to Animal facts!

My days might not seem long, but they start at 5:00am when I wake up to catch the bus, and end at 6:00pm when the bus finally brings me home. It’s technically less than nine hours of actually working, but, it’s a lot more. Not to mention how tired I already am from spending most of my free time running around the parks!

The third day of training with a train was the real deal. I had to take guests out on the trucks, drive the truck, and also talk and locate animals.

Now that I am able to drive the truck around the reserve, my trainer asked me to do it while talking about the animals. It was a struggle.

At one point I said the bongo had four legs because I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Regardless, my training still believed in me to be able to give a tour. So, after lunch, I took my first set of guests out into the reserve.

I was shaking like a leaf! One wrong turn not taken wide enough and I would pop a tire and lose my job. To add to that, I had to look for animals and try to remember all the information I learned about each one of them.

I was able to give three (modestly successful) tours. I had a few moments of being tongue tided, but, overall the guests didn’t seem to notice.

I got off at 3:30, went home, and slept. Between the super early mornings and the terrifying job requirements, I just wanted to spend my days off resting.

Which I kind of did. Haha.

Sunday I went to the pool and then Hollywood’s Studios to watch some shows.

Monday I got up and my friend texted me saying she wanted to go to EPCOT, and I said, why not. We didn’t go on many rides since the lines were long, which is strange for a Monday.

I wasn’t out late, I was able to get home by 6:00pm, make dinner, and crash hard by 10:00pm. I had another day of training tomorrow.

 

Let me tell you, driving that truck is hard. Driving that truck at night is terrifying! You lose all ability to see the road in the mirrors and you just got to hope you don’t bump into anything because you can’t see. It’s also difficult to give tours at night since the animals are usually all asleep in their barns. It’s cool at night, temperature pub included, seeing what the reserve is live after the sun sets but it seems to be very inefficient. But hey, at least I get paid even if animals are a no show.

I also had to learn loading. This involved taking the huge line of people, asking them “how many in your party?” And hoping you can divide by four. Outside of those who did not listen to me (probably because of my earning ears tag) and those who didn’t speak English, my biggest challenge was breaking up groups of five. You ask them to go three and two and then you have to remember where the two go so you can ask another park of two to join them for max efficiency. And if the party has little kids you need to make a choice, have a family of five squish into one row or break them up.

It’s just a lot to think about and I need a ton more practice.

But now that I think about it. I only have two days of training left until I get assessed. Dang.

By the fifth day of training I now feel more confident about what I am doing. Animals are easy to spot and facts come out naturally. I gave three tours today, one of which had a bunch of kids in it and it was so much fun! They really reacted well to everything I had to say and we had a great time talking about lions and rhinos.

When it got dark, my trainer had me take a truck to give night tours. I was able to complete two before a coworker “bumped” me. It was time for their shift.

Even though the days are really long and everything seems stressful, making people happy is what I do at Disney. I love seeing faces light up when I turn a corner and announce an animal. I’m sure I will have more stories to tell once I pass assessment on Saturday and start working actual shifts.

So my last day of training was stressful. I am so scared to be assessed tomorrow. I feel like I can do everything but I don’t think I can do it well on my own.

I also learned about the stroller parking area called pram, and the ratios of fast pass to stand by ride let ins.

I like be stationed at “boco” because it’s a lot less math than loading, or departure.

In departure you ask “how many in your party?” Then you wait for them to count. If it is a party of four or three, you’re golden. They get sent to a row and it’s filled. If it is a party of five adults (five with kids and usually squish), you have to tell them three sit in those row and two in the next row so that you can fit another party of two with them and no one is sitting alone.

It’s not a lot of math but when you need to load thirty plus people into a truck in less than half a minute, it gets hard.

Boco is fun for me because you can talk to guests, they tend to listen more, and, you just have to look at the masses. If fast pass is busy and crowded, we will let them through for a long time and let a standby group go after a bit. But, if no one is in the fast pass you can just let stand by go without really caring about the ratio. It does get completed at times because a phone will ring and you have to hold both lines, answer the phone, and fulfill that request as fast as it is safe.

But I like it.

I’m stressed but not bored.

I don’t feel the best about my assessment tomorrow, however my trainer says I am more than ready. The way I look at it is… if I can pass neuroscience than I should be able to pass a Disney assessment. I’m going to be super bummed if I don’t.

My assessment day started at 7:00am (I had to be up at 5:00am to get the bus), and my first task was to open a truck.

As annoying as it is to go through the entire checklist but at least I got it done and did it well.

My next test was to give a tour and dock at the three places without issue. The tour was fine for my standards. I plan to have everyone clapping at the end of every tour I give.

I performed six other tasks that will be apart of my daily work rotation. They all seem easy but become very hard when you are trying to load 400 people in ten minutes.

After lunch I took the written exam which I did not do well on! I’m sure I will be needing extra time at SASC when I return to UNE. But I still passed that.

I was given a certificate and signed a secret book that is hidden in one of the prop houses in Africa. Everyone that has worked Safari (relatively recently) has put their name in the book along with their favorite animal on the reserve. It’s all starting to feel real now.

Tomorrow I start my first day of work, it is a twelve hour shifts so I am sure I’ll be 107 (radio talk for dead) after.

If you happen to be at Animal Kingdom, please stop by the Safari and say hi!

I’ll be around.

 

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