Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Cultural Representative Program Pre-Departure Checklist

We think the worry is over after successfully getting through interviews and accepting an offer. Oh no no no, there is a big checklist of things "to do" before actually starting a Disney International Program and it can be a little overwhelming especially if you have never done anything like this before. I thought I would put together a little checklist of things that need to be done in the things preceding a program which will also serve as my own little checklist, to see where I'm upto in the process.

Accept Offer & Upload Documents onto DOC
Upon the offer of a position on the CRP you will be directed to accept via the candidate portal (link will be sent). This will contain your offer letter which will have your program start and end date upon it, as well as your role. You are also required to upload several documents onto Disney's DOC website, which includes a scan of your passport, any previous visas and some personal details. This must all be done within 30 days of receiving an offer.

Program Assessment Fee ($154.50)
Additionally, within 30 days of receiving an offer you must pay the program assessment fees. This pays for amenities within the Disney housing complexes as well as any housing events that are regularly thrown.

DBS Check & Fee (£80)
Disney requires that Yummy Jobs perform a Criminal Background Check on their behalf before the commencement of any program, the fee of which is payable via the Yummy Jobs website immediately after you receive an offer. The paperwork will be sent in the post to your home address along with detailed instructions on how to fill it out. This needs to be sent back to Yummy Jobs asap as the check can take upto 12 weeks. Upon receiving your DBS certificate back in the post, it has to be scanned and emailed to Yummy Jobs.

There is nothing more satisfying than booking a one-way flight to Orlando. There are several options and airlines you can choose from including price comparison websites, STA travel (where you initially only have to put down a deposit) and airlines own websites. I've personally found Thomas Cook the cheapest but I'm probably going to end up going with Virgin Atlantic, as I have air miles that I can use to get a Premium Economy flight for £300 or am Economy Flight for £160. Decisions decisions.

Medical Insurance
It is required that all International Programs participants have medical insurance when entering the USA. For those on the CRP, there are 2 options. One is to purchase a plan covering the whole 12 months of the program from a UK provider. Yummyjobs do recommend you contact Yummy Travel to ask for a quote, as being a YJ participant we get 20% off. When I inquired the standard cover was £349 for the whole year. The other option is to pay for 4 months of insurance, then swap over to Disney's own medical insurance which will be taken out of your paycheck every month. The quote I got for 4 months was £195 for standard cover. I will probably try and pay for a years cover before I go out there so I don't have to worry about it, but will definitely be getting some advice on it as the whole insurance thing is a little confusing. Do be aware that operating participants, such as those on the HRC program, do not have access to Disney's medical insurance so will have to purchase cover for their program beforehand.

Visa Application Process ($190 + $30 passport return + travel)
The visa process is probably the scariest part of the pre arrival tasks to be honest. You know when you walk past a police officer on the street and think "look innocent, look innocent!" and try and look all nonchalant even though you've done nothing wrong. Yeah...that.
Visa instructions arrive 2 monthsish before arrival via the DOC dashboard with a document called I-797, which will need to be printed. This now means you can now log onto the embassy website and fill out an online form to apply for a Q-1 visa, which includes some eligibility questions and the DS-160 form. After this an embassy appointment can be booked and paid for, as well as choosing a delivery option for your passport to be returned. You are required to travel to the embassy in either London or Belfast. I've been to the London embassy twice before and its rather simple to find, getting off the tube at Marble Arch and walking a few streets over. Do be aware that no electronic devices are allowed inside the embassy, although I have a feeling they have changed these rules recently to allow mobile phones inside. Apparently people generally don't wait too long when applying for a Q-1 visa, but I've had two different experiences with wait times so cannot say how long it will take. When getting my J-1 visa it took hours, while for my CD-1 visa I was in and out. First you are called upto a window to hand in your forms and take fingerprints. After this there is another wait before being called upto the second window where the visa interview is held. They mostly ask questions such as "where will you be working in the US" and "where are you currently employed". It may sound scary but its nothing to worry about. Just answer honestly and you will be fine. Then approve your visa there and then and inform you that your passport will be returned in 5 working days.

This is the most exciting step! A week or two before arrival you will get an email from Disney asking you to log onto DORMS, the housing management system. This will let you pick your housing preference and link with 1-8 more people (the number depends on arrival date) to be roommates. I remember when DORMS first launched the year I was doing my summer program and we got so excited that we could actually pick roommates and note our preference. Of course this is not guaranteed and there is also an option to "go in blind" if you don't mind.

It's currently 138 days to go for me and I have just sent off my DBS paperwork and am getting ready to book my flights next payday! It still doesn't feel real and I don't think it truly will until I'm sitting on that plane getting ready to jet off to the most magical place on earth for a whole year.


Thursday, 15 December 2016

Jane Does Disney Part 2

 Well hello there, it's been a while hasn't it? If you didn't follow my International College Program (or Cultural Exchange Program as its now dubbed) back in 2013, this blog was a kind of secondary outlet to my YouTube channel in where I could explain things a little more in detail. As it were, after my program ended I didn't see much point in posting beyond the usual post-icp catch ups. Fast forward a few years later, and things are about to become abit more active around here.
On December 5th 2016 I received an email accepting me onto Disney's Cultural Representative Program.


If you don't know what the Cultural Representative Program is, it's a 12 month program in where young people from all over the world come together to work either in Animal Kingdom, Animal Kingdom Lodge, Guest Relations or in Epcot's World Showcase, depending on what country they are from. I am so excited and proud to be representing my home, the United Kingdom, in the UK Pavilion within Epcot and cannot wait to be back in the magic. I will be starting my journey on June 12th 2017 until June 7th 2018 in the role of Food & Beverage.

Do keep an eye on my Youtube Channel which will have videos leading upto my program and here on the blog where I shall share my bucket list, application & interview advice, any pre arrival steps and my time out in Florida. 


Monday, 1 September 2014

Walt Disney World J-1 Cultural Exchange Program (ICP) Recommended British Blogs & Vlogs

walt disney world j1 cultural exchange program recommended blogs and vlogs

When applying for my International College Program, something I found really helpful during the application process were blogs and vlogs. Reading/listening about other peoples experiences gave me an idea of what to expect, and while a few of them were out-dated, the basics were still relatively similar. Today I wish to share with you some YouTube channels and blogs which you may find helpful when applying for a program, or just as an interesting watch/read. When I was looking for vlogs in particular, there was a lack of “during the program” footage, which I’m happy to say is now no longer the case! I loved that I kept a record of my summer, for my own memories and so others can get a feel for what it’s like to spend the summer working for the mouse. It’s great to see many more British ICP vloggers about these days. Now these recommendations are going to be mostly from recent programs (2013 and 2014) as I'm sure we’ve all seen the popular videos from the likes of Adam, Gabriella and Catherine (participants whose videos helped my own application process). So without further ado, here’s a list of some blogs and vlogs you really should check out!

Hayley the Noob (2013)

Hayley was one of my flatmates during the ICP program who vlogged along with me, although she sucks and still hasn't uploaded all her footage, over a year later. Her videos are all during the program itself, so gives a great overview of what you can expect from your days off. Plus I'm in alot of them, which by default makes them amazing. Haha!

Rachel (2013)

Rachel is another one of my ICP buddies, who I also went travelling with after the program! She has many detailed videos about the application process, leading up to the program, some bits from the actual program and life after. She’s also vlogged her recent Walt Disney World trip too!

Rebecca Bretherton (2014)

A more recent one, Rebecca was part of the 2014 program and has some great videos leading up to the program and some fab vlogs during her time in Florida. I do follow current/recent participants who YouTube (which makes me die a little inside because i want to re-live the ICP so badly), as I love to watch Disney Parks vlogs in general and am rather nosey. 

JustAScottishLass (2014)

Another 2014 participant who's videos I recently discovered! Some great “during the program” footage and her accent is amazing!

Emma Josephine (2013)

We were on the same program but I only actually started talking to Emma after the program! She’s so lovely! I came across her blog online which documents her summer working for the mouse as well gives an interesting account of her trek to Mt Everest Base Camp for charity!

Dan @ Disney

So this guy is out there on his fourth program! He’s done 2 ICP’s and is currently on his 2nd CRP! I'm slightly jealous, not gonna lie! His blog is basically Disney International Program 101 and a must read for all future applicants.

There are many many more British ICP blogs and videos out there so don't just stop at this list. A great place is the WDWIP forums, particularly for ‘pre-facebook-group’. I actually met my Disney roommate Jen via the forums!
Remember, if you have any questions feel free to leave me a comment or send me a tweet @hippymeow! Also if you have an ICP blog/youtube or know of any great ones do link them in the comments!


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Friday, 16 May 2014

Disneyland: August 2013














This is ridiculously late going up for some reason. Yeah, i suck! But anyway, here is a little peek at what I got up to in Disneyland last August. I visited Anaheim after my ICP program with Jen, Becky and Rachael, although I spent my time in Disneyland with Jen while the other two did their own thing. We had an amazing time, probably one of the best moments of my whole life. Walking down the original main street in the footsteps of Walt himself was a surreal experience. Never did I think I would get to visit the place where it all started. Disney World may be the most magical place on earth, but Disneyland is without a doubt the happiest place on earth. I’ve never felt so relaxed. The crowds weren't too bad and the whole atmosphere was less touristy, more homely in a way.

We had three days there so spent our first day exploring, going on rides and meeting a few characters before heading over to California Adventures to explore and watch World of Color. One thing I do want to mention, is how different character experiences are in Disneyland. They just walk around unattended! You can find Cruella strutting her stuff, Peter Pan sitting by the wishing well and Mary Poppins taking a stroll down Main Street. Additionally the shows are perfection. World of Color is just something else and we loved Soundsational parade so much, we watched it 5 times haha!

On day two we spent most of the day in California Adventures before heading over to watch Magical and Fantasmic. Again, these were such amazing experiences. For the fireworks, everyone was sat down! There was no pushing and shoving to find a good spot, just everyone sat down in front of the castle, chatting and relaxing. This was the same for the parades too. Everyone was just sitting down having a jolly old time.

Our third and final day was a little special, as it was long lost friends week. You should have seen my excitement when I found out that Jane and Tarzan were going to be there. They’re my favourite Disney characters but also very rare to meet in the parks, so I feel so lucky to have been here for this event. We also got to meet Meg, Hercules and Hades. Meg was so freaking amazing! Exactly how I would imagine film Meg to act. Additionally we met the Pocahontas gang (Meeko, John Smith, Governor Ratcliffe and Pocahontas herself) and Merlin, who was such a cutie! I 100% prefer interactions at Disneyland. They feel so much more involving and personal. Another magical moment was when I was skyping my mum at the top of main street near the entrance, I had the camera on and was showing her Pluto who was doing a meet close by. Next minute Pluto pops up behind my and starts waving at mum, grabs my arm and walks with me to the area where they go backstage, giving me a big hug before I leave and getting down on one knee haha. All the while my mum was still on the other end. At this point Mickey Mouse pops out, all the while still on skype, so I give my phone to a nearby cast member so Jen could snap a picture of me and Mickey. The cast member then starts talking to my mum haha! Best cast members/characters ever!



I would love to go back to Disneyland again and would really recommend that any Walt Disney World fan go to Disneyland at some point. I did vlog my time in Disneyland so you can check those videos out on my channel!


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Thursday, 15 May 2014

Upcoming Trip to Disney World & First Impressions of Fastpass+ and My Disney Experience!


I’m going to Florida! If you follow me on Twitter you have probably already seen me tweet about my upcoming trip to Florida. It was a last minute thing, booked between me finishing university and heading off to work on the cruise ship. We got a pretty good deal, staying on international drive for 10 nights, 3rd June – 13th June! It just so happens that I’m going on exactly the same day and on exactly the same flight that I was on when heading out for my ICP last year *tear*.

my disney experience fastpassplus walt disney world2

Alot of things have changed since I was last there. For one, the paper fastpasses have been retired in favour of a new electronic system. This new system enables guests to select their fastpasses in advance, from 60 days in advance for on site guests and 30 days in advance for off site guests/annual pass holders. These can be booked via the My Disney Experience website or the mobile app. This system also enables a user to book dining reservations and add event reminders (such as a parade time) to make up a sort of itinerary. I’m still really on the fence about this system, as planning times for things is something I would rather do on the day. Of course you can book things on the day via the fastpass booths placed around the parks, but then you have a smaller chance of getting a time you want (and there could be queues depending on how busy the park is). Another disadvantage is that the standby line times could considerably increase as I believe its an 80% fastpass priority for letting onto a ride, and if all the slots for that hour have been booked its going to have a ripple effect. A recent change has seen the introduction of guests being able to book extra fastpasses via the booths, once their initial ones have been used. This is definitely a welcome change, although it will hinder those who have firework/show viewings. Oh well, one step at a time!

Overall, there are some benefits and there are some downsides to the system. I have made a video, which you can see below, that discusses some of my first impressions and goes into more detail about it. I will be making part 2 after I have experienced it in the parks, about how well it worked and how it effected standby wait times.

Of course, another trip to Disney means I will also have vlogs! I will be vlogging my trip so expect to see them start to go up around mid-june.
What do you think of the new Fastpass+ system?


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Friday, 9 May 2014

Post- Disney ICP Travel Advice


I’ve had a few questions about travelling in America after the Disney International College Program so thought I would make a post to address some of these. On the J-1 Visa you will have 30 days after you’re finish date to travel around America. This gives plenty of time to hit lots of different places! I’m not going to lie, it can be expensive so have some money set aside for it. Of course you will be getting paid while working for Disney to make sure to save some spending money. I will talk about costs in abit though!

Firstly I want to talk about travel buddies and deciding where to visit. Some people decide who to travel with very early on. I already had my travel group sorted by the end of November (we found out we got onto the program on the 2nd). I was lucky that two of the girls I met at interviews, Becky and Jennifer were interested in travelling to the same places as me, so we made a separate conversation/chat on facebook for it. I believe we also asked on the general facebook group for another person to travel with, to which Rachel then joined our little party. We discussed places we wanted to visit and had a look on the internet for good deals on flights and accommodation. Rachel organized a lot of the itinerary around the number of days we all agreed to stay in each place. One thing I would recommend is travel in a four. Alot of hotel rooms in America charge per room, and most rooms have 2 double beds, so it will work out cheaper. Don’t worry if you haven't found anybody yet though or still haven't decided what to do. Booking a flexible flight back from the US is the best plan of action as you can change it then if your plans change. Ask around in the Facebook group, but I would suggest having a plan beforehand. When in Florida you will still have a group of British friends, but everyone disperses to hang out with room-mates, work colleagues etc so it will be more difficult to find a travel buddy. I don’t think i ever actually hung out with Becky in Disney, and only really went out with Rachel twice! As we did already have everything booked and planned though, we didn't have to worry about it.


Next is the actual booking. We all agreed on flight times and days, booking the domestic through the Vrigin America website. Our homeward flight was booked as a return when choosing the initial flight to America, travelling home from JFK in New York. We also booked accommodation before going out there, staying at two hotels and one apartment. For the hotels, we booked through and made sure to read reviews, find a great price and make sure we were in a good location. Now New York was different. Hotels in Manhattan are very expensive, so we took another route and booked an apartment through Air B&B. We spent alot less than we would have staying in a hotel and got to experience a different side of New York. I could almost imagine that I lived there… almost haha!


Finally, I’m going to talk about costs. My two Virgin America flights cost $337.80 while the Vrigin Atlantic flight was £583.37 return, I’m counting that as separate though as that was needed anyway. For LA, staying at Quality Inn Near Hollywood Walk of Fame for 5 nights, it was $655 (tax not included) split between the four of us. Our hotel in Anaheim was a Travelodge at $267 (tax not included) for 3 nights, split between the four of us. The costs were paid upon arrival, so it would be easy enough to save some wages up for them. The apartment on the other hand, we had to pay upfront. It worked out at £186.50 each for 6 nights. All together It worked out at just over £500 each for the trip (aka accommodation and flights), not including food, Disneyland park tickets, the New York pass and the 3 nights we spent at a Disney resort before starting our adventure. I personally took £700 with me for spend on a FairFX card plus whatever was left from my Disney wages. I did end up adding another £100 - £200 to the FairFX card (cant remember exactly how much) while I was travelling and did get paid a final Disney pay check of $200 also. It is expensive, but completely worth it as I probably wont get another chance to visit these places for a long long time. I got a job in my third year purely to save for Disney and travelling. I worked hard and worked lots of hours at Disney to be able to afford what i spend on merchandise and travel. It was the best experience of my life and worth every penny. Besides, how much does a 2 week trip to Disney World normally cost?

I hope this gave you a little insight to travelling after your Disney ICP and if you have any more questions please feel free to comment or tweet me (@hippymeow)! I also realised I didnt actually post about my time in LA, Disneyland and NY, so expect to see some photo diaries coming up!


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Friday, 24 January 2014

CRP Applications are now open!


Hello there! I’m just posting a quick one to let you know that applications for Disney’s Cultural Representative Program are now open! If you don't know what the CRP is, it’s a 12 month program which will give you the chance to work in the UK pavilion in Epcot. You will be representing the UK, sharing our culture while experiencing others. I will be applying for it! I was going to keep it secret at first but I’m not too bothered about sharing if I don't get on. I didn’t get past the application stage in Autumn 2013 but this year I am determined to make my application the best it can be. I WILL work for the mouse again. Of course when I do finally get onto the program (one day I will, i swear it) this blog and my YouTube will become an outlet for that, so keep an eye out over the next few months. If I get onto the program, I’m bound to make a million posts about it haha.

If you wish to apply, go to the Yummy Jobs website and select the Cultural Representative Program. Good luck!