Amber Earns Her Ears

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Amber Sewell is 'earning her ears' at Disney World from the ground-up: her first experience as a Cast Member was her participation last year in Disney's CareerStart Program. Maybe you saw her at EPCOT's Electric Umbrella? If not, you'll be 'seeing' a lot of her on Disney Dispatch as she shares her stories about what it's like to be young and working for the Mouse. Amber's stories are fun, fascinating, and plain ol' fantastic. And maybe, just maybe, they'll put you on the road to earning your ears, too.

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FROM: Amber Earns Her Ears Published Mondays

Amber Starts the Disney College Program

Amber has earned her ears! Well, her CareerStart ears, anyway. But now she's returning to Disney World as part of the College Program, which often serves as a springboard to full-time Disney employment. Let's follow her back to the Mouse.

The Disney College Program is a competitive, paid internship open to college students who want to spend a semester at either Disneyland or Disney World working, learning, and possibly laying the foundation for a Disney career.

After a successful stint in Disney's CareerStart Program, Amber Sewell began work in May 2011 at Disney World as part of the College Program. We'll follow her adventures every week right here...

I missed Disney before I had even left it.

The long drive home, the drastic shift back to school life - all of it left me longing for the independence and fun that I had experienced in the Disney CareerStart Program.

I began talking immediately about returning for the College Program. Rather than discourage me from taking a semester off from school to return to Florida, my parents already began checking the calendar to see whether their next trip to Disney World would coincide with the start of the next College Program in May.

During high school I had taken enough classes through a local community college that I had a semester's worth built up, so I wouldn't really be falling behind in my schooling by returning. All I had to do was apply - and be accepted!

By the time applications rolled around, I was a little anxious about taking an entire semester off from school. But I had good reasons: not only did I miss Disney, but the College Program would give me yet another internship for my resume, it would be another inch gained toward a possible Disney career, and I would be able to put aside some money for a future study abroad program.

But the thought of how many general education courses I could knock off if I stayed in college and gave up on Disney began to worry me a bit.

Obviously, though, not enough to prevent me from applying as soon as the applications became available.

Amber Applies Herself

Sitting on my bed in my dorm, I waited for five o'clock with my laptop open. I had read on several discussion groups that 5:00 PM was the time College Program applications usually became available, and by the time six o'clock rolled around, I had filled out the application, passed the web-based interview, and had a phone interview scheduled in two days.

I didn't do nearly as much planning for this phone interview as I had done for my CareerStart phone interview. Rather, I scribbled down a few ideas - my top three roles and the top three areas where I would want to work within those roles - on an index card before locking myself in my boss's office at the animal clinic, waiting for the phone to ring.

When the phone rang, there was no mishap like last time. The interview went incredibly well. My interviewer was cheerful and friendly, and I felt totally at ease, slipping immediately into my Cast Member set of mind - if I ever left it behind.

We chatted for a bit, both along the lines of the interview and little tangents that those conversations led us to. I stressed that I wanted to stay busy - while I gave my top three roles as concierge, merchandise, and hospitality, I really just wanted a job that would keep me moving. We hung up, and I went back to work feeling very good about it.

A few hours later, when I walked out of the clinic, I saw that I had missed a call.

It was from the interviewer! She wanted to ask me another question, and said she would call back. Despite my moment of panic, wondering what in the world she could be calling about, I managed to fall asleep and her call woke me up from a nap.

She had forgotten to ask what areas I wanted to work in.

No matter how much confidence you have, the waiting is always miserable. Eventually, enough time passes that you start to rehash everything, and pick out where you might have messed up. I waited for two and half weeks, checking my e-mail constantly. My roommate warned me that the e-mail would come when I least expected it, but although that made sense, there was no way I was going to close my browser.

I wanted in.

Amber Awaits Acceptance

I suffered through several false alarms before finally my acceptance e-mail arrived. I get e-mails from several Disney representatives, and whenever I saw a capitalized "D", my stomach jumped a little. It was with great relief that I opened my e-mail with the purple banner, letting me know that I had made it - again!

I didn't exactly clear any of this with my university beforehand, an approach I don't recommend that you take with yours.

I have an incredibly stubborn streak, and I figured that this was clearly such a good opportunity that they would be crazy not to let me participate. When I passed my first week of waiting, I called our Career Services, who handle similar programs, and got the number of a woman I needed to call if I were accepted. I set up an appointment with her. The meeting went well, and it was agreed that my program would be treated simply as a co-op: an internship for which I was merely pausing my formal education.

Everything - housing, financial aid, etc. - was put on hold until next semester. Other meetings, such as with my educational advisor, went just as well.

Packing started, but with less fervor than before. Being the typical poor college student, I didn't get the opportunity to stock up months in advance. My birthday in January was filled with toasters, silverware, dishwands, a small crock pot, and other assorted items that I would need.

I didn't put things in tubs until I moved back home from school. I had a two week interim before moving to Florida, and those two weeks were filled with work, naps, and packing (which occurred much later than my mother would have liked). My parents and I were leaving on Saturday morning. That Friday, Mom and I ran around buying the last few items I needed, loading up my car, Dinosaur, and the truck they were driving, and taking my siblings to my aunt's house to stay.

I spent my last night at home eating junk food and watching movies.

Amber Returns to Disney World

Saturday morning, my mom graciously let me sleep in a little bit before waking me to finish our to-do list. We dropped the dogs off at the clinic to board while we were gone, finished packing, and got ready to leave. I said good-bye to my cat, Lily, feeling like a horrible mother as I left her yet again, and then we hit the road.

The drive was better this time around than it had been last year. We left at three in the morning last time, and it was raining and cold the entire way down. I even nodded off a bit as we passed through that final bit of Georgia into Florida. But the weather was great this time, and eleven was a much preferable hour.

I spent the trip with the windows down, radio probably way too loud, and my stuffed Donald Duck (which I'd gotten on my last day in the parks during my CareerStart Program) sitting in the passenger's seat, propped up in the laundry basket containing my bubble-wrapped Harry Potter books. I didn't nod off this time, but I did clamber out of the car with a sunburn matching my father's: our left arms are currently a bright red, with a paler strip around our wrists from our watch. The sunblock I applied when we stopped for dinner did absolutely nothing.

We arrived at our resort around 10:45 that night, and it wasn't long until I was asleep. We were awake early Sunday to hit EPCOT, and after Soarin' and a breakfast at Sunshine Seasons, we hit the World Showcase before making our way to Downtown Disney to finally ride Characters in Flight. After a nap at our resort, the French Quarter, we headed back to EPCOT for a dinner at Via Napoli (it was brilliant; I highly recommend it).

Tomorrow (or today, for those of you reading it Monday) is check-in. Long before I got down here, I met a girl on Facebook and we decided to become roommates. There were a group of us planning to meet at 7:00 AM, but my future room-mate texted me with a change in plans: we were now meeting at 5:30 AM. While I'm not looking forward to awakening at such an ungodly hour, I can't help but be excited by the prospect of starting a new program here.

It already feels completely different from last year's, although I couldn't tell you how. Maybe it's the confidence that I gained in my CareerStart Program rubbing off on me; maybe it's the fact that I still haven't quite recovered from finals week. Whatever it is, in a few hours I will be standing in line at Vista Way, probably chuntering under my breath about how obnoxious it is to be quite so loudly happy at six o'clock in the morning.


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