«You don’t want to let go on right here and now!»
Its nearly been a month since I came home from my year in USA and Disney, and it still hurts so bad.
Its been an amazing experience and I can honestly say its been the best year of my life! Never have I had so much freedom, never have I met so many amazing people from all over the world and made so much good friends and had so much to do in my spare-time.
When I arrived USA the 4th of December 2010, I didn’t really think I would experience as much as I did. I came to the country all by myself, I left all my friends, my job, my family and thought that this was probably going to be hard and not too easy. But hey, I was wrong. Living by myself have been great, and meeting different cultures have really given me a good understanding. I don’t make friends that easily sometimes, but I must say that I met a lot of people through this year that I consider good friends of mine and I really miss them all!
The living experience:
When we first came, I was the only one in my arrival group that day that was placed at Patterson Court apartment 2307, the newest complex, but not so many international people. That was pretty bad I thought. But it turned out to be pretty all right! Nice apartments and no big problems… I had the best of roommates, Toby and Joey from Germany, so my living experience was awesome the first months. Then in May I moved to 7101 with another Norwegian in a one bedroom apartment because I didn’t get too much along with the person I lived in my bedroom with. It was nice to live in an apartment with only one more person. In the summer this person left over to Commons, as another Norwegian made Price Management change their policy and let people move from Patterson to Commons (this wasn’t possible until a Norwegian took the fight and won). I then got another friend of mine to move in with me… He left in September. And I lived alone for over a month, before I figured that I wanted to spend the last of my program on Commons with all the others too. So I moved to 531 in Commons until my program ended. The apartments in Commons are not so nice as the ones in Patterson, but I borrowed a carpet cleaner and cleaned the whole apartment, then it became nice again. 🙂 Which is better? Hmm… I must say Commons, here you have the washer and dryer inside the apartment, not in a washing room. And the parties are much better at Commons. Patterson is nice if you like it quiet and very friendly. I met a lot American friends in Patterson. I did not like all the rules that you have to follow, some of them are pretty absurd if you ask me… You’re not allowed to have any windows open at all, ever. So no fresh air for you. Nothing posted on walls besides on a very small chalkboard that you have in your room. Think that they should have some nails that you can use if you want to etc… Everyone says Security is really bad and evil towards the Cast Members, but my experience have often been positive. They’re not that bad, you need to have rules when you house many thousands of youths…
Work experience: Disney is not like any Norwegian company, and its been interesting to see how things are different from home. Disney is a very big employer, and have over 60.000 Cast Members in Florida. Most Norwegian people will find American work conditions bad, its paid around 1/3 of what we make every hour. Long days, few rights. Many people who work in Disney are afraid that they might get fired without reason, since they have a fire at will policy and don’t need to give any reason for termination. There was a lot of rumors about all the things you needed to be careful about doing if you wanted to keep your job in the beginning when I came and I heard a lot of stories about people getting fired for the smallest things. Yet I never experienced a case of unfair termination, there was always a reason for it. And I did a lot of weird things and took own initiative and did good things to promote Norway and share our culture to Guests, and I survived the whole year. I got in a little trouble for being out of position once and they found me talking to some Guests that was going to Norway soon and telling them all about where to go, but just got told to let them know where I was at and what I was doing, then it was fine. I only called in two days through the entire year…
I believe that the Norwegian pavilion should focus more on culture-sharing than they do today. Norway does not have anything to do with the pavilion anymore, which I believe is sad. Earlier we had a own tourist information stand (where the fast pass is now) and guided tours in the pavilion. Now there is no culture-sharing position 100%, we are just suppose to share culture through normal work, though some tasks are to talk to Guests about Norway.
Disney gives you good benefits when you work for the company. You have free admission to all the theme parks! VERY good healthcare! Free complimentary tickets for amusement parks! Lots of discounts!
I do though believe that Disney have lost some focus and track. I believe that Epcot is not what it was suppose to be, its getting a little out-dated and no longer «Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow». Epcot now have a lot of Disney characters around, and I do believe that this does not belong in Epcot, Epcot should focus on technology, culture, humanity, green world etc.
Disney has also become a company that focuses too much about the money-making. When they publicly say that the goal of the company is: «To create the highest value for are share-holders», some is already lost… The goal should be something like: «To create the happiest place on earth for all out Guests and Cast Members!»
Disney cuts back on all spendings, and increases their prices drastically. Of the 33% Disney went over with this last year, 24% came from cut-backs, which means less quality and less magic. This is a horrible and sad development. A lot of the products are way over-priced and it really concerns me, the entry prices are already high, the park should have normal pricing for their products, a bottled coke costs 2.75… :S There is also a lot of maintenance that should be done a lot of places, including the Norwegian attraction Maelstrom, but never happens… They also pay the biggest bosses in Disney tens of millions of dollars, while the salary for the people who really creates the magic gets stuck near the minimum-wage. Disney clearly have issues…
But, where there are villains and darkness, there is always heroes and light!
I met so many good Disney-people through my program, that made me believe there is a hope for a better future for the company and magic-making. When I was down, these people have guided me and inspired me to keep going and continue what I was doing, though it didn’t feel like it was appreciated, I learnt that it truly was…
«You are having an impact by being yourself and making a difference. Do not get discouraged and feel otherwise if change does not come as fast as you desire. Stay true to your beliefs and you will be successful.»
– This is some of the comments I got from a person I truly believe is a good Disney-person and that helped and inspired me loads of times… Its been helpful to have some encouraging words to look back to when things look bad.
I believe that the Disney magic still lives in Walt´s spirit, because the Cast Members that really do an effort keeps it alive. That there is some problems in Disney, is just a motivation to keep fighting for the good.
I don’t know how to sum it up perfectly.
But I have decided that I want to go back, in 2013, when the Norway pavilion is 25 years old, if Im allowed after publishing this little critical review of how I experience Disney. Just an honest opinion… Until 2013 I will work hard to make the government care about the pavilion again.
When I first came to Disney, I was told that life would never be the same ever again… True.
Some final words
Thank you all for reading my blog through this amazing year!
I did not think that myblog would get that much attention, but apparently it have.
13.066unique ip-adresses/people have so far read my blog… The page will have its own domain at least until September 2012, and will be available as long as it can to help people learn more about the pavilion and the life as a Cultural Representative in the Norwegian pavilion. Feel free to contact me on Facebook, mail og phone ifthere is anything you want to know!
Until we meet again, remember that; When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true!
– Alexander Sjursæther (Sjursaether)
Previous Cast Member Norwegian Showcase and now Operations Manager, Kongeparken