All about that home life - homesickness, cooking and decorating

3/31/14
(Note that stuff is not allowed to be tacked onto your walls... I did this before I knew it was against the rules.)
A few people have asked me to discuss apartment-related topics such as homesickness, how to learn to cook and how to learn to decorate the apartment while sticking to the housing rules.  These aren't of vital importance like the last few posts have been, but for many people they are an important part of adjusting to a new home.  Not only that but since a lot of people have little or no experience living away from home this adjustment may be made even harder.  It's my goal to try and help you all to make the adjustment as smooth as possible.

How to curb homesickness

Homesickness can hit like a truck at times.  Even when you feel that you are completely happy where you are you may still have some subconscious apprehensions and these can completely trip you up.  I've lived away from home for school for the past four years (plus my last program) and have gone through all shades of pining for home and my family.  Here are some tips I've found help me personally (though everyone is different, so don't stress if you don't feel better after doing these - you'll find a way to get comfort in your own way!):
  1. Bring along photos or mementos of people close to you.  This is especially important if they are already sources of comfort for you - for example, things that remind you of a deceased loved one.  They may not be their real, living counterparts but they still lend a sense of familiarity to your apartment or bedroom.
  2. Don't forget to keep contact with your friends and family at home.  You will work a ton on your program and probably won't have much free time to devote to lengthy phone calls or such.  However, you won't always know when you're really hurting on the inside and sometimes contact with home can help you in ways you can't imagine.  This doesn't mean that you have to set a schedule for calling people unless you want one - just check in every now and then.
  3. Keep yourself busy - but don't push yourself in the name of fun.  We've all heard it before - keeping yourself busy can keep feelings of grief, loneliness, depression, etc etc etc at bay.  However, you won't always be able to do this - and you'll wear yourself out really quickly.  If it's your day off and you don't really feel like you have the energy to go out - don't!  Watch TV, clean (cleaning is a stress reliever for me), talk to your roommates, play video games, whatever helps you.  Burning out won't help you settle in any faster.
  4. Don't change your routine from back home.  Shower in the evenings normally?  Keep doing so.  Go to sleep at midnight?  Unless you have to work insanely early, keep doing so.  Brush your teeth twice a day?  Keep doing so.  It's important for you to internalize the sense that you are "home", even if it's not your regular house - and keeping a routine can do wonders by helping your body feel that it is in a normal environment.
  5. Be understanding of your roommates.  We're all living away from home, and no matter how much experience we have doing so we all still have our moments.  Be patient with one another.  Some will take to their new lives right away, some may take some time, some will never quite get into the swing of things.  Never pressure a roommate into adjusting quicker than they are ready to or upset them by looking down on them.
  6. Let your emotions out.  If you feel like crying, cry.  If you feel frustrated or stressed, let it out in a (positive) way.  Yes, guys, this even applies to you.  Keeping emotions pent up will do you more harm than good in the long run - and you and the people around you will end up suffering for it.
  7. If your homesickness comes from a deeper condition, don't be afraid to seek help.  I've been there, guys - I suffer from depressive tendencies and anxiety myself.  If you feel in any way that the program will aggravate anything you're currently dealing with, reach out to the person you usually talk to about them.  Don't be ashamed - there are tons of people out there who deal with exactly what you're dealing with every day and you will be just fine.  No one will judge you, and spare no time for those who will.  Lastly, don't let it get in the way of you doing your program - it may do you more good than you think to be placed in a new environment where you can start fresh.
I hope these tips will do you some good, and if you have any tips of your own don't hesitate to share them with me!

Cooking

So you're on the program, in your apartment with your fabulous full kitchen.  One problem, though - you don't know how to cook.  At all.  Never fear!  Many people don't learn how to do household chores like cooking, cleaning or laundry until they start college and it's nothing to be ashamed of.  Heck, I barely knew how to boil eggs when I started my last program!  That being said, here are a few tips for beginner chefs:
  1. There are beginner's cookbooks out there - buy them.  These are not the same as children's cookbooks - they focus on teaching simple techniques such as the various ways of cooking an egg, boiling pasta, cooking meat, etc.  For a personal recommendation, my aunt gave me Betty Crocker Cooking Basics as a Christmas present before my last program and it helped my skills immensely.  The instructions are very clear and the author takes time to walk you through more difficult steps.  Plus, the photos are excellent.
  2. Start out with meatless dishes until you can cook safely.  Undercooked meat happens - you've probably had an experience at home or at a restaurant where a meat dish has been served to you at an improper temperature.  Same goes for overcooked meat.  Meat can be expensive - don't start on dishes including it until you're sure that you won't waste it with a failed dish.
  3. If you have roommates with cooking experience, USE THEM!  They'll be able to make sure you know what you're doing and that you understand the instructions.  There were a few times when I was starting out where I needed help even on simple cooking terms, and I had two roommates there to help with everything.  Don't have roommates around?  Try Youtube - there are plenty of great tutorials on there you can pause and repeat at your leisure.
  4. Never, never, ever, ever, EVER leave cooking unattended if you're new to it!  As if I even need to discuss fire hazards with you on this!  In addition, the fire alarms in the apartments can be very sensitive and will go off at the slightest wisp of smoke - watch carefully for it.
  5. Don't cook things you're not ready to tackle.  So you've made your first dish without burning it - congrats.  However, there are some dishes out there that are complicated, time-consuming or expensive.  Give yourself lots of practice before trying these - you have time on your program!
So what are some good starter dishes, you ask?  Well, here are some suggestions I have:
  1. Egg dishes
  2. Chili
  3. Stew
  4. Simple pasta dishes
  5. Hot dips
  6. Salads
  7. Simple breads/brownies
  8. Grilled cheese (with actual cheese, not American)
  9. Pancakes
  10. Quesadillas
In addition, there are some great online resources for recipes though they don't always give you difficulty ratings for them.  My favorite website is allrecipes.com, which has tons of excellent member-submitted dishes for whatever you could ever want to cook.  Have fun!

Decorating the apartment

Our final topic today will be over how to decorate your apartment - or rather, how to decorate your apartment without breaking any housing rules.  This can be tricky, though anyone who has ever lived in an apartment or dorm is probably familiar with at least some of these anyway!  Even though *cough cough* people will put things up on the walls and take them down for inspections, you technically aren't allowed to do it so if you do, I am in no way encouraging nor discouraging it.  With that being said, here are some decorating ideas you might want to utilize for your apartment:
  1. Use your corkboard - every inch of it!  It's supposedly the only accepted place to hang stuff so stick as much stuff on it as you can! You can have stuff hang below it and even prop stuff up on top of it!  If you haven't secured it to the wall you should be fine (though if the inspectors tell you to take it down for the inspection, abide by their wishes)!
  2. Christmas lights, lanterns and lamps are fun!  Okay, these are cliched decorating ideas and some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now.  However, if you're into dimmer lighting than what the provided ceiling lights give you they might just be the way to go.
  3. You have surfaces you can put decorative stuff on!  Jury's still out on potted plants - I can't quite remember if they're banned or not - but statues, figurines, silk flowers, table runners, etc. are all fair game.  If you're putting them in common areas, though, get permission from your roommates.
  4. You may be able to bring larger decorative items into the apartment.  This is not a guarantee (so check with housing's rules to make sure) but you might be able to bring things like shelves or end tables into your apartment.  If I'm right, just make sure you aren't taking up too much room in the apartment.  If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and please don't blame me if you aren't allowed to have it!
  5. Get stuff to organize your closet now.  Men and women with small wardrobes, this may not bother you as much.  If you're bringing a lot of clothing, though, make sure you have space for it all.  Hanging shoe organizers, multi-article hangers and stuff of that ilk will help immensely.
  6. You'll accumulate stuff in your apartment as time goes by - just make sure you have a place for it!  Much like making sure you can easily ship everything home as discussed in my post over packing for solo flights, you always want to make sure you buy only what can fit comfortably in your living space.  Don't get too much stuff - you'll regret it.
In addition, here are a few items that are not only decorative but may also be necessary for your apartment anyway:
  1. Shower curtains
  2. Bath rugs/rugs for the kitchen
  3. Dishtowels
  4. Drying racks
  5. Bedding
  6. Hooks for bath towels (if your bathroom doesn't have enough room to hang two towels)
  7. Hand towels for the bathroom
  8. Calendars
Well, that about wraps it up for this post.  If you have any other questions over this or have comments you'd like to add, I'm always open to hearing them!  Twitter and the comments sections on this blog are always open.  Until then... have a great night!
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Cars, buses and tourists - oh my!

3/31/14
Source: dcp2014.files.wordpress.com
Previously I wrote a post about housing, which is a very important thing to think about when entering the Disney College Program for many reasons.  One such reason is transportation - whether you drive, use the provided buses or carpool with someone, deciding how you're going to get around can be vitally important to how your program experience goes.  Don't let the stories people tell you about any one method scare you, though.  In the end, making the decision that's best for you is what matters.  With that being said, I'll start off the great "car vs. bus" debate by outlining pros and cons of each!

The bus system

If you are a DCP alum and saw the photo above, you probably had a very strong reaction to it.  Yes, folks, that is a photo of the kind of buses that are offered by Disney and housing to transport you between complexes, parks, Disney hotels and even places like the mall and Walmart/Publix.  They're essentially re-purposed city buses, so anyone who's ridden one before pretty much knows what to expect from these.

The good:  First of all, the buses are free.  Well, either that or you pay for them with your rent.  Either way, you have guaranteed free transportation to pretty much anywhere on Disney property and a few locations off-property whenever you want it (provided the bus route there is running).  Some bus routes have frequent pickup times, so you can have a bit more flexibility on when you catch the bus to work.  You also don't have to struggle to find parking when you get to work (some cast member parking lots are very small or have to share space with guest parking).

The bad:  Everyone's who ever followed a DCP blog knows this one fact - the bus system can be horrendous.  Drivers aren't the best disciplined and some will give themselves unauthorized breaks while in the middle of a route, try to drive the bus places it can't go, drive recklessly (even when driving a bus packed full of CPs) and get themselves in trouble with Disney's own bus drivers and security guards.  Buses will sometimes show up extremely early, extremely late or not at all - and dispatch rarely if ever cares if you call them to report the bus off its route.  Now, this isn't an everyday occurrence especially on routes that pick up often (and note that the coach buses, the big fancy ones, are perfectly fine because they're driven by better employees), but it's common enough that you should be wary if you ever use them as your way to work.

Your car

The good: The flexibility, man!  Rather than have to stick to someone else's schedule for getting to and from work, you can pick and choose when you go.  You also get more flexibility in where you want to go - beach trips whenever you want, being able to go to Target or any other store besides Walmart, taking yourself to the doctor if you feel sick... it's fantastic.  You also seem to make faster friends with everyone else since everyone loves a CP who has a car and can drive them home :P

The bad: Gas can be expensive in central Florida.  Repeat with me.  Gas. Can. Be. Expensive.  Remember that you're traveling to a place with a lot of drivers with a lot of cars that need a lot of gas, so unless you're from a big city or one that has a bunch of tourists you'll pay more for it than at home.  And I'll point out the obvious too - you're also responsible for paying to get it down there and for maintenance if it breaks down or needs routine stuff.  However, the biggest problem is with the other drivers... because they're absolutely awful.  Out of all of my friends and fellow CPs who had cars, only about four of them got through the program without getting into an accident or completely totalling their car.  If you're a passive or nervous driver bringing your own car is not a good idea.  At all.  Again, the drivers in your area are likely not as bad as they are here.

So what did I do?

I'm from a city thousands of miles away from Orlando and on my last program couldn't get anyone to drive with me down.  I wasn't about to drive for three days halfway across the country by myself and wasn't looking forward to having to pay for gas and such when I already dropped a load of cash each week on rent.  Though I ran into many frustrations with the bus system that led to me being late to work a few times, I never regretted my decision.  In fact, I'm planning on doing the same this time around.  Once again, the decision on how you'll handle transportation is yours alone, but I found that the buses worked for me better overall.

General tips

No matter if you choose you drive or ride the buses, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Always start out for work early.  Bus people, you'll want to get on the bus before the one the schedule says will get you to work on time.  Car people, you'll want to give yourself about 20 minutes at least (30 minutes if you want to be safe) to drive to work.  Give yourself more time during holiday seasons.  This is all to account for traffic, construction, accidents, breakdowns, etc.
  2. Be responsible on the road.  Don't be noisy on the buses or try to distract your driver from his or her job.  If driving, don't drive like an idiot, speed or do things that you know are unsafe.  I've seen too many accidents (and even a death) in the WDW area and I don't want to see anyone on this program getting themselves into the hospital.
  3. If your bus or car breaks down, have the number of Deployment (where you call to call in sick) AND your manager on your phone.  Call right away and let them know you'll be late or absent from work depending on the situation.  You might still get points on your record but calling ahead of time makes you look more responsible.
  4. Be careful about who you give rides to or accept rides from.  If it's another cast member or CP you'll at least know their name and where they work, but if they're a stranger you don't know for sure how they drive.  And always make sure to offer gas money even if you're going to the same place!
  5. If you bring your car, on check in day you'll have to register your car in order to park it in the complexes.  If you decide later you want to bring your car with you, check with security or the front desk on how to register it.
So there you have it!  If you have any further questions about the buses or driving your car let me know!  I may do a follow-up post in the future on the bus system in depth in the near future, but until then... have a great day!
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Your roommate survival guide

3/29/14
Trust me, we love each other.  No really.


So you've never lived with other people besides your family in your life.  Not only that, but you also don't have to share your room with your siblings (assuming you have them).  The College Program will be the first time you live with other people your own age (relatively) and you're probably freaking out.  That's cool, everyone does it to some extent.  Personally, I've shared a room at home all my life and have been living in a dorm at school for the past three years... and I've learned that there are certain guidelines one must abide by in order to survive.  Are you ready?  Here they are:

  1. Post-Its are never a good idea.  Unless they're the inspiring kind.  Or the stupid kind.  Or the funny kind.  Or the inspiring stupidly funny kind.  Just no angry ones, please.
  2. Do your chores.  If you make a mess, clean it up.  Much as you like when your roommate cooks for you he/she's not your mama.  And don't think you can sneak a mess in there - they'll know.
  3. Sometimes it's best to let your roommate drag you away on an adventure even if you don't wanna go.
  4. Quoting Honey Boo Boo can resolve conflicts automatically.  Unless not all of your roommates are in on the whole thing and wonder why you keep talking in a weird Southern drawl.
  5. Sneaking through your room like a ninja at night (mostly in the dark) is essential if you want to get changed and into bed without your roommate(s) waking like the great evil dragon of lore.
  6. Never turn down a ride from one of your car-wielding roommates.  Especially if it's to Target and you are too sophisticated for Walmart.
  7. Roommates will only do laundry for each other once in a blue moon.  Be that person - offer to wash everyone's towels because we all know that it takes one person ages to make it through a load's worth of towels.
  8. Eat only food that you've bought.  Sneaking your roommates' other stuff might work sometimes, but young people pay more attention to their pantry than anything else in life.
  9. If you walk in on your roommate changing, the worst thing you can do is stand there apologizing and stammering while averting your eyes as if you've just witnessed the most shocking thing in the world.  Seriously.  It makes it awkward...er.
  10. Share the couch.  If you choose to nap on it, prepare to wake up when four people try to sit on you at once.
  11. Attempt to drag a roommate on a ride they don't like and prepare to suffer a horrific fate as they desperately attempt to fight back against you with all of the power of a championship boxer.
  12. Friends don't let friends eat instant ramen for more than a day.
  13. Bringing family into the apartment always makes things awkward because it is your and your roommates' super secret man/lady cave and you should've known that already.
  14. What happens in the apartment stays in the apartment.  Unless it's hilarious and embarrassing, in which case you should record the whole thing and promptly post it online for all the world to see.  Don't worry, your roommate is sure to forgive you someday.
  15. Don't sweat the small stuff.  In the end it doesn't really matter if your roommate forgot to replace the toilet paper in the bathroom or left her large collection of blankets and stuffed animals strewn all over the living room.
  16. If you bring a fellow CP to the apartment and they instantly make a joke along the lines of "did a bomb just go off in here or what?", congratulations.  You have a mess so large that even another messy, absentminded college student has taken notice.  Continue with the mess making until next inspection.
  17. Never sleep in on a day when you've got an adventure with your roommates planned.  Just... don't.
  18. Walking into the apartment after work and calling out "honey, I'm home!" is tacky and weird.  Unless one of your roommates just so happens to be called Honey.  (Wait...)
  19. If you or at least one of your roommates is a gamer, prepare for nights of endless entertainment and/or heartbreak and stress.
  20. Mail runs will become the bane of your existence if you live far away from the mailbox.  Always drag at least one roommate along to suffer with you.
  21. Never enter another roommate's room without their permission, because they probably don't want you to see the half-eaten plates of food they've been accumulating for the past three days.
  22. Beach trips are a must in summer.  Not getting work off for these wonderful, wonderful days is simply unacceptable.
  23. Skyping with your pets is a valid way to spend your free time and don't you ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
  24. If it's the night before inspections and you're sleeping rather than helping to clean, prepare to not be sleeping very soon.  Because you will be awoken very, very abruptly.
  25. Housing meetings are uncomfortable and unhelpful - only do them as a last resort because you will feel very strongly like you are in marriage counseling.
  26. Snuggling with your roommates is perfectly acceptable and not weird at all.  Unless one of you makes it weird.
  27. Prepare to have a book's worth of inside jokes by the end of the program.
  28. You will probably have that roommate who constantly forgets things like their keys or their housing ID.  If they do and get stuck trying to verify their identity at the security gate, it's okay to point and laugh at least once.  Just make sure that they don't forget it next time.
  29. Not spoiling your roommates on their birthday is unacceptable.  After all, they're probably hundreds of miles away from their family and this is your opportunity to load them up with junk they don't need ;)
  30. Your roommates will become like family if you play your cards right, and you will be very upset when you get scattered to the four corners of the country if not farther.  Constant contact and Facebook spam is a must.
Sad this list wasn't as serious as you thought it would be?  Well, that's my point!  Living with strangers may seem daunting at first but if you have ever made a friend in your life (and I'm assuming you have) you already have most of the skills needed to handle a roommate.  Be patient.  Be understanding.  Be honest and forthright about your feelings when something upsets you.  Don't take things too seriously if they're not major problems.  And always be willing to compromise in order to make sure you and the people you live with both get treated fairly while in your home away from home.
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An introduction to Disney housing (and housing myths debunked)

3/27/14

(Note: Several days after I originally wrote this post, housing announced that they were bringing bunk beds into some of the rooms, therefore making some of them triple-occupancy rather than double-occupancy.  I have no experience with this new arrangement as it just happened, but this information is still accurate for any rooms not affected.)

Housing is always a big topic for any person living away from their family for school, work or whatever - and the Disney College Program is no exception.  Even more so, since the complexes are gated and there are no orientations or anything to help you understand the different complexes better most go into their first CP totally blind or with limited/false information about the differences between them.  I know I definitely did on my last program, and though it didn't cause any trouble with me I wished I had been told more about it going in.  So here we go - for those of you who are new to the whole Disney housing thing I will try my best to give you as much information as possible (and avoid giving opinions, bias or hearsay).  I'll also write down a few myths that I've heard from other CPs, people on the internet and even cast members.

Vista Way

Source: ageeksaga.blogspot.com

 Pros

  1. Easy access to main DCP offices, tennis courts, pools, restaurants and Walgreens
  2. Bus stop is right inside the complex and is the stop that bus drivers switch at, so you won't be stuck waiting to get to work/your apartment
  3. Closest complex to WDW property
  4. Cheapest rent of all four complexes

Cons

  1. Complex borders a loud, heavily tourist-y area and two major roads
  2. Being the oldest of the four complexes means that the apartments can look somewhat dated
  3. Its reputation can be somewhat uncomfortable to deal with

Vista Way is the oldest Disney housing complex, and as a result has most of the main offices for College Program functions.  It's also the largest, and walking in without knowing where you're going or a map can be disastrous.  Thankfully, other people can always be found around to show you the way.  Check in for each new program date is always held at Vista Way, which is why your dash will always show the address once you've sorted out your acceptance.  No, it does not mean that you will have to stay at Vista!

Besides that, anyone who has read anything about Disney housing knows that Vista has a rather... colorful reputation.  Is it deserved?  Well, that'll be discussed in the myths section below. Until then...

Chatham Square


Pros

  1. Beautiful complex with some nice landscaping
  2. Most housing events are hosted in Chatham
  3. Little Lake Bryan is a nice area to live in
  4. Has a bus stop close by and is right across the street from Mickey's Retreat

Cons

  1. Difficult to get an apartment in sometimes since it is so highly requested
  2. Housing events may make the area noisy
  3. Complex is large and somewhat confusing

Chatham Square is probably the most-sought after housing complex for CPs.  It's considered to be the middle-of-the-road complex in terms of price (though in recent years the complexes have become more or less equal) and hosts a majority of the housing events. It is also a bit smaller than Vista, though certainly not a small complex by any means.  Probably the best things about this complex is that the bus stop is just outside the security gate and the complex is right across the street from Mickey's Retreat, an outdoor recreational area for cast members.

However, all these benefits also make it difficult to successfully get an apartment in Chatham.  In addition, rent is slightly more expensive than at Vista, so if you're on a super strict budget this (and the other complexes) may not be for you.

Patterson Court


Pros

  1. Newest of the four complexes with very lovely buildings inside and out
  2. Within walking distance of a strip mall including a Publix (grocery store) and a UPS Store
  3. Relatively small complex means short exit to leave the complex

Cons

  1. No bus stop of its own so you'll have to walk to Chatham's (about ten minutes away)
  2. Has a reputation of being "too quiet"
Patterson Court, as I said in an earlier blog post, is where I stayed on my last program.  (This photo, in fact, is the building that my apartment was in - you can see it on the first floor.)  It's a lovely place if you like peace and quiet while trying to sleep, and is now just about the same price as Chatham to stay in. Not only that, but the pool is my favorite of the complexes' pools.

However, it also comes with some downsides.  Patterson has no bus stop of its own, and the closest one is ten minutes away at Chatham.  Though this isn't a huge walk, it does add time to an already long commuting time if you're taking the buses.  In addition, though the people who live here can be lively the complex tends to be quieter than the others - most likely because of the lack of housing events or anything else that would attract anyone outside of Patterson residents.

The Commons

Source: 365daysatdisneyworld.blogspot.com

Pros

  1.  Washers and dryers are included in the apartments - no paying for laundry
  2. Bus stop is located right inside the gates
  3. The Premium Outlets are located right across the street, about a five minute walk away
  4. A lot of ICPs and Cultural Representatives live here, which allows for a lot of interesting cultural exchanges

Cons

  1.  Not all buses pick up at the bus stop - including the bus for Magic Kingdom
  2. The complex can sometimes be noisy
  3. Highest rent out of all four complexes
Up until a short while ago the Commons was only open to those coming from different countries to be International College Program students or Cultural Representatives.  However, it's now been opened up to any CP regardless of country of origin, provided there's enough space.  This complex is special because it's the only one that has washers and dryers in every unit - anywhere else you have to go to a common laundry room and pay to wash your stuff.

This big perk comes with one big downside - rent at the Commons is higher than anywhere else by least a few bucks a week.  This doesn't sound like a lot, but if you're not making much a week it can eat into the money you have to buy groceries and anything else you might need or want.  Then again, laundry fees can eat away  at that cash too.

All right, so there's the facts.  But what about those little rumors you keep hearing around?  Some are just silly little stories, but I've seen some get blown way out of proportion and even cause someone to choose/not choose a complex based on them alone.  So here are some of the most common ones I've heard, with the truth (or at least as close to the truth as I know):

  1. Vista is for partiers, Patterson is a retirement home.  Anyone who has ever lived in a college dorm knows that these types of labels are silly - any place where large groups of young people live together is bound to be noisy no matter what the individuals are like.  Not only that, but any building can get a loud person no matter what it's "supposed" to be like.  Does Vista attract people who like to party?  Maybe, especially people who live by those labels.  But then again, you're just as likely to find quiet people at Vista as you are noisy people in Patterson.
  2. If you have items that are banned in housing, just put them in your car.  Whether it's weapons or unauthorized guests or booze (for Wellness CPs), you can't have it on housing's property at all.  Security can and will search your car if they see a need to (and supposedly they randomly search cars too, though I've never seen it happen personally).  If you're caught with any of that stuff, consider yourself and your program in deep trouble.  Yes, some rules don't make sense and some are far too strict - but you agree to follow them when you enter housing, and it's not worth getting sent home over something so silly.
  3. Housing is owned by Disney.  As far as I've been told, Disney doesn't even own the land the complexes are on - instead it's a partnership with another company (it was called Lincoln as of my last program there, though on yours it may well be different) and they own everything.  Disney cast members do work in the DCP-related offices, though, so they are around.
  4. It's possible to get a white-glove award by schmoozing/baking for the inspectors/etc.  For those of you who don't know what a white glove award is, it's essentially the highest rating you can get on a housing inspection (which happens every month) and usually involves a prize of some sort, like cookies.  However, there's really no rhyme or reason to getting white glove over simply passing, and it's completely up to the inspectors which one they give you.
  5. The older the complex, the nastier the rooms are. Again, anyone who's ever lived in some form of temporary housing such as a college dorm knows this isn't always true.  The condition of the apartment depends solely on how well the CPs before you have treated it, and you can find a nice, well-kept apartment in Vista just as easily as you can find a disgusting one in Patterson.
  6. People have wild parties/sexual escapades/[insert other crazy story here] all over Disney housing. This one's a bit harder to discuss accurately.  Naturally, I don't know everything that ever went on in every housing complex during my program.  However, for those of you thinking that the wild stories you've heard are common occurrences - they're not.  They're not any more than they are on most college campuses, where the crazy stories often get circulated for far longer than they need to be.  Is it very possible that they have happened before?  Possibly.  But don't let the stories make you think that they happen on an average day.
  7. Some CPs steal laundry.  Unfortunately, this does happen - though I can't say how often.  Sometimes it's an honest mistake, where someone will mistake your laundry for theirs (and with all the costumes that go through laundry, it makes sense) but others... yeah.  Should you be freaking out every time you put a load in?  No, but keeping a close eye on it is always a good thing.  In fact, that's something you should always be doing when doing laundry in a shared space.
  8. The apartments come equipped with wireless internet.  Close but not quite - your apartment has internet access but in order to have a wireless network you'll need to purchase a router of your own for the apartment.
These are all the main ones I've heard, but if you know any others you'd like me to address let me know and I'll add them to the list!  Until then, I hope this helps with the great housing debate.
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DCP packing tips (for solo flyers)

3/25/14


All right, so there's quite literally dozens of packing lists and tips out there for the DCP, but I've noticed that a lot seem to assume that you're either driving, coming to Florida with your entire family helping you by bringing stuff or both.  This is all well and good, but what if you're traveling by yourself AND flying - therefore having to deal with restrictive airline rules for luggage?  That was exactly the same situation I found myself in on my last program and so I have written up a nice little set of packing tips/advice for those of you who are in the same boat.  Since everyone has different priorities on what they want or need to take with them, this won't be a straight-up list of things in particular (though I will point out certain things that I think are important to have in your luggage).  With that being said...

Packing Tips (start of DCP)
  1. Know your airline's baggage fees, size restrictions on carry-ons and weight limits ahead of time.   No brainer, right?  Well, you know you're not packing for just a vacation and therefore you might feel the need to bring everything you own with you immediately.  Let me just tell you that no matter what airline you fly, if you exceed their weight limit and get assessed a heavy fee you'll probably pay more than you would to simply have the stuff shipped to you once you get settled in in Orlando.
  2. Bring bedding with you if possible!  Everyone knows that we have to supply our own bedding for our apartment, but if you're coming down on a tight budget (like I did) you might not want to shell out at least $50 for a bedding set once you get there when there are so many other things you'll need to buy right away.  This is especially good to remember if you like the bedding you have at home/school or the bedding you have is of high-quality, too.  Decent pillows can be easily bought once moved in but carrying sheets and blankets with you is a must if money is tight. Note that if bringing a full-size comforter with you is too much for your suitcase(s), you can always bring a light blanket and have the comforter shipped to you later.
  3. If you need it in your first week or two of the program and can't buy it easily in Orlando, pack it.  This includes: medications, alarm clocks (if you don't use your phone), appropriate-weather clothing (cool-weather for Spring participants, warm-weather for Fall participants), business wear, underclothes, a pair of shoes or two, laptops, your paperwork for your Casting stuff, and any other pressing needs you might have.  This does not include stuff like soap, most toiletries or things of that nature unless it's something you can't get once moved in.
  4. Don't pack clothing that is heavy or space-consuming.  Florida winters can be surprisingly cold, even to a Northerner like me who's used to it back home.  However, if you're coming down in the warmer months you do not need to bring cool-weather clothing with you right away!  You'll waste space in your luggage and make your bags even heavier (see tip #1), which isn't something you want to do.  Same goes for formal wear (if you're doing the Fall program and will be around for the formal) and denim jeans in general.  Just have it shipped unless you need it right away.
  5. PACK LIGHT! PACK LIGHT! PACK LIGHT!  Ladies (and some gentlemen as well), I know that we like to have variety in what we wear and don't want to wear the same few outfits day after day.  However, if you're flying and won't have help carrying stuff you really don't want to over-pack.  Also, once work starts it's likely you won't have much need for street clothes anyway (you get two days off a week - remember that) and will most likely have a closet full of clothes you almost never wear.  Bring down one week's worth of clothes, have another week's worth shipped to you and you'll be fine.  Not only that, but if and when the shopping bug bites there are plenty of places you can shop at to expand your wardrobe.
Packing Tips (end of program)
  1.  Remember throughout your program that whatever stuff you buy, you have to pay to ship home.  This caught me bad on my last program - even being careful with what I bought, I still spent over $100 just to get all of my stuff home in addition to nearly being charged with a heavy bag at the airport (which would've put me out another $90).  This doesn't mean that you can't buy souvenirs at all, just keep in mind that impulse buying will get you into a lot of trouble later on.  Don't believe me? Just check the trading post Facebook page - it's amazing how many offers are for things like stuffed animals and other things that were bought while in WDW and can't be taken home by their owners.  I myself had to toss out two perfectly good pillows and a comforter (non-Disney, so at least they weren't expensive) because no one else would take them and I couldn't drop them off to be donated somewhere.
  2. Don't wait until your last week to start shipping things home.  If it's stuff you won't need for your last week of the program, it can go right away.  If you don't have a car, there's a UPS Store near the Publix the Walmart bus drops off at (which you can walk to from Chatham and Patterson).  If that doesn't appeal to you the UPS people come for a few days at the end of your program - but it can be a hassle to pack and ship everything at that point because so many other CPs are doing the same thing.
  3. Again, pack light.  Since you're going home this time and most likely have shipped some things ahead of you this isn't as difficult to do, but remember that your suitcase can only hold and weigh so much.
  4. Pack fragile items VERY carefully.  When I got my UPS boxes at home, I was very upset to see that a mug a roommate had gotten me for my birthday had completely shattered.  I thought I had pulled out all the stops to ensure its safety - wrapping it in bubble wrap, placing it in a box of soft towels, etc - but no luck.  Remember that the people who handle your packages (and luggage at the airport) can be rough to them and indicating that something fragile is inside doesn't always help.  Take any precaution you can to keep them safe.
  5. If you end up with items you don't need, the trading post is a good place to sell your stuff.  I have it linked on the sidebar to the right (note that it's a closed group on FB, so you'll need an account and have your request to join approved so don't wait until the last minute).  Here you can sell anything from hangers to electronics to food to kitchenware, and everything else in between.  It's also a good place to check for good deals on stuff you might need at any point.
Additional Tips (for CPs in general)
  1. If you are shipping something to an address out of the country, make sure it abides by the other country's import laws.  This won't apply  for most CPs but if you're an ICP, Cultural Representative or have a friend who lives overseas it's crucial.
  2. As mentioned before, the trading post is a good place to go for deals.  Departing or soon-to-be-departing CPs will be willing to sell anything and often for a good price.  The other day I saw someone selling a Wii, complete with two nunchucks,  for $35!  When arriving in Florida this is the place to go for good deals.  The only downside is that you and the seller will have to coordinate a meeting time and place to exchange the stuff and money.
  3. Buy groceries right away!  Unless you live very close by or your family is just weird (and awesome) like that, you probably won't arrive with too much food in hand.  Grocery shopping may sound really tiresome while you're going through the stress of moving into a new place, but you'll be glad you have something to eat when you wake up the next day.  And having toilet paper, soap and other things like that will be nice too.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the list of banned items in housing right away (if you haven't already done so).  Disney housing bans some weird items that even some universities don't, and you don't want to get caught with something you're not supposed to have.  You can find the list on the Onboarding website, and I'll also write a post about housing stuff sometime in the near future.
  5. Coordinate with your roommates ahead of time so you know who will be bringing what or what you will need to chip in for.  Even with random roommates (roommates assigned to you by Disney and the DORMS system), you should know who they are before you move in.  If not, take some time to sit down with them on move in day, see what needs to be supplied for the apartment and make a plan to get it.
Hopefully these tips help a little with those of you facing the daunting challenge of tackling the airports alone!  Even if you've flown by yourself before the DCP is a whole different ballgame and packing for it can be a pain. If there's anything you'd like to add or additional help you might need, my ears are always open here and on Twitter so ask away :)
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Eating around the World - AKA my favorite restaurants and snacks

3/24/14
Look, nachos.  Delicious nachos.  I won't judge you if you drool.


Since I have nothing better to do at this moment than sit and be hungry while I wait for dinner I've decided to write up a list of restaurants, foods and anything related to your stomach that I enjoyed on my last CP.  Food was my one vice while in Florida (especially since there are so many interesting and different restaurants within easy reach in WDW) and I could easily talk about it all day!  These recommendations can be from the parks, the resorts or Downtown Disney.  I'll also include a list of places I wish to visit on this program so consider this a gastronomical bucket list of sorts :)

Full Service Restaurants:
  1. Teppan Edo (Epcot, Japan pavilion): A bit on the pricy side but definitely worth the money - the food is delicious, the portions are reasonable (never left hungry) and the staff is extremely polite and attentive.  I always get the nihonbashi (steak and chicken) and if I'm feeling boozy I also have a Tokyo Sunset (a fruity alcoholic drink that's hard to describe).
  2. Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom, Main Street): If you grew up with Pooh and his friends (which I did), this place is heaven on earth.  Not only that, but the food is amazing (they served a chipotle pasta on the dinner bar when I visited and I got so mad when I couldn't find the recipe afterwards) and it's a buffet!  This is one character dining spot I'm definitely planning to go back to, so I urge you all to join me!
  3. Liberty Tree Tavern (Magic Kingdom, Liberty Square): If Thanksgiving is one of your favorite times of year because of all the delicious food, you're in luck!  Liberty Tree serves some super delicious turkey and stuffing which I get every time I visit.  My roommate also had some sort of pasta dish one time we went that she loved as well (I had a bit - it was pretty tasty).
  4. Kouzzina by Cat Cora (Boardwalk Resort): Like Greek food?  Never had it but want to try it?  Kouzzina is a tasty place that serves all my favorites like spanakopita (pronounced span-ih-COPE-it-ah, and it's a spinach and feta cheese pie) and pastitsio (pronounced pah-STEE-she-oh, and it's essentially lasagna with cloves and cinnamon instead of tomatoes).  It's only open for dinner as a Greek restaurant, but that's when the Boardwalk is at its best. (NOTE: This restaurant is slated to close this fall.  And yes, I'm depressed about it.)
  5. San Angel Inn (Epcot, Mexico Pavilion): I love Mexican food but don't get to eat it much at home - so this restaurant is a novelty for me.  Not only that, but it is the only place I have ever visited with guacamole that I actually like!  The time I visited I had the carne asada (steak) and it was very tasty.  I come from a state known for its steak so I'm really picky about it, and this did not disappoint.  Also, if you like strong drinks the margaritas are pretty delicious.
  6. 50's Prime Time Cafe (Hollywood Studios, Echo Lake): This restaurants is pretty famous among WDW nuts for its concept - having your waiters and waitresses be "babysitters" or "cousins" and scold you for doing things like putting your elbows on the table.  However, no one talks about the food that much - it's pretty good!  I enjoy the pot pie whenever I go, and various other people I've eaten with like the friend chicken.  It's got some delicious desserts and adult drinks as well.
  7. Garden Grill (Epcot, The Land pavilion): If you've ever wanted to meet Mickey at a character dining spot but don't want to eat at Chef Mickey's, this place is a good alternative.  The food is served family-style in small portions so it can get frustrating if you and your fellow diners at your table are hungry but the food is pretty delicious.  Best part: the produce is grown in the greenhouses that you ride through during Living with the Land!
  8. Boma (Animal Kingdom Lodge): Definitely not a place for picky eaters, as I found when I went there with my roommates there for my birthday, but if you're willing to branch out a bit there's plenty of amazing foods to be tried.  My favorite parts of the buffet are the hummus (the sun-dried tomato hummus is AMAZING) and the desserts (especially the famous Zebra Domes).
  9. Yak and Yeti Restaurant (Animal Kingdom, Asia): This food isn't really authentic for any culture or group in Asia, at least as far as I know.  However, it IS pretty tasty and some dishes are nice and light.  The rice is especially delicious, and the rice bowls are enough to fill me up on a day when I'm not very hungry.
  10. Coral Reef Restaurant (Epcot, The Seas pavilion): Seafood restaurants aren't the best place for people who don't like fish (like me), but they've got a pretty good and well-rounded menu that usually features at least one chicken or steak dish.  The lobster bisque almost converted me into a lobster-lover!  Also, it's got one of the most beautiful and relaxing dining rooms ever.
Quick-Service (Fast Food) Restaurants:
  1. Sunshine Seasons (Epcot, The Land pavilion): This is hands-down my favorite place to eat when I'm out in the parks!  There's a wide variety of food so pretty much anyone could find something they like, and everything tastes fresh and delicious.  I had corn chowder with hot chili oil once and it was amazing!
  2. Earl of Sandwich (Downtown Disney): Think of the most delicious hot sandwich you've ever had.  Now times that by ten.  Congratulations, you now know what Earl's sandwiches taste like!
  3. Boulangerie Patisserie les Halles (Epcot, France pavilion): France just got a quick-service restaurant a couple of years ago and the news made me so excited!  I love French food but the restaurants are expensive AND always crowded.  This place can also get very busy, but the food more than makes up for it - I love the quiche (pronounced like "keyshh" - egg pie with vegetables and other meats added) and the croque monsieur (toasted ham and cheese sandwich). The desserts are amazing too!
  4. Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland): The lines for this place are INSANE, but if you really want to see the interior you'll wait patiently for it.  The food is actually really decently priced and delicious as well - this place has quiche too!  (If you can't tell I kinda love quiche :P)
  5. Flame Tree BBQ (Animal Kingdom, Discovery Island): I go to school near Kansas City, which is a pretty famous place for barbeque, so I know when it's good.  It's delicious here!  Everything is a bit on the pricy side but it's worth it if you're looking for a good place to eat quick-service without having to eat burgers.
  6.  Pecos Bill's Tall Tale Inn and Cafe (Magic Kingdom, Frontierland): The cool thing about the food on this menu is the build-your-own taco salad - they sell you the meat and shell but you get to decide how much lettuce and such you put on at the toppings bar so this is almost like an all-you-can-eat thing.  It can be a really good deal!
  7. Starring Rolls Cafe (Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Boulevard): No one knows this place exists.  No one!  I'm so shocked because it's got some really great sandwiches (which are put together by the chefs at the Brown Derby - fun fact!) and it's hardly ever so busy that you'll have to wait a long time for your lunch.
  8.  La Cantina de San Angel (Epcot, Mexico pavilion): This outdoor restaurant serves some pretty simple dishes like tacos and nachos, everything tastes good and it's fun to be able to look over the World Showcase Lagoon while eating (though watch out for those ibises, they can get pretty scary at times).
  9. Electric Umbrella (Epcot, Future World West): It serves a lot of pretty standard quick-service items but also has a few unique things on the menu.  Also... I'm addicted to listening to the Future World area loop and it plays in the seating area nonstop.
  10. Casey's Corner (Magic Kingdom, Main Street): Delicious hot dogs!  That's about all I've got to say about this place.  The hot dogs are good, and they fit in well with the small-town American feel of Main Street.
Snacks:
  1. Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar: These aren't your typical ice cream bars... the ice cream tastes almost homemade and the chocolate is rich.  They're four dollars apiece but totally worth the money!
  2. Baklava (Epcot, Morocco Pavilion): Baklava (pronounced BOCK-lah-vah) is a pastry-like dish with nuts, cloves cinnamon and honey.  Think of a sticky brownie without the chocolate and that's sort of what baklava is.  It's one of my favorite desserts and I was so happy to see that Morocco sells it!
  3. Gelato (Epcot, Italy pavilion): As if I even need to explain how delicious gelato is ;) The gelato in Italy is expensive for what you get, but it is also very rich and satisfying.
  4. Minnie's Bake Shop Cookies: These are prepackaged and can be found in pretty much any shop that sells food, but I can't get enough of them!  They're like cakes!
  5. Dole Whip: I'm not really THAT fond of Dole Whip, but it's kind of a famous treat so I thought I'd include it here.  I like the Dole Whip-vanilla swirl you can get at the Polynesian!
Places I Want To Go On This Program:
  1. California Grill (Contemporary Resort)
  2. Hollywood Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)
  3. Raglan Road (Downtown Disney)
  4. Le Cellier (Epcot, Canada pavilion)
  5. Biergarten (Epcot, Germany pavilion)
  6. Restaurant Marrakesh (Epcot, Morocco pavilion)
  7. Rose and Crown (Epcot, UK pavilion)
  8. Sanaa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)
  9. Wave of American Flavors (Contemporary Resort)
  10. Artist Point or Whispering Point Cafe (Wilderness Lodge)
Honorable Mention Restaurant:
Splitsville (Downtown Disney): It's technically a bowling alley but the restaurant attached to it is pretty good!  Strangely, it has a pretty sizable sushi menu and everything else is pretty upscale.
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100 things I learned on the DCP

3/22/14
My favorite park, Epcot.
 
Hey all!  For this post I'm going to write about some of the things I learned while on my program that no blog or Disney post ever taught me about.  They might be helpful to you, they might be funny and they might just be useless little factoids.  Also mixed in may or may not be stupid/funny guest questions.

1) You will constantly be that awkward/obnoxious person who asks "can I use my discount here?" at every single quick-service location you go to because their discount rules are the weirdest I've ever encountered.

2) Sometimes, when guests ask you how to get someplace you will try to direct them backstage by accident because that's how YOU get around the park.  Oops.

3) The party buses are either fun or creepy depending on who you ask (personally, I never liked the looks the drivers gave me), but there's no denying the fact that a school bus spray painted black blends into the background at night FAR too well.  Should start calling it "ninja bus".

4) You don't get your employee ID (and therefore your ability to enter the parks for free) until about three days after you arrive in Orlando.  Expect these first few days to be filled with Downtown Disney, spending way too much money on food and stuff for your apartment and potentially visiting the Disney resorts.

5) Casting is essentially a series of lines.  If the DMV at home wigs you out prepare to take some very deep breaths. (Everyone who works there is wonderful, though, and the building is beautiful inside.  Plus side!)

6) Don't come to Traditions deprived of sleep because you will be tempted to nap through any segment of the presentation that doesn't appeal to you and ALL of it is important.  Also, it's embarrassing to nod off (I know from first-hand experience).

7) If you see a DCP bus that has a white sheet of paper taped to its front and/or side window, ALWAYS pay attention to this sheet rather than look at the marquee to figure out what bus route it is.

8) In case you're from Mars and have never eaten at Earl of Sandwich while in WDW, doitdoitdoitDOIT.  The sandwiches are pretty reasonably priced for the high quality they are and you can easily make one sandwich stretch to two meals if you're a light eater.  Downside, though: at dinnertime they are super super busy!

9) If you're not bringing a car with you and are therefore relying on DCP transportation, never EVER try to take a bus that stops at a park while that park is closing.  The bus will be completely full of other CPs who worked that day and most likely want their space and quiet.  Find a way to get to a DCP bus that only stops at resorts - they're much quieter and usually almost empty (so you won't have to stand)!

10) As a postscript to the note above, sometimes there will be vans that stop at the resorts instead of buses.  These vans are really awkward to climb in and out of, especially if you're wearing a skirt.

11) Guests will constantly ask you if you're "happy" while at work, almost as though they're expecting you to share a long and harrowing story of abuse or something.  It's strange but then again, I never had any problem saying "of course I am!". :)

12) Another guest thing: for some odd reason no one seems to know that the icon of Animal Kingdom is called the Tree of Life.  It's not from Avatar, The Lion King or Tarzan and it's DEFINITELY not Pixie Hollow! (I even asked Tink herself - it's really not!)

13) For those of you who are over 21 or turning 21 on the program - alcohol in Disney is VERY expensive!  Be prepared to pay at least ten bucks on a single drink.  (Upside: the drinks are delicious!  The Tokyo Sunset that's served in the restaurants in Japan - in Epcot - is my absolute favorite!)

14) Cast Members are not allowed to partake in Extra Magic Hours - sorry! (Unless you happen to be staying at a resort at the time, that is!)  The same goes for any separately ticketed events unless you purchase a ticket.

15) Yes, you may use guest buses!  The transportation system is open to EVERYONE, not just resort guests.  (Okay, I knew this one already but a lot of my friends didn't!)

16) Best times to visit characters - right after the park or their individual character spot opens for the day!  No lines and more time to spend hanging out.  Alternatively, for some spots visiting right before closing is also rewarding - Camp Minnie Mickey was one of my favorite spots to hit up in late afternoon because it's really quiet there after Festival of the Lion King finishes their shows for the day.

17) Disney Look and Character Integrity are everything - even if some of the rules don't make sense, they are there for a very good reason!

18) It's extremely hard to find Kingdom Hearts merchandise if you're a fan - ONE PIN is all I ever found.  Of course, this may change since Kingdom Hearts III has been announced but I doubt it.  Lots of good stuff to be found on the Internet though!

19) Don't worry about sometimes feeling too tired to go to the parks on your days off!  Some of my favorite moments hanging out with my roommates happened right in my apartment - and besides, you'll burn out on the parks a lot faster than you think you will!

20) The laundry rooms (at least in Patterson) have card readers so you don't have to lug around a bunch of quarters.  Awesome, right?  Well, these readers also break down a lot - so have some coinage ready just in case!

21) Depending on your role and work location, your managers may put together behind-the-scenes tours or special rides on popular attractions (like riding Space Mountain with the lights on).  Don't pass these opportunities up!

22) Cast Members get really good discounts on tours!  Although you'll have really good access to the Utilidors if you work in Magic Kingdom (and even if you don't), there are some tours that let you go places you can NEVER go other than on the tour.  My roommate and I went on the Behind the Seeds tour and it was amazing to see all the plants and experiments up close!

23) Wanna have a character breakfast with Mickey but can't get reservations for Chef Mickey's?  Try 'Ohana - you'll get Mickey PLUS Lilo (who is hard to meet otherwise), Stitch and Pluto!  Don't care so much about dining with the Mouse?  1900 Park Fare was my favorite character breakfast - Alice, Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were all wonderful!  And the food was de-LISH.

24) There are some things that are best left unsaid to an Entertainment cast member, even as a joke - "Andy's coming!" is definitely one of them. (For those that are wondering, the Toy Story characters DO NOT drop to the ground if you shout this and you will most likely upset or anger them and their attendants.)

25) You will have to answer questions about the characters quite frequently, even if you don't have a role that works with them - when in doubt about how to answer a question about a character, make up a bit of information that fits with their story!  (Example: "Why does Donald have to go inside so often?" "Well, he sees all of the other ducks getting to swim and he gets jealous.  He IS the number one duck after all!  So, sometimes he insists on going to take a swim in his little pond to cool off!")  Children love this information - especially when they get to make up some information of their own as well.  Imaginations ahoy!

26) Though this may change by the time Fall 2014 rolls around, when I was on my program your Maingate (AKA your card that gave you six days' worth of free admission for a few of your friends or family members) doubled as a PhotoPass card (and PS - PhotoPass is free to use!  If you don't like the photos you aren't forced to buy them!).

27) Need some Disney merchandise but the shops don't sell them anymore?  Cast Members get to shop in their own exclusive place called Cast Connection that offers outdated, damaged or overstocked stuff - I bought a Star Tours t-shirt for only EIGHT dollars! (Bonus: you can bring your family to Cast Connection too - just not the part that has the damaged goods.)

28) Want Cast Member-exclusive merch?  There are a few shops called Company D that sell exactly this - as I write this I'm wearing a cast-exclusive EPCOT Center shirt from its 30th anniversary that I bought.

29) Entering a park from backstage is a HUGE no-no if you're not working for the day.  Don't listen to what other CPs tell you!  It's not allowed and if you get caught you will most definitely be in huge trouble.  Same goes for leaving a park, unless you absolutely must go backstage (example: Epcot's CP bus stop is backstage).  Remember - other guests don't know you're a cast member if you're dressed like a guest and it's our responsibility to set a good example for guest behavior!

30) Don't be afraid to talk to guests about the DCP if they ask you about it!  I met so many young students who were planning on applying when they get some time to or get old enough and it was amazing to think I could be helping them make the decision to apply for the greatest experience in the world.

31) Want to have a character dinner but aren't sure where to reserve a spot?  My recommendations are Crystal Palace in Magic Kingdom (try the chipotle pasta - yum!) and 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian.  Both are reasonably quiet and have wonderful food and characters.

32) Don't want to hit a park for the entire day on your days off?  No problem!  Sometimes it's fun just to pop in during the evening for a quick meal and a ride or two.

33) Universal Orlando gives Florida Resident discounts to CPs!  All you have to do is get the front desk of your apartment complex to issue you a letter explaining that you are a CP.  Sometimes the ticket seller at Universal will give you the discount if you just show them your housing ID too, it just depends on who you get.

34) When in the parks as a guest, you receive all the privileges of a regular guest and nothing more.  Please remember this and don't attempt to use your status to get better seats for shows, access to the Fastpass queue without a FP or longer interactions with the characters.  Remember all of the other guests around you who deserve all that just as much as you do! (Again, something I knew already... but a lot of my fellow CPs did not!)

35) Housing security can be a huge pain, especially if you have non-CP guests coming to visit you.  You need to personally sign them and potentially even give the security officers an idea of how long they will be visiting for.  Expect to be asked a TON of questions depending on the guard.

36) If you ever lose your housing ID, get it replaced right away!  It's hard to get into your complex otherwise.

37) If you ever lose your cast member ID, that's even worse!  You'll have to go to a specific place to get it replaced and until then can't enter the parks for free or go to work that easily (you'll most likely have to go through a security gate that requires your ID, which means you'll have to call your manager and get them to explain the situation to security so they'll let you in).

38) Dole Whip is delicious.  The rum-soaked Dole Whip that's offered during the Flower and Garden Festival is way overpriced.

39) Your apartments come with an Ethernet port but aren't wired for WiFi - be sure to bring a router!

40) When making a maintenance request, make sure that someone will be in the apartment when the workers are supposed to come.  Otherwise, they tend to not do their jobs very well (or sometimes don't show up at all).  If this happens, call the front desk right away and they'll send someone else to fix the problem.  My roommates definitely had problems with maintenance during our program.

41) A note on alcohol: if you are underage and are caught in an apartment with others who are drinking you will be termed even if you yourself are not drinking.  Also, cooking wine counts as alcohol.  I know it doesn't make sense but that's the rule.

42) Another note on alcohol: leaving your apartment to drink underage does not keep you from potentially getting fired.  If you are caught and arrested, Disney can term you if they deem necessary. (It doesn't always happen but still.)

43) Taking photos backstage is absolutely forbidden unless you get permission from a manager or a coordinator.  They are very strict about this rule, especially if you are trying to take pictures near a character's green room.

44) Don't be afraid to wear the celebration buttons when in the park as a guest!  They can be a funny conversation starter and they're free to have!  You can't wear them while working as a cast member though, unless you work in certain roles.

45) When in doubt, ask a manager!  Every role and work location differs on the specifics and it's better to ask the person directly responsible rather than a bunch of people on the Internet who will give you misleading advice about what is and is not allowed.

46) Visiting the beach is an awesome thing to do on your day off if you're tired of Disney!  Cocoa Beach, among other places, isn't incredibly too far away by car and there are trips to the beach all of the time (mostly with the afore-mentioned party buses).

47) Want to volunteer for Give Kids the World?  Be prepared to make adjustments to your schedule!  The volunteer programs only occur on certain days of the week.

48) Twice a month, there is a bus trip to the Asian Market, which is - you guessed it - a supermarket selling Chinese, Japanese and Korean food among other things.  Not a good place to go for those who are picky eaters, but if you're used to the cuisine or want to expand your horizons the trips are a great experience - and though some things are also sold in Epcot, they're much cheaper here! (PS I bought a nice plastic ladle for only a couple of bucks!)

49) If you live in a dorm like me, be prepared to fully take advantage of the fact that your apartment will have a full kitchen!  I learned a lot about cooking and am now addicted :)

50) Save some money before you start your program, and also save some money for the end of your program when you'll be buying those last-minute souvenirs, plane tickets, baggage fees and shipping costs to send everything else home.

51) We get half off tickets to DisneyQuest in Downtown Disney - which is great because you'll either love or hate the place.  Personally (as a gamer who grew up going to arcades all the time) I feel it could use a major makeover.  Plus side is it's not ever busy unless it's raining.

52) Do try to go to Splitsville at least once!  The food and bowling are both expensive but you won't find a better alley or grub anywhere nearby.  Plus, they have Cast Member specials every week!

53) Speaking of Cast Member specials, if going to House of Blues on one of their cast member nights be prepared for loud, rowdy crowds.  If this isn't your kind of scene be warned.

54) And again with Cast Member specials... there are a lot of restaurants and bars in the area around Disney property that offer some really great deals for CMs if you can get there.  Just ask any full time or part time cast member in your work location and chances are they'll know at least a couple!

55) If you happen to own a car, prepare to be begged for rides all of the time.  I didn't realize quite how many CPs showed up for the program without a car and was very surprised.

56) Getting days off of work is both easier and harder than you think.  On one hand, especially if you work in a large role, finding someone to take a shift for you and putting the request in online is sometimes very easy.  On the other hand, there are a lot of rules for giving away shifts that you need to pay attention to.  Also, there are always "those" shifts that no one ever wants!

57) The CP housing events can be very fun, and they can also be very underwhelming and boring.  If you come from a university like I do you will most likely lean towards boring side of things, as they're mostly giant pizza parties with little else to do besides eat pizza.  (However, Grocery Bingo is tons of fun and very rewarding if you win!)

58) Don't ever be afraid to voice your concerns about your apartment or your roommates if you must - keeping quiet is far more damaging than letting it all out as problems arise (and they will arise, much as problems sometimes arise even in the best of friendships).

59) Another thing about roommates - if you can pick them ahead of time, be sure to do that!  Not only will you be able to build up better trust with them ahead of time, you'll also be able to discuss important things (like "who's bringing the PS3?" okay, KIDDING) more easily.

60) If you're lucky to know any departing CPs when you start your program (which isn't likely but you never know), see if they have anything they'd be willing to sell to you!  And when you're leaving your program, selling little things like pillows and food is a lot easier than trying to ship it all home with you.

61) Learning basic Spanish is definitely a plus - a lot of guests, especially in the summer, are from Spanish-speaking countries and most likely don't speak much English.  It's a lot easier to answer guest questions if you know what they're saying!

62) If you're a water-lover (as in, you love to drink water) here's a great way to save money - the folks at any quick-service location will give you a cup of ice water if you ask for it and it's free!  Not as convenient as a water bottle but much more affordable.

63) Since you're going to be Disney for a while, take the time to enjoy the little things - the gardens and performers in Epcot, the many different foods and eateries, the Citizens of Hollywood in the Studios and the Citizens of Main Street in Magic Kingdom, and the many beautiful resorts and their grounds.

64) Also, try every ride there is even if you don't think it'll appeal to you (as in: NO WAHHH THIS RIDE IS BORING).  I got one of my roommates hooked on Living with the Land (which is a majorly underrated attraction, by the way) and I'd take riding the Winnie the Pooh ride any day over waiting in line for hours just to ride Space Mountain!

65) If you want good seats for Illuminations, you have to be willing to camp out by the lagoon's rails very early.  Yes, even in off-season.  I suggest bringing dinner with you and perhaps something to do while you wait for the show - I've done this before and it works out so well!

66) The same goes for Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade, although camping out here is a lot harder - if you're not sitting at a table, prepare to stand to watch the shows.

67) Love the mall?  There's a CP bus that goes to the Florida Mall once every week (the day of the week depends on what month it is), and this mall is fantastic.  If you don't want to wait that long, the Premium Outlets are a short-ish walk from the Commons (although the shops here tend to be a bit more pricey).

68) If you choose to take Disney classes, figuring out if you can get credit for them can be difficult.  If you feel you should be able to get credit for a Disney class you are taking, I recommend talking to your academic advisor AND the head of your major's department.

69) Orlando International Airport can be a bit tricky to find your way around.  It's not a difficult layout per se, but there's an awful lot of stuff in your way and it gets really distracting.

70) Mears has a super cheap group shuttle service from the airport, but it's a complete mess and not worth it (at least, in my experience).  I had to wait almost two hours for a shuttle to pick me up and the driver tried to drop me off in the wrong place twice!  Definitely shell out the extra cash for a taxi if you'd like to get to your destination in a timely manner.

71) You haven't truly met Mickey until you've hit your head really hard on some part of his face.  (Poor Mickey!  I hope I didn't hurt him too badly.)

72) Your apartment comes with cable!  Yippee!  However, you need to supply the TV and cords that go with it.

73) You also have to supply bedding, though if you've lived in a dorm before this shouldn't be a surprise.  What WAS a surprise to me was that in my apartment (in Patterson), my roommate and I got a decent-sized vanity and dresser!

74) You'll have inspections about every month on your program.  Don't wait until the night before to clean the entire apartment, it is wayyyy too stressful.  Focus on cleaning up after yourself consistently and you'll have a lot less to do when inspections come around!

75) It IS possible and not very difficult to take online classes from your university while on the program, as long as you have good time management.  Definitely be prepared to sacrifice some time that could be spent having fun, but also be prepared to feel very accomplished :)

76) Celebrities are people too!  They visit quite often (I was lucky enough to attend a showing of Festival of the Lion King with Joey Fatone and his entourage in attendance) but they deserve their space and privacy.  Don't spread rumors about where they might be and definitely don't harass them if you see them!  And if you're lucky enough to have them as one of the guests while at work, remember to stay professional... and squee in private! :P

77) This might not come as a shock to anyone who lives in the South, but I was amazed to see just how many lizards there are in central Florida.  And how few squirrels there are.  I guess it's just a Midwestern thing.

78) All female cast members at the Haunted Mansion are told to name the bat on their hairpiece during training.  Don't be afraid to ask them what they've named theirs! (I've heard males name something as well but since they don't have visible bats... I dunno.  Any HM CMs want to clear this up for me?)

79) Don't be fooled by the tropical climate - winters in Florida can be very cold.  Sometimes, there will even be nights where the temperature will drop under freezing (though this isn't common)!  Come prepared with warm clothing if your program is partially in the winter months (which everyone's is!).

80) Homesick?  Skype and care packages can go a long way.  Watch a movie or TV show that reminds you of home (or distracts you, whichever is your preferred method of dealing with homesickness).  Remember, everyone on the program is currently away from home and they understand how you feel!

81) There are a lot of resources for CPs dealing with any sort of issues - school, personal, roommate-related - and they're definitely useful if you need someone to talk to.  (This may or may not still exist, but I heard when I started the program that it did).

82) You may Disney Bound any day of the year!  However, Disney is very strict on adults wearing anything that could be mistaken for a costume in the parks.  I've heard about them freaking out about some very silly things so... if in doubt, don't wear it!  This doesn't include Halloween, by the way - you are definitely allowed to wear a costume no matter what your age on this day!

83) Though you probably won't be able to see it until late fall/early winter, Animal Kingdom in the evening and at night is super beautiful... though dark!

84) Can't make it to Magic Kingdom to see the fireworks?  Try hanging out on the Polynesian Resort's beach!  You won't get the beautiful music and the fireworks are a bit small but there are no crowds, comfy lounge chairs and sand to play with!

85) Mix up your food selection in your pantry every now and then - you'll get bored of eating the same thing every day!  And make sure you eat as healthily as possible... working for Disney can be very taxing on the body!

86) Want a lunch that's delicious and not fried?  More and more quick-service restaurants are trying to help you out there but my personal favorite is Sunshine Seasons in The Land Pavilion (Epcot).  There's a great selection of delicious food that's relatively healthy (not fried, at least), and you get to sit in what I believe is the most pretty of the pavilions in Future World!

87) On the topic of delicious food, here's a dinner deal that I don't think a lot of people know about - Nine Dragons Restaurant in China (again, Epcot) has a selection of entrees that you can order for only about $13 - and the portions are pretty filling!  Especially for the World Showcase (where a tiny cheese plate will run you about $10 in France) this is pretty affordable.

88) And on the topic of World Showcase food, do you need a couple of suggestions for dessert?  My favorites are the gelato (in Italy) and baklava (in Morocco).  In case you don't know what either of these are, gelato is a type of frozen dessert like ice cream and baklava is a sort of layered pastry-like thing with nuts, cloves, cinnamon and lots and lots of honey!  Yum!

89) Are you religious and want to stay in touch with other members of your faith?  There are a variety of groups for CPs that want to worship together among other things - I'm not religious myself but a few of my friends were parts of those groups and they seemed very nice!

90) Pets are not allowed in the apartments, not even fish.  And inspections happen WAY too often for a pet to be hidden that easily.  However, there seem to be a lot of stray cats who hang around Patterson and Chatham, so if you live in either of those complexes get ready for some kitty sightings! (Note: the cats are feral so the chances of you actually getting to pet said kitties is near zero.  Still, they're cute to watch.)

91) Bring your cameras, camera phones and whatever else you use to take pictures!  Trust me when I say you will never feel like you've taken enough photos and will constantly be finding some new memory to photograph.

92) Kids' Activities?  As if!  Any activity in the park can be participated in no matter what your age, and they're just as fun!  My personal favorite is the new Wilderness Explorers activity in Animal Kingdom - it's highly informative and fun!

93) Be wary of the taxis that wander around Little Lake Bryan (AKA the area where all of the apartment complexes besides Vista are) - the drivers have been known to be pretty aggressive about getting business and they will stare you down at the bus stop.  Creepy?  Yes.  Dangerous?  Not that I've heard of.

94) If you don't know how Fastpass works yet, definitely get well acquainted with it before you start your program.  Most people are, but if you've never been to WDW before it can get kind of crazy.  By the way, your cast member ID doubles as a park ticket so you can use it to get FPs!

95) If you have a role that has a pin lanyard (AKA pretty much every role besides Photopass and some food workers), be prepared to be asked to trade pins once every five seconds.  If you've never pin traded before and don't know how it works educate yourself on it now!

96) Every large group of guests has the potential to be awful and rude.  Yes, we've all heard the stories about Brazilian tour groups and they sometimes are really that awful.  However, there are other types of large groups - cheer groups, student tours from other countries besides Brazil, large families, etc. - and all require special handling to ensure that they and everyone around them are behaving and having fun!

97) Make sure that you want the role you have been offered before you pay your fees.  You can't change your role once it's been offered (unless you have health problems or other very strong reasons for not being able to take on the responsibilities of a role) and unfortunately, what you get is what you get.

98) If you get injured while on the job, Disney is supposed to let you go on "modified duty" (essentially, you get assigned to something that won't aggravate your injury while it heals).  However, if you get injured too badly to work while not on the job they will have to let you go.  However, don't worry about this counting against your record if you want to work for Disney again - it's not considered a termination and won't change your rehire status!

99) Single rider queues are few and far between, but they can drastically cut down your wait time - I don't ride Expedition Everest but my best friend wanted to, so she got to ride it twice in about half an hour thanks to being a single rider!

100) Post-Disney Depression is a bitch and you will feel like an alien in your own home.  No kidding.
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And here we go...

3/22/14
Hello everyone, and welcome to my Disney College Program blog for Fall Advantage 2014!  I am excited to begin this journey with my fellow participants and experience as many exciting things as possible while there.  Until my program starts on June 9th my blogs will be pretty infrequent, but I'll be sure to update regularly once in Florida.

Some quick facts you might want to know about me (you can also check my 'About Me' page):

  1. I am an alum of the DCP (Spring Advantage 2013)
  2. My previous role was Photopass.  My role on this program is Attractions.
  3. I stayed in Patterson last time and loved it!
  4. I was based in Animal Kingdom on my last program and never picked  up shifts in any other parks.  I would've missed my jungle home too much!
  5. I will be 22 on this program and staying in non-wellness with five other girls that will most likely be making an appearance here at some point :)
  6. I will be vlogging on this program (I have a few videos from my last program's attempt at a vlog but might be taking them down when I start my new series) but most likely not until summer starts.
I'll be posting a few other things about things I learned on my last program and advice I'd like to give to first-time CPs entering this program.  If there's anything in particular you'd like answered in the meantime, ask away!  Until then, enjoy this lovely photo:


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