Chase McRae did not have an ordinary trip to Walt Disney World in Florida.
McRae, who is from L’Orignal, graduated from Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute in 2018 and then went on to study business and marketing at St. Lawrence College in Kingston. He had wanted to work at Disney World for a long time, so in December 2019, he applied to do a six-month paid internship there in conjunction with the University of Florida in Gainesville. Disney takes the application process seriously. McRae had to travel to Toronto twice for interviews. He ended up being one of only 20 students accepted from four different colleges and universities in Ontario.
On June 27, 2019, McRae arrived at the University of Florida in Gainesville where he completed four courses. At Walt Disney World near Orlando, he got to work at five different attractions. His favourite was in merchandising at the Star Wars themed Tatooine Traders store at Hollywood Studios. The Star Wars attraction Galaxy’s Edge only officially opened on August 29, so he got to be part of the inaugural team. In October, McRae was transferred to Dinosaur: the Ride at the Animal Kingdom until his internship ended in December.
Disney has its own philosophies and workplace culture, and McRae experienced them. Film studio and stage performance terminology is used in amusement park operations. For example, when an employee is working on the sales floor of a store or on a ride, they are considered “on stage.” When they are off for lunch or breaks and are in the staff room, they are “off stage.” At Disney, customers are called “guests.”
Training for Disney World employees is called Disney University. Upon completion, employees graduate at a small ceremony and are congratulated by the company’s most famous couple, Mickey Mouse and partner Minnie Mouse.
“There’s people from everywhere,” McRae said about the international cast of colleagues he worked with and the friends he made at Disney World. He worked with people from Australia, France, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Turkey.
“It was really cool to see how a big company like Disney treats its employees,” said McRae.
“Overall, they treat you well,” he said.
For interns, the benefits included free park passes for them and visiting family, along with discounts for merchandise.
However, Disney interns put in long hours for minimal wages.
“They expect a whole lot of you,” said McRae.
From the perspective of a business and marketing student, the Disney experience was beneficial. McRae said it was important to see how a successful corporation operates, and working at Disney was his first retail job where high amounts of communication and customer service were required.
In September 2020, McRae will return to class at St. Lawrence College in Kingston to complete his program.