Lonely Planet Writer

Gap year profile: 12 months at Disney World

For some people, travel can mean going round-the-world. But for others, it can be all about staying in the one place and working. The gap year is the perennial favourite of students looking to escape after exams, while others just love the concept of a paid-for trip that takes them somewhere new.

At a recent travel gathering, we met blogger Lynda Galea, recently returned from a year at Disney World in Florida, so we thought we’d quiz her for more info about a gap year at a theme park - and her tips for getting the most from a year working and living overseas.

What was the most difficult thing about the gap year?

The thought of leaving behind my family, friends and cat never really fazed me; well, perhaps just my cat. While many battled with home sickness and adjusting to Florida’s humidity, the things I was meant to be nervous and anxious about seemed more electrifying than a worry.

Although English is widely spoken, everyday communication became quite a challenge with the diverse crowds that Disney draws. Disney Cast Member grooming standards are also quite strict along with the regular apartment inspections conducted by housing control; fail these and you are forced to cough up your hard-earned drinking money!

And the best benefits of a gap year?

Apart from free entry into all Disney parks, interning abroad provided me with a sense of independence that I lacked while living at home. The life experience you gain is incredible and the people you meet will quickly become some of your best friends.

An overseas internship looks rather impressive on a resume and gives you something to relate back to during job interviews. If you are keen on exploring the USA while abroad (which I highly recommend), time off can often be approved upon request.

What advice would you have for anyone wanting to try a gap year?

  • You’ll want to learn to budget. Rent is deducted weekly from your pay cheque so what you’re left with needs to cover groceries, social activities etc.
  • I highly recommend making time to book in regular Skype sessions with your family and friends to prevent homesickness.
  • Engage in culture: your roommate may be from China, and your colleagues from India, Italy, and Brazil. Take the time to understand and appreciate their cultural beliefs and differences.

You must have got to know the area pretty well; what's your favourite spot?

If you enjoy a cold brew, appreciate good music and want to escape the theme park madness for a short while, look no further than Howl at the Moon on Orlando's International Drive.

In short, Howl at the Moon is a piano bar. This is not your typical, average piano bar though - you see, it's a duelling piano bar! Like the old saying goes, two is better than one, as is definitely proven here. Set list? Who needs a set list?! These two pianists are so talented that it is up to the audience to dictate how the night unfolds. Request all your sing-a-long bar favourites (as well as chart-topping modern day hits) and these two fellas can virtually play and sing anything requested of them - incredible!

How do you get a year at Disney World?

Those living in Australia and New Zealand, head over to the Student Travel Bureau website and click on the Disney Internationals Program link. STB sends a group of Australians over to Disney World in January and July of each year. It’s best to pick which departure date suits you and then contact STB at least six to eight months in advance.

The six-month program will allow you to work one job rotation and the twelve month allows for two rotations. It may be worth checking with your tertiary institute to see if they grant credit for the successful completion of your internship. For other nationalities, choose your country on Disney Internationals Program site for more information.

Anyone interested in undertaking a year working overseas should check out the travel advice on Lonely Planet's Gap Year and Round-the-World travel forum as well as our top ideas for working holidays.

Lynda Galea blogs at live-travel-blog and tweets @lynnie11.