Sara Earns Her Ears

by Sara Lopes | Release Date: December 31, 2014 | Availability: Print, Kindle


For California girl Sara Lopes, it wasn't enough to walk down Walt Disney World's Main Street. She wanted to live there. She got her wish, for a little while, and her secret cast member diary takes you with her from Cali to Cinderella Castle.

What happens when a teenager leaves home for the first time, flies across the country, and moves into a Disney apartment with five other girls just as eager to join the Disney dream machine and learn how the magic works?

In Sara Earns Her Ears, you'll get as close to the Disney College Program as you possibly can without enrolling in it yourself. From application to interview, orientation to training, working on the job and playing in the parks, you'll experience the magic, and sometimes the not-so-magic, from the inside looking out.

Follow Sara as she:

  • Answers Disney's interview questions perfectly, and then watches as all her friends get accepted first
  • Endures long shifts, endless training, and battling guests at Capt.Cook's in the Polynesian Resort
  • Participates in little-known Disney events like Dapper Day and Disneybound, and eats a lot of free pie
  • Takes you backstage with her to cast member-only parties and events, a coronation, and the dreaded Disney inspections
  • Shares advice, checklists, and helpful resources to get you started on your own quest to work for the Mouse

The end of Sara's college program in Walt Disney World took her from one theme park to another, as she followed her dream of full-time work at Disneyland. Did she make it? It's all in her secret cast member diary.

Sara Earns Her Ears is the third volume in the popular "Earning Your Ears" series. If you've never been in the Disney College Program, this is the next best thing!

Table of Contents

1The Wonderful World of Color

2Preparing for the Application

3The Application

4Phone Interview

5The Waiting Game

6The Moment of Truth

7Roommate Hunting

8Disney Purgatory

9The Big Day

10Resort Hopping

11Welcome to the Disney Family

12First Days of Park Fun


14Learning the Ropes

15On My Way

16Meeting Fellow Vloggers

17Animals and Norway

18An Eventful Nine Days

19A Magical Birthday

20A Grand Deployment

21A Trip to Hogwarts

22Dapper Day

23Deployed Again

24My Mortal Enemy—The "B" Bus


26Exploring My Future

27Water Park Adventures

28Family Vacation

29Miracle Day and Endless Pie

30Life at Capt. Cook's

31Happy Birthday, Animal Kingdom!

32Starlight Splash

33Goofy's Mystery Tour/Disneybound Day

34Roommate Experience


36A Coronation, Star Wars, and the Christines

37Final Days at Capt. Cook's

38"See Ya Real Soon!"

39Returning Home

40DCP Depression

41New Opportunities

42A New Chapter

43Back to the Beginning

Appendix: College Program Helpers

About the Author

Sara Lopes

Sara Lopes is a born-and-raised Disney fan who’s had the opportunity to work at both the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida as well as at Disneyland in California. She will graduate from California State University, Fullerton, in Fall 2015 with a degree in marketing.

Sara is an avid blogger and Netflix addict, and runs the popular website The Disney Den.

A Chat with Sara Lopes

Coming soon...

Sara spends her last day at Capt. Cook's in the Polynesian.

On May 28, I got dressed in the hideous shrub-patterned costume for the last time. Sara and I took pictures together in our costumes because we both were working our final shifts that night. I walked to the Chatham bus stop, arrived at the Poly, soaked in every beautiful detail of the gorgeous resort as I went backstage to clock in, and arrived at Capt. Cook’s to see my last position in the restaurant: breaker.

I was thrilled.

I was worried I was going to be placed in the dining room for my last shift, which would have been rather anticlimactic and boring. I was grateful they had placed me on the breaker position, because it meant I was literally going to be working every position available one last time while I sent my coworkers on their breaks. This meant I’d be using both cash registers, cleaning the dining area, and most importantly, working behind the counter with my favorite culinary crew.

I was in charge of breaks from 6:00 to 8:45, and then it was my turn to go on break for around 15 minutes. When I returned from the break room, I helped a coworker behind the counter and then decided to walk out onto the beach to pick up trays around the pool. The best part about this idea was that I was able to watch a little bit of Monsters Inc., since it was playing on a big screen on the beach that night. I brought the trays back to the dish room, threw out some food from the bakery that had spoiled, and then ran into my manager near the cooler.

She walked up to me and said, “Sara, how happy would you be if I gave you an ER on your last day?” (ER means early release from your shift.)

“You would be my most favorite person ever!” I squealed.

My manager opened her arms and pulled me in for a giant hug, “It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you, and I wish you luck in all of your future goals back home.”

My heart grew heavy. This was the first time she had ever said something along those lines to me. I was thankful for her kind words, but sad because my last shift spontaneously came to an end. I quickly walked into the kitchen to hug and say goodbye to one of the culinary cast members who had been a mother figure to me during my program. She was always so sweet and helpful whenever we worked together. I was going to miss working with her.

“Goodbye sweetheart, you’ve been a joy to have around and I’m going to miss having you behind the counter with us,” she told me during our embrace.

I lost it. My eyes began to water and my ability to remain composed on stage in front of the guests was slipping. I snuck out the back and quickly walked around the patio to the cast member bathroom, covering my eyes with my hat so guests wouldn’t notice I was crying. I locked myself in a bathroom stall and just let it all out. I couldn’t stop crying no matter how hard I tried. It finally hit me that it was the last time I was going to work at Capt. Cook’s. I only had one more full day in Walt Disney World. The hardest concept to grasp was that I wasn’t going to be able to see my friends and co-workers every day.

I took a deep breath to compose myself after the tears started to die down. I splashed some water on my face from the sink and exited the bathroom to empty out my locker and clock out one final time. As I was walking through the parking lot to return my costumes across the street, I turned around and noticed the fireworks going off. I smiled and stood in the back of the parking lot for a little bit, simply to enjoy my last moments at the Poly. Just as the finale was starting, my favorite Iron Man monorail drove right under the fireworks and through the resort. The whole scenario was so perfect that I felt like I was in a movie.

I walked across the street to Costuming and bid goodbye to the orange pants and tacky floral. No more resembling a piece of furniture every day! For the entire bus ride home I kept brainstorming about how I was going to finish packing my life away into only two suitcases and one backpack, and what Sara and I were going to do to spend our last day here. It suddenly hit me:

Four parks. One day.

Challenge accepted.

Continued in "Sara Earns Her Ears"!

It's not all work and no play for Sara. Here, she discovers Maelstrom, in Epcot's Norway Pavilion, and wishes she hadn't.

One pavilion I didn’t even know existed was the one dedicated to Norway. I found it somewhat random that they even had a Norway pavilion, but I was even more surprised when the girls told me there was a ride there. Sure enough, if you look closely you can see Viking-style boats turning a corner in an open window in the main building. Liz told me it was similar to Splash Mountain, just with a smaller drop. I was all for trying it at least once, but little did I know what I was going to experience.

Inside the queue, a huge mural dominated the entire wall in the loading dock, filled with muscular and bearded Norwegian men working on oil rigs, climbing mountains, and sailing ships. The three of us settled into our own miniature Viking longboat and sailed into darkness.

For a few moments, it was pitch black with winds howling in the distance. Suddenly, a bright light shined in front of us, with a commanding voice booming overhead: “Those who seek the spirit of Norway, face peril and adventure…”

I found everything about this ride to be creepy. I don’t seek the spirit of Norway! What’s even going on?

Lizzie and Christine started cackling over my commentary, even though I was legitimately confused and freaked out. The darkness continued along with the god-like narrator, leading us to a group of Vikings on ships interacting with each other (attempting to barter and trade, I assumed).

We continued to the next room. “There are those who seek the spirit of Norway…where trolls still prowl the water’s edge.”

What?! Trolls? I don’t want anything to do with trolls! This ride was so incredibly uncomfortable and we weren’t even halfway finished.

We crept through more darkness and silence before massive glaring eyes appeared out of nowhere and an ugly, three-headed, bearded creature chanted, “HALT! This is troll country! You will disappear! DISAPPEAR! DISAPPEAR!”

The next thing we knew our Viking ship was slowly reversing its direction, and then suddenly propelling us toward…polar bears? One colossal polar bear stood on its hind legs and roared.

How did we go from the forest to polar bears? This isn’t making any sense. My friends were still thoroughly amused over my distress with this attraction and continued to laugh.

Our ship continued to travel in reverse toward an opening to the outside world. As the back of our boat peeked out through the window, part of me was secretly hoping we would just fall out of the pavilion. It’d be an ugly fall, but it would mean I’d finally be done with this ride.

Unfortunately, my wish didn’t come true, because more trolls peeked over the bushes as we moved forward, cackling over our imminent doom. Before we could even think twice about what was happening, we plummeted down a 28-foot drop into a stormy North Sea. Thunder clapped and lightning flashed above the choppy waves. We were steered around various oilrigs scattered across the water. We only had a few moments to try and comprehend what we were experiencing before our ship came to an abrupt stop.

The god-like voice boomed one last time: “Norway’s spirit will always be adventure.”

And my adventure will always be avoiding this ride. I jetted out of the ship as soon as we arrived at the unload dock. The three of us raced past the theater where guests had the option to watch a six-minute video about tourism in Norway, and then dodged all the vendors in the Norwegian gift shop. Finally, we were free.

I still don’t understand why anyone actually enjoyed that attraction. Needless to say, I avoided Maelstrom at all costs for the rest of my program. It’s now gone, soon to be replaced with something from Frozen. I wonder what they’re going to do with that polar bear.

Continued in "Sara Earns Her Ears"!

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