Savannah Taider, a student living in Belgium, wanted nothing more than to work at Walt Disney World. She was obsessed with it, in fact. She tried and failed, tried and failed. Most would have given up. Savannah isn't most. She tried again...
Disney's International Program is like its college program, except that Disney recruits students from outside the United States to work in its parks. Given the competition, and the limited slots available, it's much harder to get accepted into the international program than it is the college program.
Savannah found that out, the hard way. She chronicles these travails, followed by the scintillant moment of acceptance, her journey to Orlando, the usual ups and downs of meeting roommates, the Traditions class at Disney University, and cast member training, and then her first day on duty, in Disney Springs.
In her secret cast member diary, Savannah puts a European spin on what it's like to live and work at Walt Disney World, as she overcomes unique challenges and offers a glimpse into the "backstage" world that most guests never see.
If you've ever wondered what it would be like not just to visit a Disney theme park but to work in one, the "Earning Your Ears" series is your E-ticket!
Like many people I’ve known over the years, I have never actually met Savannah Taider in person. We have only corresponded via email as she lives in Belgium and I live in southern California. But that didn’t stop Savannah from reaching out to me for advice on telling her story and the sometimes hard realities of writing a book, especially a first book. It is just one example of her tenacity and determination in achieving her goals.
Over the course of a year or so, she sent me drafts of her manuscript to read and I dutifully sent her back notes and comments. The process of writing is all about rewriting and writing again. It is a process not for the faint of heart as it requires hard work, determination, the ability to face rejection and to overcome obstacles. Savannah has all those qualities and more.
Like the story she tells in this debut book, Savannah Earns Her Ears, Savannah set out to write about her experiences in the Disney International Program, the international version of the Disney College Program. This book is the product of a long-held dream she had to get into that program and work at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Savannah had the foresight and discipline to keep a diary, a detailed journal, of her day-to-day triumphs and occasional setbacks on her journey to fulfill her dream. So many people today say, “I want to—” or “I wish I could—” but never actually follow through on their dreams and desires. Savannah did. She is a prime example of someone who set her laser-focused sights on realizing her dream of being accepted into the Disney International Program.
Even though she was initially rejected from the program, Savannah never acquiesced to defeat and continued to push forward where others would have quit. She believed in herself and the power of her dreams. As Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” And Savannah has not only dreamt it, but she has done it, which proves you can do it as well. Savannah gives any prospective domestic or international Disney College Program candidate the firsthand experience of what it takes to apply, interview, and get accepted into this coveted program.
Savannah Earns Her Ears is an inspiring story that documents a young woman’s journey across two continents to follow and achieve her goals and dreams. It is a must-read for anyone wishing to work at Disney or who needs a kick in the pants to go out and chase their hearts desire. Dream it, believe it— do it!
Have you ever had a dream you wanted to turn into reality? Have you ever found the one thing on earth that makes you feel alive? Have you ever heard of Ariel, Tiana, Rapunzel, Jasmine, Moana, and all the others? If you are reading this, you probably have. What do they all have in common? Of course they are Disney princesses; but what really stands out about each one? Well, all of them had a big dream and made it known that a risk would be worth taking to make that dream come true. But what if we could be just like them? What if we could turn our life into a real Disney movie and be the hero who goes through hard times but who wins at the end? These are the questions I have always asked myself.
I discovered the Disney International Program in January 2014. I was eighteen and going through the darkest times of my life. After being in a relationship for almost six years, I broke up with my fiancé because of his infidelity. Not so Disney, right? Making this decision was the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, divided between the comfort and supposed love I thought I had always felt, and the absolute unknown. Looking back, I can’t find the words to express how devastated I was and how I no longer wanted to be alive, having to face a considerable loss of weight and avoiding public places not to be seen by anyone; clearly, school was no exception. I wanted to be forgotten by everyone. Little did I know that choosing the unexplored path was the best decision I have ever made.
I was born and raised in a little town in the French part of Belgium. My parents raised my sister, my brother, and I the Disney way. By this, I mean that they introduced us to the animation movies and theme parks where they took the three of us on vacation every year. My father actually asked my mom if they could have a third child while they were spending a family weekend at Disneyland Paris. (Was it you, Father, who put all that magic in my DNA?) This is how I, their very last and most stubborn child, was born.
If I had to describe myself today, I would say that, in a few months, I went from a bitter and damaged person to an awakened and individual soul, striving for her dreams to come true, with a love for Disney. Experiencing the darkness enabled me to sparkle, just like a star would shine in the nothingness of the universe. My mother will tell you that I’ve always been a stubborn child who always wanted to do everything on her own. She believed I would be gone exploring the world by the age of eighteen. And yet, she was right. I’ve always been consumed by wanderlust. Why is that? I have no clue; does Moana come to mind? I took my first trip to California, which was actually my first trip overseas, in November 2013. I wanted to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, so there I went, with my then fiancé. My ultimate desire was to visit Walt Disney World in Florida. I was spending hours and days just watching videos and pictures of this beautiful place that I had always dreamed of.
I heard about the Disney College Program when I was scrolling through images on the internet, looking for some princess quotes to post on my social media profiles. Reading quotes helped me go through hard times. Plus, the Disney princesses have this attitude to constantly show people that life isn’t what it is but rather what you make of it, and that the life of your dreams is just a wish away. Whether it was about love or about life, they gave me the little pep talk I needed at the right time. I remained skeptical at first, wondering what the Disney College Program could possibly be. A college in a Disney theme park? Who would not like to go to a school that has a curriculum taught by Disney? After some research, I found out that the program was for students currently enrolled in an accredited university in the United States, which, unfortunately, wasn’t my situation. However, it was with astonishment that I also discovered that an international program existed. The official website of the Disney International College Program said that to be eligible to participate in the program, you must be at least eighteen and enrolled in an accredited college, though not necessarily an American college. I was eligible for the Cultural Exchange Program. I started reading its description: “The program lasts for 2 months during the summer. Applicants must be able to attend an interview in France, United Kingdom, Canada, or in one of the other countries listed below. Applications open in September.” It was only January. Did I really have to wait that long?
In order to be eligible to participate in the program, I would have to enroll in school again and find a job. Considering the fact that I had failed my first year in an accounting program, I decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in management assistant in the same school; languages, marketing, and communication courses were perfect for me, and would allow time to pass.
This is how my journey began. Working at Walt Disney World was the biggest plan I’ve ever had for myself. The place I’ve always wanted to go to get married had become the place where I wanted to work. Shall I tell you that this new adventure, besides happiness, fulfillment, and unexpected opportunities, cost me tears, deception, and frustration as well? Shall I tell you that I almost gave up multiple times? Shall I tell you how I earned my ears through faith, hard work, and perseverance?
Let’s see what a little wishing can do….
Savannah Taider is a former French-speaking Disney cast member who has worked at Disneyland Paris and at Walt Disney World, as a merchandiser.
Savannah holds a bachelor’s degree in Management Assistant and currently works as an executive assistant in the Legal & Innovation department of the Brussels South Charleroi Airport in Belgium. However, after having buried her inner child’s desire to be a journalist, or more precisely, to write, for more than a decade, she believed the time had come to give it a try as she finally lived experiences she wanted to share with those who would read what she has to tell. Adventure, self-growth, and the possibility of making dreams turn into reality are subjects she loves to write about.