I am a graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge. I have a certificate to prove it too. While others aspire to Vassar, Harvard or Yale, I chose to matriculate with The Mouse. I do indeed hold a degree from a traditional college but I also have a certificate indicating that I passed my Disney classes and have had on site experience. The reason is simple. In my office we arrange a lot of trips to Walt Disney World. Having a good solid background about the magical product is essential and admittedly, fun work. Sure, you might be thinking that the homework assignments involve spinning around in oversize tea cups or hurtling through Space Mountain, but Disney actually takes the whole process pretty seriously. The pursuit of knowledge is a noble one. Surely, it’s a path to success. Fortunately, Disney is an enjoyable subject to study.
While Disney’s version of higher education can include getting to the top of the Tower of Terror, the College of Disney Knowledge also provides a most extensive learning opportunity. It is a series of online courses that agents can navigate at their own pace with a final exam that must be successfully completed. Travel Agents may also be eligible to attend on-site agent education programs to experience Disney’s theme parks and resorts for themselves.
To celebrate my completion, I received a diploma which is now framed. I also received a graduation cap but no gown. The cap looked like any other traditional mortarboard, but with the distinctive addition of the familiar Mickey Mouse ears.
Walt Disney World is not the only company that offers educational opportunities for Travel Agents. Ongoing education is critical to becoming familiar with destinations that people will want to visit. I can hear you now; sure go ahead, send me to Spain to experience the country. I can suffer for a long weekend in Barbados to learn about the islands. But, before you pull out your hanky to wipe away the tears of sympathy for me, please know that I spend long hours in classrooms watching others have a good time outside my window. I see people on the beach enjoying the sun and surf while I trudge from hotel to hotel (in business attire) looking at a hotel room here and another hotel room there. Fortunately learning on site at Walt Disney World is a lot more fun.
Some have questioned why I would choose to go to Walt Disney World when I can actually travel and have the whole “real” world to choose from. Travel purists will question the artificial atmosphere of the manufactured building fronts and the larger than life characters roaming through EPCOT, which is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. I see it as an opportunity for those who will never get to travel, for whatever reasons. I recognize that this may be their only chance to experience the food, music and culture of another nation. Eleven countries are represented in World Showcase. Sort of a cultural quilt, if you will. I think that it’s amazing that in the United Kingdom Pavilion they have a version of one of the classic red telephone booths that dot the streets of London. They also have an authentic British Pub in case you’re in the mood for bangers and mash or fish and chips. Usually this simple meal is accompanied by some sort of local entertainment to support the British theme. The main building in the Canada Pavilion is a replica of the Chateau Laurier in Ontario with a companion replica of the famous Butchart Gardens. They serve a killer Cheddar Cheese soup in Le Cellier, the onsite Canadian restaurant! Families can actually “visit” exotic Morocco and see foliage from the North African country, view a minaret and even enjoy a belly dancing show. Best of all, all of the countries represented in World Showcase are staffed by people who actually reside in the host country. That allows us to get more of a local flavor in addition to the privilege of meeting people from a distant land that we might never visit in person. The pavilion hosts get to be ambassadors for each of their respective nations and spend time in America. It’s cultural exchange at its finest. We get to know each other a little bit better and maybe seem a little less “strange” to one another. Hopefully, we come to understand that we are all “neighbors” in one very big neighborhood. Sure, it’s not the same as visiting the real destination, but for some, it may be the closest they ever get to travel. That’s good enough for me.
What did I learn from the College of Disney Knowledge? I learned about the designs of each pavilion. I learned about meal options, hotel options and ticket pass options. We also covered future plans and on site Weddings. But, most of all I learned that it really is a small world after all.