Dreams really did come true at Disney World for two Timaru students who had the opportunity of a lifetime to see how the magic is made.
Aoraki Polytechnic tourism graduates Shawni Hammond and Elias Toa are back from their time working at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
Both agreed that it was a life- changing experience, coming back all the better for it.
Elias spent one year in the United States working in merchandise at the Disney park Animal Kingdom and as a lifeguard.
At Animal Kingdom he was one of the first people guests saw and he had to be aware of the impression he was making.
"They pay so much attention to making it a fantasy for guests, dreams really do come true there."
His responsibilities grew when he was working as a lifeguard, a big contrast to the every day social interactions of the front of house staff.
"Life guarding was a bit more serious, it gave me a chance to experience a new role.
"I've never done anything like that before. It was rewarding to have the responsibility to provide a safe and fun environment for all the guests."
From his year abroard, Elias said he is now more outgoing and confident, with a boosted passion for more travel.
The Disney World working experience was the first time Shawni had lived away from home.
She joined the group later, spending only five months there, as she was undecided whether she should go or not. But she is glad she did.
Shawni was placed at the Epcot park, one of the five main parks in Disney World, based on world cultures and futuristic themes.
Her jobs included working with the fireworks display that ran every night, helping disabled people find the best views and closing the park afterwards - an added responsibility she wasn't expecting as she originally applied to be a lifeguard.
Shawni said she is now more of a "people-person" from interacting with everyone from kids to the elderly.
Both Shawni and Elias are now on the job hunt, hoping to get jobs in the tourism industry.
Their tourism tutor, Anna Nichol, has noticed the change in all the students who went on the work experience trip.
She said they had grown and developed as people and were much more talkative.
Ms Nichol said she tried to encourage all of the tourism students to get overseas to have the cultural experience.
Aoraki Polytechnic has three more students going on the Disneyland experience in August with more interviews for spots coming up.
Shawni and Elias' advice to students is to take opportunities that arise and be prepared to work hard.
- © Fairfax NZ News