Making a Splash @ Disney World

Final year student, Toong Hui Qin, from the Diploma in Integrated Facility Management (IFM), was attached to Disney World, USA, for her internship from 26 May to 29 Aug 2014. She shares her magical experience.

I was ecstatic to have been given this opportunity to do my Internship at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, USA. Being able to learn outside the classroom in a real life context is already fantastic, but I mean… Disney World! 

I was attached to the resort’s BlizzardBeach as a lifeguard (yes, lifeguard!). What was I supposed to do there? Why, save lives, of course!  

First, we were put through intensive training. We learnt how to identify someone in distress and the different techniques of dragging a victim out of the water. If the victim is facing us, we’ll use the Front Drive, and if the victim is facing away, it'll be a Rear Hug.  We were also taught basic first aid.

And guess what? Just as you have “mystery shoppers” visiting retail outlets, we had some in the water too – our supervisors, disguised as guests, regularly fake drowning to test our responsiveness and literally keep us on our toes. 

Just one week into the job, I had to save a drowning kid at the “Run-Off Rapids". This 7-year-old boy couldn't swim well, so when he came down the rapid, the current naturally pushed him back towards the slides. As he struggled in the water, it became obvious that he was drowning! 

I panicked at first, and blew hard on my whistle to call for reinforcement (an SOP we were taught). After pressing the emergency “Stop” button, I dived into the water and made an Olympic 50m dash to the boy. Grabbing him with a Front Drive, I pulled him to the edge.  When I got him out, the poor boy, named Jay, immediately engulfed me in a hug, crying frantically, and trembling. He continued trembling for another good 10 minutes thereafter.  

Honestly, I was a bit shaken by this episode, but I am glad that I had saved a life.

Hui Qin (front, centre) with fellow lifeguards at Blizzard Beach

Besides the job experience, my internship has really widened my horizons as I worked with colleagues from around the world and learnt about their culture. Very importantly, I’ve learnt – first hand – how a resort facility is managed and what makes it tick. 

But above all, I am proud to have been part of the team which makes the “magic” of Disney World happen for both young and old!

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