A cartoon turned reality

09.06.2008

What do you wear to go to work? Bets are that your outfit doesn’t involve large, furry ears. Find out how a Portuguese tourist guide broadened her horizons via a collaboration between Euro Disney and EURES… Sometimes the success of a booming industry can spark off a whole new generation of aspirational young people. Great news – but making sure that there are jobs for all of them can sometimes be a challenge. João Medroa, a EURES Adviser based in Lisbon, notes that the number of young people in Portugal who train to work in the tourism and entertainment industries outweighs the jobs available, despite the fact that many tourists flock to the region each year.

Since 2002, Medroa and his EURES colleagues in Lisbon and Paris have grasped a unique and long-term employment opportunity, by making the most of a working relationship with a well-known employer in constant need of young, talented workers – Euro Disney.

Catarina Velhuco, 31, originally from Lisbon herself, is one of 200 Portuguese Euro Disney workers who have been recruited via EURES in the last six years. In July 2005, despite a degree in tourism and professional experience as a tourist guide, Catarina was struggling to find work in Portugal. Her interest was sparked by an advertisement announcing casting auditions for the Disneyland Paris parades, which EURES had placed in local newspapers.

Over 210 people attended the auditions, which involved acting, singing and an interview. English or French was a must, and, with her combination of English and experience dealing with the public, Catarina was immediately successful. She moved to France the following month and has now nearly completed her third year with the company.

Catarina spent the first six months of her job doing character work, playing Minnie and Mickey Mouse. She then took on the occasional role of accompagnateur, supervising other characters. “It’s a very flexible job – if you get tired of one department you can ask to be transferred to another one, such as the hotel or shopping centre. I’m very happy here in the Parade Department but I may switch at some point, as it’s very physically tiring work.”

Euro Disney also provides accommodation and help with residence and tax forms, which can sometimes seem confusing for new arrivals. “There’s always someone to ask for help”, says Catarina, “and to make foreign laws easier to understand.”

One of the major attractions of both working abroad and working with the company in particular is the international atmosphere – “I’ve met people from all over Europe, and live in an international residence with Italians, Swedes, Finns, and Poles.” Catarina has also picked up French during the three years she’s been living on the outskirts of Paris, which was a challenge at first: “Moving abroad undoubtedly involves facing sometimes daunting challenges, but the excitement of meeting new people and starting a new job far outweighs that.”

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