Blog post

"Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom"

Clara Heyworth 6 May 2011

To coincide with the book's launch, Guernica has posted an excerpt from Ross Perlin's Intern Nation: How to Earn Nothing and Learn Little in the Brave New Economy. Carrying the headline, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom," the excerpt is adapted from a chapter in the book entitled, "The Happiest Interns in the World," and begins with a somewhat terrifying scene:

At Disney World, interns are everywhere. The bellboy carrying luggage up to your room, the monorail "pilot" steering a train at forty miles per hour, the smiling young woman scanning tickets at the gate. They corral visitors into the line for Space Mountain, dust sugar over funnel cakes, sell mouse ears, sweep up candy wrappers. Mickey, Donald, Pluto and the gang may well be interns, boiling in their furry costumes in the Florida heat. Visiting the Magic Kingdom recently, I tried to count them, scanning for the names of colleges on the blue and white name tags that all "cast members" wear. They came from public and private schools, community colleges and famous research universities, from across America. International interns, hailing from at least nineteen different countries, were also out in force. A sophomore from Shanghai greeted customers at the Emporium on Main Street, USA. She was one of hundreds of Chinese interns, she told me, and she was looking forward to "earning her ears." Disney runs one of the world's largest internship programs. Each year, between 7,000 and 8,000 college students and recent graduates work full-time, minimum-wage, menial internships at Disney World. Typical stints last four to five months, but the "advantage programs" may last up to seven months.

Visit Guernica to read the excerpt in full. Over the coming month, author Ross Perlin will be presenting Intern Nation in San Francisco, Berkeley, DC, and New York.