In 2018, I spent my entire summer working in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in California. It turned out to be one of the best times of my life. I never had so much fun working. In fact, it didn’t really felt like working. More like just clock-in and have fun. So how was it like working in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk?
Before I start, I applied for the program through the Work & Travel USA Program for Malaysians. If you’re a Malaysian who’s interested in getting the same experience, here is the comprehensive step-by-step guide to getting you started.
Enough talking, let’s dive in and see how it’s like to work in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk!
How I Got The Job?
I participated in the Work & Travel USA Program through an agency, Speedwing in Malaysia. CIEE is the program sponsor for Work & Travel USA programs, which are dedicated for overseas students to experience the American culture.
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk had welcomed more than 150 employees from overseas through the program in 2018. All of them being university students. The application started as early as November 2017.
Basically, there are no technical or professional requirements for basic jobs. Most of the local employees were from high schools or colleges.
There are three departments available for overseas students under the Work & Travel USA program: Rides Operations, Food & Beverages, and Games & Arcades. On rare occasions, some will be assigned to the Ticket Sales & Parking Department. Local employees have more choices like Park Services, which has higher wages than the stated departments.
How Was The Pay?
For W&T USA students, we can only choose from the three departments. All of them offer a minimum wages of $11 an hour. For Leads positions, the wages are around $1.50 more. In 2019, the wage will be at $11.25 (if I’m not mistaken).
Perfect Place To Meet The World
Working in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is a perfect place to make international friends. Under the Work & Travel USA Program, students from all around the world work here.
You can find people from Malaysia, Romania, Slovakia, Jamaica, Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Singapore, Turkey and more.
Everyone who went there, be it employees or Guests want to have fun. It’s an amusement park after all. And to be honest, the job could be boring sometimes. You couldn’t help but want to talk to someone, and that’s how friendships are born.
Accommodation For Employees
For students under the W&T USA Program, accommodations are arranged for us by the company. In 2018, the weekly rental fee had been drastically decreased, which is great news for us. It was around $42 per week in the summer of 2018.
Some said the accommodations here are the best among all workplaces under the Work & Travel USA Program.
Why? First of all, it’s cheaper than most companies. Some companies made you pay up to $80 or more per week for accommodations.
Facilities are also well prepared. Every utensil you need for cooking is prepared. A hot shower is available in every room. And each room accommodates only two to three employees. You’ll find more space than you expected.
Thirdly, it’s just less than 5 minutes’ walk from the workplace. Some of them located just opposite the park. You can literally have a nap in your room during your break.
The nearest supermarket is Walgreen Pharmacy, which is around 10 minutes’ walk away from the park. CVS Pharmacy and Trader Joe’s are located 20 minutes walk from the park. I often prefer the latter because they’re side-by-side so I have more choices.
Once again, if you’re a Malaysian who’s interested in applying for the Work & Travel USA Program, check out the article – Malaysian Work & Travel USA Step-by-Step Guide.
Weather in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
While most Americans escaping from the summer heat might find the weather in Santa Cruz more than perfect, I find it a little bit too cold for myself, especially when the sun sets.
Working As Rides Operator
For the whole summer, I worked as Rides Operator in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. As the name suggests, I operate the rides around the park. Well, I actually think it’s the best department to work in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
As of summer in 2018, there are 37 rides in the park. Some big rides require several operators working together while smaller rides require only one operator at a time.
Examples of big rides are Giant Dipper (6th oldest roller coaster in the U.S., completed in 1924), Loggers Revenge and Undertow. These require 4 or more operators, depending on the crowds.
Rides Operation is the largest department in the park. Employees are divided into 4 groups, each group is responsible for the rides on a certain part of the park.
In my group, most of the rides are Kids’ rides. Which means sometimes I was operating the ride alone, watching kids spinning around in the ride. I’m not complaining, I actually like kids. Who doesn’t?
(Well, I used to hate kids after all, so…)
Operating the ride was easy. In small rides, all you have to do is assign seats for the Guests, making sure of the safety and start the ride. But it also required a calm mind because the rides occasionally went down.
Talking to the Guests, telling them what’s wrong was proved challenging for me at first. It’s hard explaining technical stuff in non-technical ways, right? And I had to call the mechanic after evacuating the ride.
How About Other Departments?
I’ll brief through what the employees from other departments do. And I’ll compare them to Rides Operation Department.
Food & Beverage Department
As the name suggests, employees in this department work in fixed restaurants or stalls inside the Boardwalk. Occasionally, employees may be switched to other places but usually, it’s not more than 3 locations.
Most of the foods and beverages sold in the park are almost the same. Corn dogs, fries, burgers, turkey legs and etc. Typical American foods.
Depending on where you are assigned, you might be working alone in stalls (which is extremely boring sometimes) or working with others in a covered building.
Pros: Higher wages at $11.25/hr. Higher working hours per week (higher chance for OT).
Cons: You’ll spend most of your summer working in just one or two locations. If your colleagues are lazy parasites, you’re basically doomed.
Games & Arcades
Work in game stations or inside the arcade building. Working here might be tiring sometimes because you have to smile, always. Most of the game stations are small, which means you’ll probably be working alone during weekdays or off-peak days.
As Games & Arcades employees, you’ll be required to greet and welcomes Guests passing by to try out the games at your station. When Guests won the games, you’ll let them choose their rewards, mostly plush toys.
I would say it’s perfect for you if you’re an outgoing person who loves making others’ day. Working hours are similar to Rides Operation.
Pros: Fun and engaging due to constant interactions with Guests. Kids are always having fun in the game stations. Lots of department events like Free Arcade Night, etc.
Cons: Supervisors are super strict in this department. You’ll have to smile through your day even though you’re in a bad mood.
Ticket Sales & Parking
A nightmare department, in my opinion. If you’re selling tickets, you’ll be sitting in an air-conditioned room at the ticket counter. And troublesome Guests are more common than you imagine. That’s all, sit all day long.
If you’re assigned to Parking, you’ll be standing under the sun, enduring the summer heat. You’ll be responsible for assisting Guests on getting their parking tickets, paying the ticket fare and exiting the parking lot.
It’s the kind of job I hate, honestly.
Pros: Can’t think of any…
Cons: Low working hours. Same thing every day. Fewer interactions with foreign employees.
How to Apply For The Job?
For foreigners, you might need to find agencies (CIEE representative) in your country to facilitate the process. Not sure how? Check here.
You might also consider applying straight with CIEE. Either way, you will have to pay around $1000 program fee excluding flight tickets and visa application fees.
For locals, just visit the Human Resource Department located opposite of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. They are super helpful and more than happy to answer your questions.
As employees working in Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, we were always taken care of. The company provided a lot of benefits to employees, like free meals (for the Food & Beverage Department), free wristbands for rides, free entrance to several games and more.
Sometimes, free ice cream was also available to employees. Coupons were given out for employees to redeem free ice creams from the stores in the park. Free fruits were also available in the break rooms.
The company also gave longer breaks compared to elsewhere you find in the state. 15-minutes breaks were given instead of 10-minutes. But most of the time, you’ll be given several minutes more than that.
Wrapping It Up
If you’re applying for the Work & Travel USA Program and not sure which company to choose, definitely consider applying Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It will be a choice you’ll never regret. But keep in mind, the slots get filled up rather quickly. In 2019, it was filled up on the first two weeks of application, by the end of November. Make up your mind before the application opens, and register yourself as soon as possible. Don’t forget to check out these 8 best beaches in California! Anyway, have fun and enjoy life!