6 Things I Learned From Becoming a Tour Guide

I simultaneously wanted to be a tour guide since the moment I stepped on campus, and never in a million years could have guessed that it would actually happen. I was a timid freshman, especially my first semester. I hated public speaking. I’d like to think that I was intellectually equal with my peers, yet I was afraid and embarrassed to share my ideas in class. I was still getting used to the constant social stimulation that is college life, and as an introvert, I was very much missing the alone time that I needed in order to recharge. In short, I didn’t perceive myself as “tour guide material” at all.

To be fair to my past self, I’m sure a lot of this is dramatized in my head. If you asked my friends (who I’m sure will text me when they read this and insist that I be kind to my past self because they’re wonderful people), they’d say that maybe I took some time to really break out of my shell, but overall I didn’t seem too shy or reserved. Either way, I was shocked when I was invited to do a group interview after submitting an application to be a tour guide in the spring. I was even more shocked when I got the email congratulating me for getting a position in the Admissions Ambassadors program (or as we call it, Ambass).

Since completing my training, I’ve learned a lot about both my school and myself. Here are my six most important takeaways from being a tour guide at BU.

 

  1. 1. Public speaking is an acquired skill.  

    When I was in high school, I somehow got this idea in my head that being good at public speaking was a talent you either had or didn’t have. Sure, I know that anything can be improved with practice, but in my head, if you didn’t have a natural-born talent for it, no amount of practice could get you to the level of people who were naturally good at addressing crowds. Thankfully, I can now say with confidence that I was so wrong. My public speaking skills have improved tenfold since joining Ambass. I can now stand in front of groups of sometimes 20+ prospective students and their families and talk about my life as a BU student. This has helped me immensely in making my tours the best they can be, but it’s also been helpful in other student organizations and in the classroom, which is why I’m all the more grateful that I didn’t let my initial fear of public speaking stop me from applying to be a tour guide.

  2. 2. What you say matters.  

    Sometimes it’s difficult to get groups to interact on tour. Maybe they’re nervous to ask questions or just not all that talkative. However, at least once on every tour I’ll be given a little reminder that what I’m saying to these students really matters. A campus tour can very much be someone’s deciding factor in whether or not to apply to, and ultimately decide to attend a school. The first time I realized this was early on. When I walked through my "MenTour," a mock-tour that you have to complete to be certified, I realized that the tour captain evaluating me had been my tour guide on my admitted students' tour. The tour she had given me was a huge turning point in my eventual decision to go to BU. The fact that I could be that person for someone else feels like a big responsibility, but one I’m glad to have.

  3. 3. It’s easier to make a big school feel small than it is to make a small school feel big.

    Someone mentioned this phrase to me and a group of other trainees when I first joined Ambass, and it’s made it into every tour I’ve given since. I don’t know why it struck me, but it did. It’s a phrase that would have been so reassuring for me to hear when I decided to come to BU, seeing as I was graduating from a high school where the student population (about 900) was half the size of the population of my freshman dorm alone (about 1,800). I think the size of BU intimidates a lot of prospective students, and while school size ultimately depends on personal preference, I found that going to a big school wasn’t intimidating at all because there are so many ways to get involved in smaller communities at BU. I run into people I know on the streets constantly, sometimes even off-campus when I’m out in the city.

  4. 4. The cheesy things tour guides say get said for a reason!  

    On multiple occasions I’ve been talking with someone about the fact that I’m a tour guide and they respond with, “Oh, do you say that cheesy thing about walking backwards?” I’m not sure why that’s the one that sticks with people, but it does. The thing is that yes, some of the things we say are cheesy, and sure, you might hear them on lots of college tours, but there’s a reason for that! I do genuinely want people to tell me if I’m going to run into something while walking backwards — just a few tours ago, I nearly wiped out bumping into this one Blue Bike rack that’s on a tough corner. We also make jokes like, “If you liked the tour, my name is [actual name], but if you didn’t, my name is [random name],” partially because it gets a laugh out of at least some of the fathers, but also because we want people to remember our name in case they’d like to give tour feedback or include our name in their “Why BU” supplemental essay. 

  5. 5.  Tour guides are telling the truth!

    I always thought when I was touring colleges that tour guides were forced to only talk about the positive aspects of a school, which made me trust them a lot less. I can’t speak for the programs at other schools, but now I know that’s not at all how we do things at BU. Tour guides are encouraged to be honest with their tour groups. We’re not there to sell our school, we’re there to provide visitors with a student perspective of the university. We acknowledge that BU might not be the school for everyone, but we want to be the person to help each prospective student decide if it is for them or not. My tour guides did that for me, and I love having the opportunity to pass that on to the next class of prospective students.

  6. 6.  Sharing your school spirit is really fun.  

    I’ve also learned that being a tour guide is a fun experience because you basically get to brag about your school for an hour every week. As a person who loves BU so so much, it’s a great outlet for me to gush about my experience on campus so far. As I mentioned, I focus a lot on talking about community at BU because it is a relatively large school. One of my favorite parts is right after I talk about student organizations because I always use Her Campus as an example of how I found a community on campus. And boy oh boy, do I love talking about Her Campus on tour. Of course, I always give my incredible senior editors, past and present, a shout out (hi Maddie, Dana, and Jess!) and I mention coffee hours, College Fashion Week, and all the other amazing opportunities that I’ve had since joining the HCBU writing team. Being able to talk about my favorite college experiences is a huge plus of being a tour guide.

Being a tour guide has been one of the most rewarding parts of my college experience so far, and I am so excited to continue showing prospective students and their families why I love BU.

 

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