This semester is certainly unlike any that we’ve had before. And as a senior, I didn’t envision that my apartment bedroom would be my classroom or place of work.
Towards at the end of my sophomore year, I became a tour guide, also known as a Pathfinder, for Pitt. I’ve spent countless days meeting prospective students and their families, walking around campus and getting the chance to show off the school I love so much. Now, instead of walking on campus, I still get the chance to meet families over Zoom and talk about Pitt. It doesn’t replace the in-person experience of giving tours, but it is a close second.
However, even though things may feel a bit flipped upside down, I feel as though I am busier than ever! The friends I’ve made by being a tour guide have opened up countless doors for me. After having internships canceled or activities postponed until further notice, these opportunities have helped fill up my schedule so I still feel productive outside of the classroom!
Here is a day in the life of a (virtual) tour guide:
7:50-10:15am – Government & Politics of the Middle East
This is probably one of my favorite classes I’ve taken at Pitt! Even though it is super early, as well as on Mondays, it is 100% worth it. I’ve always been intrigued by the politics of the Middle East since my dad was a Civil Affairs Officer for the U.S. Army. I’ve heard stories of the work he was able to accomplish since I was 6. Now that I’m a bit older, I feel like I have a better appreciation for it. It also helps that my professor gives us 2 breaks throughout the lecture so I always make coffee in between!
I will admit though that I have been struggling to pay attention just by being on my laptop. My professor has been contemplating bringing us in to the classroom. Meeting in-person would definitely be better for me as I would be able to grab my cold brew from Starbucks and be wide awake.
11:05-11:55am – Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
Even though this is a GenEd class, it is so interesting. My professor always plays a different song every lecture as people log on to Zoom. This lecture was a bit shorter since we were doing a review for our midterm which is this week. How are we already 1/3 through the fall semester?
12:10-1pm – Recitation
Right after Intro to Cultural Anthro, I have my recitation for the class. It definitely helps to go over the lecture material right after it is introduced. At least for me, I feel like I remember some of the key concepts and terms better. And for today’s class, it was more review for the midterm.
If you’ve never been in a recitation before, it is essentially a breakdown class outside of the main lecture. In a class of 150+ students, recitations are typically 20-25 students. On all my tours, I admit that I don’t always ask questions in class due to the intimidation factor of large lecture halls. However, recitations allow me to feel more comfortable to ask questions without judgment.
2-3pm – Voter outreach!
As I mentioned, Pathfinders has been a great way to get involved, whether on campus or in the city. This past summer, one of my friends offered me a chance to intern with Rise Pennsylvania – a student-led coalition to help college students know when, where and how to vote in upcoming elections. Towards the end of my internship, I was actually offered the chance to become a fellow for Rise!
Right now, we are trying to get student organizations on campus involved in a miniature competition we’re holding. Not only will these organizations be able to outreach to voters themselves, but if they get the most “plan 2 votes” out of the student organizations on campus, they can win up to $2,000 in grant money. It is my job to reach out to these student organizations not only to see if they are interested in the student competition, but to also see if they might want to become fellows or interns themselves.
4:30-5pm – First Student Q&A of the day
No longer do I have to grab a microphone, put on my name tag and fill up my water bottle before going on tour or any Pathfinder event. Now, I just have to clean up my room. It’s a bit odd thinking strangers are able to see into my life and my bedroom, but it is so important to make a good impression! This also includes making sure my roommates know I’m about to go to work so there isn’t random screaming in the background or being interrupted.
Since the university is not allowing visitors to come tour campus until at least November, Pathfinders have had to get a bit creative in how we speak to families. During any other school year, we hold weekend programs where families can tour the campus and the city, go to information sessions and speak to admissions counselors and the financial aid office. Now, the Office of Admissions holds virtual events including Q&As. Prospective students can register to ask whatever questions they may have in regards to the application process or life here on campus!
Even though I experienced technical difficulties, I still love getting to speak about why I chose Pitt! It also helps that when there are issues with my microphone, there are one or two other Pathfinders to take the question. The questions I get range from how life is under a pandemic to what my favorite restaurant is on campus (obviously it’s Asia Tea House in Schenley Plaza).
6-6:30pm – Weekly Rise Western PA Fellow Meeting
At the start of each week, all the Rise fellows here in Western PA come together to discuss our weekly plans. We go over our goals and objectives for the week, as well as updates from Rise. Even though we all cannot be together right now, it still is nice to see people and celebrate individual and team accomplishments!
7-8pm – Intern Group Meeting
One of the new tasks as a fellow is managing a group of interns. It definitely has been a new type of leadership I do not have that much experience in, so to have this opportunity has been really great so far. Each week, I hold a meeting with my interns to go over what went well, what went bad and what their own personal goals are for the next week. Each intern’s goal is to get 100 “plan 2 votes” by October 19th, the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania. We want to get as many people to hit the polls this November as we possibly can!
8-9pm – Second Student Q&A of the day
Usually, Q&As are just 30 minutes so I was pretty excited to hear that this one was an hour long! I originally wasn’t even scheduled to take on this Q&A but I will always take the extra cash. This one had a range of prospective students from nearby to as far away as Louisana! It was super relaxed – we talked more about our favorite places in Oakland/Pittsburgh, Pitt musts and Pittsburgh sports (Here we go, Steelers! Here we go!)
9-9:30pm – Phi Alpha Delta meeting
Last thing on my schedule! I’m currently serving as the VP of Social Affairs for Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity. Even though social events like mixers and formal have been cut from this semester due to the pandemic, we still have meetings as a chapter! This semester, we have decided to focus more on Professional Developments – LSAT prep, law school applications and everything in between.
Last night, we were fortunate to have Issa DiSciullo of the Seton Hall University law school speak about law school admissions under COVID-19. Even though I’m no longer considering law school as part of my post-undergraduate plans, it was still really helpful for other brothers to get such great insight.
I spent the rest of my night watching ER on Hulu and making a quizlet for my anthropology midterm on Wednesday. I also spent the extra time going over the slideshow we use for tours since I have a virtual tour on Thursday for the first time in a few months!