The tour guide life is a good life — always reminiscing about what brought you to your chosen college in the first place and never failing to wear to a watch. It’s a life of feeling official wearing a printed nametag, perfecting the art of walking backwards, receiving stipends for what we would otherwise do for free and knowing how to speak eloquently about somewhat uncomfortable college issues.
You’re the face of your college, often being the first impression of college life for prospective students.
For me, the perks of being a tour guide can be separated into three distinct categories: the practice, the opportunities and the swag.
In high school I was very self-aware of how shy I was in my classes and often times, avoided formal situations in which I had to speak publicly in front of my peers. I have no idea when or how this shyness and fear of public speaking emerged, but it was quite crippling during presentations or while trying to apply for leadership positions in my clubs.
I always talked about college as being the typical blank slate for myself, so I decided upon attending Rutgers University in New Jersey that I would purposely challenge myself to practice public speaking in any way possible, even if it was uncomfortable.
One of the first opportunities I received to practice public speaking came with working for the Douglass Residential College Recruitment Office, the headquarters of the women’s college community at Rutgers. I applied to be a part of the Red Pine Ambassadors, a small group of Douglass students selected to give tours.
Though I was really nervous during my interview, I was selected to become a Red Pine Ambassador. Training felt a little uncomfortable because I had so much information to remember, but the more I practiced by giving various tours over the summer, the more I grew comfortable with public speaking.
The practice I have giving tours and helping with open house events carries through in all my activities and classes beyond being a tour guide.
Being a tour guide opens you up to all of the opportunities provided at your university — after all, you need to know about them in order to tell prospective students about what they could possibly reap as benefits by going to your university.
I thought I had done thorough research about the myriad of networking and supplemental undergraduate programs before entering Rutgers, but I learned so much more in the eight months I have been a tour guide.
As an English major, I know a lot about the programs pertinent to my career and about contests relevant to creative writing and research papers, but I knew next to nothing regarding the School of Engineering or about research in fields of science.
In itself, being a tour guide is an opportunity not everyone can be selected to do. You get to know some really important people as a tour guide, including deans of your university, and advisors in all different areas of study. These are networking opportunities that may not seem relevant or helpful at the moment, but who knows when there will be a time you need someone in those areas.
Besides giving tours, we are also needed for alumni gatherings, reunions and other special events. Just for the experience of meeting new people and hearing about their unique experiences in the working world, I feel grateful that I am able to help inform alumni about the changes and current activities of their alma mater.
Being a tour guide comes with a fantastic plus I did not expect: free swag!
I felt pretty official and important after receiving my official Red Pine Ambassador uniform: a red, embroidered long-sleeve shirt, a screen printed poncho, and the ever-coveted printed plastic nametag which only the Red Pine Ambassadors have the privilege of receiving. Whenever I put my uniform on, I know I am a true representative of my residential college community and of my university. I feel a sense of unity when I am in uniform with other Red Pine Ambassadors when we help out at larger events. It makes me feel like I have earned the knowledge I now share with others because it’s as if I was really chosen to carry on this tradition of women’s excellence — free swag like that is not given to all students.
I have only been a tour guide for about eight months now, but I appreciate all the knowledge that I know now and love being able to share it with other people.
I know my college’s history, all the opportunities at both Douglass Residential College and at Rutgers University, and also come to appreciate the value of professionalism, marketing and learning how to be productive under pressure.
This experience as a Red Pine Ambassador has made me a more confident leader, and as we wrap up our recruitment season for new Red Pine Ambassadors, I can only hope that everyone who reads this considers joining the ranks of college tour guides all around the nation.
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