Perhaps one of the greatest decisions I made in college (that ranks with taking Gospel Choir and Studying Abroad in Italy) was becoming a UC San Diego College Ambassador... otherwise known as a Tour Guide.
The tour guide life is not one for the timid, nor the uncoordinated. After years of talking and walking backwards, I have learned some fantastic life lessons.
1. Strong public speaking skills are invaluable. Speaking to complete strangers and presenting material to critical audiences will be a huge part of my future in business. I am so thankful to have learned the tricks of public speaking during my time as a tour guide. My takeaways: speak slowly with plenty of energy and instead of saying "like" or "umm" as a place holder... simply pause. A quick pause looks like a lot like more intelligent than umm, like the other alternatives.
2. Make friends with a diverse network. I've always felt that the UCSD College Ambassador program was a microcosm of our greater university. The hiring staff did a fantastic job of selecting representatives from nearly every niche on our campus. We've got the Nor-Cal, Communication, Choir students like me and the out-of-state, pre-med, LGBT activists in our group. I can genuinely say that I have learned so much from each and every College Ambassador. Further, I have made lasting friendships with individuals that I would have never met otherwise. Together, we make up this diverse, melting pot of a tour guide family.
3. People relate to your personal stories. On our tours, we are encouraged to share our personal experiences as UCSD students, not just ramble on with the facts about our school. Upon giving many tours, I have noticed that our visitors engage most with my personal stories. Of course, there is such a thing as too much information, which we are discouraged from sharing. However, I always receive the warmest interaction when I open up and speak of my accomplishments that I am proud of and my embarrassments during these crazy years (see #4).
4. A sense of humor goes a long way. If there is, but one trait humans should have - it is a sense of humor. Nothing makes people feel better than a good laugh. On tours, I've witnessed this from rambling on about my embarrassing and humiliating moments as a dorky, clumsy Freshman who thought she was way too cool for school. Self-depricating humor is especially good when you are trying to entertain sassy middle schoolers stuck in the horrifying era that is puberty.
5. Education is the greatest gift. When I give a tour to incredibly passionate and excited prospective students who are dying to know if their GPA or SAT/ACT scores are good enough to get them into our fantastic institution, I am so proud of my school. When I give a tour to school groups of students from underserved communities, I am so grateful for the gift of education. College is an opportunity that I have been very fortunate to receive. I come from a family and a community where college is not a question, it's a requirement. However, working as tour guide has opened my eyes to the many situations of students who dream of attending a university like mine and who hope that one day they will have the grades and the finances to achieve that goal. Never take your right to education for granted - we are the lucky ones.
Photos by Risa Farrell (a fellow CA)