On Being a Tour Guide

I’ve shared the story of how I came to Colgate with several people over the past four years, and I certainly don’t plan on boring any reader of the Maroon-News with that monologue at this juncture. I do, however, want to share a part of that story that truly changed the trajectory of my academic and personal lives in ways I couldn’t even imagine.

My Colgate story began my junior year of high school. I was going on a whirlwind tour of schools in the northeast, and Colgate was not really on the list. The week prior to my trip through New York state and New England, Colgate sent a mailing to my home with a beautiful fall picture. Yes, the classic “Colgate’s four seasons are wonderful” postcard. I had never heard of Colgate outside of the dental context, and nobody I knew had heard of it either. Since I was headed up to northern climes in the next few days, I decided to make Colgate the last stop because, well, why not?

That week was one of the most miserable weeks of my life. Touring schools I had no interest in attending, awful weather and knowing all of my friends from home were going on warmer spring breaks, sucked. While I was sitting in an information session, they were on the beach. I honestly don’t think I saw the sun for five days. I didn’t like a single school I visited and, when I woke up to come to Colgate, I honestly thought about canceling it and just heading to the airport with my mom. I didn’t.

Almost like a sappy Hallmark movie, the moment we drove onto campus the sun came out and the temperature climbed to the low fifties. We’re all familiar with this random April day where people wear shorts, go for a run outside and sit on the damp quad with their friends. It was picture perfect in every sense. The thing that made the difference for me was not just the place, but the people. Everyone we saw talked to us and shouted, “Come to Colgate!” No person was more persuasive than our tour guide.

I’ve long forgotten her name, which is honestly a tragedy. She was dressed like a college student who hadn’t just rolled out of bed; she was ebullient and she clearly loved to speak in front of people. She was a junior, so I would never attend school at the same time as her, but she truly made Colgate seem like a place for everyone. She rattled off friends and acquaintances who had gone paddle boarding, started a business, were on the ski team and wrote honors theses.

She also seemed to be the most popular person on campus since everyone came up to us and wished her a “Happy Birthday!” Although her birthday was in the summer, I came to discover that this was a playful way for students to heckle their friends.

As a veteran tour guide myself, I know what it’s like to share my Colgate experiences multiple times a week. I also know the effect we can have on an individual’s major life choice. Had she not been my tour guide, I seriously doubt Colgate would have made the impression on me that it did. It is hard to believe that I first stepped foot on campus five years ago. After I began to give tours my first year, many younger students have come up to me to say that I was their tour guide when they visited.

Endorphin rush aside, the realization that you contributed to someone’s college decision is such a rewarding feeling that is matched by none. I wish I could have met my tour guide again, to tell her that she was the reason I came here. She’s the reason, indirectly, that I fell in love with Russian, got involved in student government, travelled over 8,000 miles from home and met some of the most incredible individuals from all around the world. I highly encourage everyone to find out more about being a tour guide, no matter what year you are. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Contact Wil Stowers at [email protected].