Campus tour guides work to reel in new Aggies this April

Campus tour guides work to reel in new Aggies this April

Photo Credits: ALLYSON KO / AGGIE

Students lead admitted and prospective students and their families on campus and housing tours in hopes that they chose UC Davis as their new home

In their blue shirts with shiny golden pins attached, they walk backwards shouting loudly and enthusiastically, informing the group they are leading all about UC Davis. These tour guides work hard, memorizing a 20-page script and training for a whole quarter, to show prospective or admitted students and their families the best of Davis.

Student tour guide responsibilities include giving tours of the overall campus as well as of residence halls and facilities. They work at admission events like Decision Day or Equity Summit. They also work as greeters in the Welcome Center, answering questions, providing information to visitors and celebrating students who submit a Statement of Intent to Register (SIR) on the spot after a tour with handfuls of confetti.

According to second-year human development and design major Julie Daseking, prospective student tours are usually around 15 people per tour, but they can grow up to 25 people. Tours are especially busy right now with admissions decisions having been released on Mar. 8, as high school seniors have to submit a SIR to a university by May 1, giving them about two months to check out all of their collegiate options.

“On tours, we tell people about different halls and the majors offered, what you can do in those majors, what student life is like, why students chose to go here and opportunities for students related to housing, social events, and academics,” said third-year communication and cinema and digital media double major Shubha Chakravarty, who has been a tour guide for a year.

The campus tour route starts at the Welcome Center, moves through the Arboretum towards Peter J. Shields Library, then down the quad towards the Memorial Union, then through campus towards Segundo residence halls, past the ARC, through the Biological Sciences buildings, then through the Engineering buildings and finally ending back at the Welcome Center, according to Chakravarty. This is precisely why many new tour guides were caught delivering their script in the Memorial Union to a captive audience of one for the months of January and February.

“Tours usually last an hour to an hour and a half in length, but then we stay afterwards for about 10-15 minutes to answer one-on-one questions,” said fourth-year environmental science and management major Miroslava Munguia, who has been a tour guide for two years. “A lot of tours are pretty personalized too based off what people want to know about.”

People who take tours like to ask a variety of questions, such as how to sign up for classes, whether one can take classes outside of their major, what residence hall food is like, the cows, Greek life and overall what student life is like. For many prospective students, these tour guides serve as models for their own future experience. They provide narratives of actual college students that can be more valuable for decision-making than a statistic for a student who is nervous about leaving home.

“It is important to take tours,” Chakravarty said. “You learn more than just the facts. You really can feel the vibe and energy of the school and see if it matches with you and who you are.”

According to Daseking, she likes being a tour guide because she remembers how difficult it was for her to decide which college to attend.

“When I was going through [the] decision process, there was so many things I didn’t know,” Daseking said. “It is nice to come through the experience myself and offer wisdom to incoming students to help them see what campus is really like and how to pick a school.”

The amount of tours students give per week varies since they are only required to do six tours per quarter. Daseking said she usually does one to two tours a week, but does fewer on weeks where she is busier.

Munguia said that scheduling is very flexible because the university wants involved and well-rounded students giving tours and telling admitted and prospective students and their families about their experiences, so the hours required are relatively low for an on-campus job. Tour guides can, however, sign up to do many more tours than this minimum if they have the time and are willing. Some tour guides even give multiple tours in a single day, walking backwards for three or more hours.

“Being a tour guide is a great experience,” Chakravarty said. “It is the most diverse group of people you will meet, and there are as large of a variety of backgrounds as possible. Tours showcase as many student experiences as possible.”

As a tour guide, Chakravarty said that she gets to meet lots of people who share her similar love for UC Davis.  

“The people that I get to work with are really fun,” Daseking said. “We really are a little family. We have monthly socials and events. Everyone loves Davis and welcomes people in.”

Because tour guides must manage large groups of people, being a guide is hard and requires strong people skills.

“It was a lot more than just being able to walk backwards,” Munguia said. “It requires people skills, like managing when people are [too] chatty or really quiet groups. Our responsibility is to not just point at buildings. We want to make a comfortable environment, so people can ask questions they think are appropriate. These students are considering applying, so it is our responsibility to be comfortable enough to change the environment to give the best tour.”

Another difficulty includes the physical strenuousness of the job. According to Chakravarty, tour guides must be very dedicated to their work since on a tour they walk backwards almost the distance of a 5k. Tours also happen rain or shine, so many tour guides will walk the entire tour in pouring rain if guests show up and want to see the campus.

“For the two hours you are there giving the tour, you must be 100 percent present,” Chakravarty said.

Munguia likes giving tours because it reminds her why she is so happy and lucky to go to UC Davis.

“The more you get into upper division classes and the more responsibilities you get, you are always stressed, and it is hard to take time out of day and take a step back to remember why you are here,” Munguia said. “When I walk into the Welcome Center to give a tour after a bad exam or hard day, I can take a deep brief and be reminded why I’m happy to be here, and I show that to the prospective students.”

For students interested in becoming tour guides, they must go through an application process found on Aggie Job Link. During Spring Quarter, recruiting begins. Applications are posted on Aggie job link where students can submit their resumes and cover letters. Certain applicants are then selected for a group interview and then an individual interview. Once students make it through those stages, they become a tour guide, but they undergo a training process where they learn the facts, memorize the 20-page script, give practice tours, watch others give tours and pass a certification test.

“Once you have the job, you have it for the rest of your college career,” Chakravarty said.

As for current students, faculty and members of the UC Davis community, Daseking said she likes when they talk to tour groups because the interaction completes the UC Davis experience.

“Don’t be afraid to shout out ‘Go Aggs!’ or say, ‘Hi,’” Daseking said. “It is super fun to see people connecting on campus, and it is always fun to hear a hello.”

Written by: MARGO ROSENBAUM — features@theaggie.org