I started as a Pomona College tour guide last semester. It was one of those things I had dreamed about doing since I started taking tours in my sophomore year of high school. I always took what the tour guides said to heart, and trusted their opinions more than what the college ratings said or what admissions officers claimed. Something about hearing from students directly always strongly affected me and I told myself that when I started school, wherever it was, I would become a tour guide so I could affect other prospective students the way that I was so positively affected when I was in their shoes.
I have now been a tour guide for two complete semesters and I still love it. No two tours are the same which keeps each tour interesting. This semester I am one of the tour guides for the Monday 10am tour which is the very first tour of the week, so we tend to have some of the biggest tour groups. I have learned quite a few things from being on the giving end of campus tours, some of which I will attempt to list right now.
1. Gender neutral bathrooms are not, in fact, normal outside the world of Pomona. See ever since I’ve been here, I’ve used a bathroom used by both guys and girls. To me it’s not weird. But when a parent asks about the bathroom situation, the looks on their faces range from awe to disgust to curiosity. Usually this sparks a whole new set of questions that become increasingly harder, or more awkward to answer. Needless to say, I tactfully avoid discussing the bathroom situation, but it always seems to come up anyways.
2. Outdoor classrooms are awesome. In our Academic Quad, we have a wooden table with 20 chairs. It is meant to serve as a place where classes can meet, while also taking advantage of the beautiful SoCal weather. I usually just mention the outdoor classroom in passing, but it tends to be one of the things on the tour that produces the most reactions.
3. When telling people that sticking their arms in a fountain is forbidden, it only means they are more likely to do it. Skyspace is our art installation/fountain/light show designed by James Turrell a Pomona Alum. It is an optical illusion that plays with the color of the changing sky at sunset. It also includes a beautiful infinity fountain that is itself an optical illusion. It only looks to be about 6 inches deep but is actually two feet deep. Even though in every tour I specifically say that sticking your arm in to test the depth is not allowed, more often than not, as I lead the tour group away, someone will be sticking their arm all the way down to confirm, yes it is in fact two feet deep, and yes your entire arm is now soaking wet.
4. If you don’t see students, they apparently don’t exist. Because I give a tour on Monday mornings, most students are in class or sleeping. When I start my tour there is absolutely nobody around. Almost every tour someone will ask where all the students are, and why they don’t see any. I typically go with the standard “oh it’s class time” response, but sometimes it looks like people don’t believe me.
5. The sagehen is, in fact, a laughable mascot. Wait, I think I already knew that.
Every Monday I look forward to giving my tour, because I never know what to expect. I’ve given tours to a single family before, and I’ve also given a tour to 50 people. Every tour is unique, but one thing is for sure, I will always learn something new.