I have confession to make…it’s somewhat embarrassing but I think it’s time I come clean. I had never been on an MIT campus tour. Yes, you heard me…I had never been on a campus tour…before yesterday, that is.
It makes sense when you think about it. I arrived on campus for freshman orientation and jumped right in, learning the campus as a student. What did I need a tour for, I was “living the dream” and could find everything I needed. When I came back to MIT to work (three years ago this week, I might add, yeah me :-) I already knew where everything was. Sure, I kept telling myself that I should take the time and see what it is the tour guides say about the campus as they show off this place, but I just never got around to it. Every time I made time to go something came up, someone stopped by to see me, or worse yet…it rained and why on earth would I willingly slog around the campus in a large group in the pouring rain…that was just crazy. But, I was beginning to feel guilty. I know most of the tour guides, several live in my house and I appreciate seeing their helpful faces at the end of my information sessions. The time had come!
You all have met Alina, one of our newest bloggers. Well, I first saw Alina when she came to pick up students for tours after sessions when she was a new tour guide. The following summer when I went to talk about becoming a Residential Advisor, she was involved in the discussion and now I see her every day in the house, on campus, or as I cross the bridge on my way home. Well, I ran into her on Monday night and mentioned that I wanted to go on a tour but didn’t want the other people on the tour to know I worked in Admissions instead wanting them to get pay attend to the tour guide not spend their time asking me questions. Alina assured me that if I went on her tour, she wouldn’t “rat me out.”
So, yesterday I went on a tour incognito…but how does one do that exactly? How does one stop looking like an Admissions Officer? Well you wear jeans, tennis shoes, and a nondescript shirt. Is bright red truly nondescript, I wonder, oh well, I may have screwed that one up. Most importantly you put your staff id in your back pocket and listen with rapt interest at everything the tour guide says, but of course, you’d want to do that anyway ‘cuz this is MIT after all, right?
So what did I learn? Lots of it I already knew, but it certainly didn’t hurt to be reminded about some of the coolest places on our campus. Looking at it day after day you tend to forget about some of the significance of various buildings and the little details that make it special. I don’t want to give away all the little details, because then you wouldn’t need the tour, but I did find myself looking at the place carefully, trying to view the campus the way I would if I had never seen it before, with “fresh eyes” as it were. The truth is, I still find new cool places on campus, even after hanging around here for a very long time and seeing the place through Alina’s eyes and her words yesterday gave me a new view.
Now I’m sure that no two tours are exactly the same any more than two Admission Officers’ information sessions are. What makes them special is the stories that the tour guides share. I’ve known Alina for two years now, but I never knew how she got her first UROP, just that she has had several at this point. I heard about where she lived on campus when she was a freshman, how she manages her time between studying and athletics and where she likes to study when she’s not at the house. And of course, the story of Oliver Smoot never gets old for me, especially since I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him, as well as his wife at a reunion on campus a couple of years ago. And since one of my favorite places on campus is the Great Court I loved hearing the oo’s and ah’s as we stood there surrounding by the buildings hearing about the hacks of days gone by.
So if you come to campus, I hope you’ll take a tour. You won’t be sorry and perhaps I’ll see you there. I figure that now that I’ve heard Alina’s story, I’ll need to drop in on the others guides’ tours to fully understand their view of this special place that we all call home. And when you do, I’ll look forward to seeing you there. I’ll be the one skulking in the back, in the red shirt…listening to every word!