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More Than Just a Job
Heidi Wedel: A day in the life of a tour-guide.
Being a tour guide and honor student comes with many challenges. On top of juggling schoolwork and lacrosse practice, Heidi's also walked backwards into poles, gotten stuck in hallway traffic, and even fallen into a trashcan. However, her positive outlook on life and work is apparent.
Her day starts early in the morning.
8 AM Junior Heidi Wedel weaves her way through the crowded hallways of UMD. She dodges two faculty engrossed in conversation, and slips into a lecture hall that is beginning to fill with chattering students. She sports jeans, a maroon and gold t-shirt, and her treasured UMD admissions jacket covered in buttons. She doesn’t have to wear UMD gear, but she’s excited to show her school spirit, and the buttons come in handy on occasion. A professor enters the room, the students quiet down, and class begins.
12 PM The Dining Center bustles with hungry students. The noise of conversation and clanking silverware fills the cafeteria and the smell of fresh soup permeates the air. Heidi makes her way through the line to grab her favorite lunch, a Cubano sandwich. She’ll need the energy for later.
1PM Heidi makes her way to yet another class. This course fills the requirements of the Honors program. For the next hour, she’s busy working away at a group project, delving deeply into the material. The course is designed to develop teamwork and creativity. Heidi enjoys the challenge of being pushed to integrate her communication skills in the coursework.
2 PM A group of high school students and their parents trickle through the glass doors of the admissions office in Solon Campus Center.
“Hello everyone! And welcome to UMD,” Heidi enthusiastically welcomes the group of students and parents gathers around her. “My name is Heidi, and I’m a junior studying criminology. From what I understand, most of you are interested in the liberal arts?” The students shyly nod their heads, a few mumbling ‘yes’ under their breath. Introductions are made, majors declared, and the tour group heads out into the crowded and winding hallways. “I will be walking backwards almost this entire time,” Heidi announces, “So if I’m about to crash into something, please let me know. Also, feel free not to warn me if you’re not enjoying the tour.”
This gets a few laughs. Although Heidi has been through the halls a million times by this point, it is the first time some of these people are seeing UMD. The students and parents warm up as they travel toward the hallway where the music classes are held.
“I joined the Marching Band my freshman year of college,” Heidi explains as they walk past Weber Music Hall and an assortment of practice rooms. She points to a UMD band button on her jacket. The scattered tunes of practicing students reaches fills the hallway. “It was a terrific experience that helped me make friends and learn my way around. I played the bass drum.”
“Do you have to be a music major to join band?” a boy asks, raising his hand.
“Nope! Students here are able to join band for fun,” Heidi tells him. A few other students light up, talking about their favorite band moments.
Next, the group passes the Recreational Sports and Outdoor Programs center, Heidi explains that the facility offers all sorts of activities, mentioning her favorites.
“What is intramural basketball like?” asks one girl.
“Well I haven’t played basketball here,” answers Heidi, “But I do play Lacrosse. It’s a good way to build exercise and time with friends into my schedule. Over ninety percent of students are involved in intramurals.”
Eventually, the group makes their way to the resident halls. Heidi tells the group about her experience living on the Learning/Living Community Floor, which is specially designated for Honors students. It is located on the second floor of the school’s newest residence hall, Ianni Hall.
“Can you tell us more about the Honors Program?” asks one of the moms. A few students nod their heads in agreement, grateful that someone brought up the question.
“Absolutely! I learned about the Honors program from my brother, who also goes here,” explains Heidi, “You have to take a few honors courses, complete 45 hours of volunteer work, as well as do a final project related to your major.”
“What are you doing your project on?” someone asks. Heidi tells the group that she wants to pursue a career aiding and advocating for sexual assault victims, and is using the honors project as a way to launch herself into the field. She’ll do her project on a period called ‘the red zone,’ or the first eight weeks of college where first-year students are most likely to be sexually assaulted.
“Learning about it as a college student pulled on my heartstrings,” she says, “I want to find a better way to advocate for students.
The tour goes on, and people ask more and more questions. By the end, the prospective students are smiling and talking as they make their way back to admissions.
3:15 PM Since tours involve walking backwards for three miles, Heidi runs back to Ianni Hall to shower before her next class. After class she heads to the honors lounge, does homework, and chats with friends.
6 PM It’s dinner time in the Dining Center. Heidi eats her favorite dinner — a combination of pasta and salad, before changing, gathering up her Lacrosse equipment and heading to practice. It’s her last activity of the day; she spends her evening finishing up a few assignments, getting ready for bed, excited to wake up and take on yet another busy day.
The Life of a Tour Guide
Tour-guides like Heidi play a huge role in promoting the image of the university, creating a welcoming environment, and bringing new faces to UMD. A lot of detail-oriented training goes into it; tour guides must hit certain points every tour and give information to students about every building. The tour-guides must also be prepared for negative comments from current students and faculty that approach the tour group. Unfortunately, it happens more frequently than you’d expect, and it often upsets the people on the tour.
Giving tours has helped her build confidence, leadership skills, and public speaking skills. It's pushed her to challenge herself, make connections, and develop the ability to improvise.
“Tour-guides are often the first face people associate with UMD,” Heidi says, “We’re trained to deal with negativity, but it still leaves an impression.”
“It’s a rewarding experience because I get to be an ambassador for UMD,” she says, “Sometimes students will find me in the hallway a year later and recognize me from the tour. Those are the most rewarding moments of all.”
About the University Honors Program
About the B.A. in Criminology Program
This story was written by UMD University Marketing & P.R employee, Nora Curtis, a Biology major with a minor in professional writing.