As a student Ambassador, my main role is to engage external stakeholders of the school: naturally, hosting guests on campus tours is the “bread and butter” of the work we do as members of the Ambassadorial Corps.
Many of you may have spotted some of us conducting tours on campus, or even attended one back as a prospective student during Open House. Now, let me show you what it’s like for the one leading a tour!
Giving a tour can be an intimidating affair, especially when your guests could be anyone: from professors of local educational institutions to foreign delegates from all around the globe, or even the Managing Director of Twitter! To this day, I still recall being very nervous for the first ever tour I hosted, unsure of what to expect of the guests (a group of lecturers from various Kazakhstan universities) that I was going to interact with, and apprehensive about the language barrier that we might have. However, all my fears were dispelled when I managed to ease myself into conversations and interactions with them.
Since then, I have taken on many campus tours to meet and connect with new people, as well as hone my interpersonal skills. Every tour is so different and I always learn something new each time I lead a campus tour!
So now, follow me as I take you through what I’ve learnt from my campus tours—the “pit stops” of my learning journey.
Pit Stop #1: Interacting with different groups of stakeholders
What I love about campus tours is that every tour is different, because every group of guests is too! Each group has a unique character and different interests and I often find myself having to customise campus tours for different groups of stakeholders.
For example, I recently led a campus tour for a group of lecturers from Ngee Ann Polytechnic who wanted to learn more about the collaborative learning environment in SMU. They raised several questions about the collaborative learning spaces in school, such as the Learning Commons in the library and the SMU Labs, particularly about how students make use of such spaces to facilitate their learning. To meet their needs, I provided a student’s perspective on how I utilised these spaces for my group projects, and how they formed the cornerstone of my learning experience.
Another time, I led a group of guests from one of SMU’s partner community service organisations, LIONS Befrienders. In contrast, they wanted to learn more about the community service culture in SMU; and about how the university supports students to pursue voluntary work both at home and abroad.
Weaving in my own community service experiences in SMU and reading up on the various community service initiatives in SMU prior to the tour, I was able to engage in meaningful conversations with them, exceeding their expectations of the tour!
Adapting accordingly to the varying needs of our guests and customising campus tours ensure that our stakeholders’ needs and objectives are being met.
Pit Stop #2: Stepping out of my comfort zone
One of the most challenging tours I’ve given was for a group of Mandarin speaking students from the Zhe Jiang University. It was not an easy feat stepping up to lead the tour, and though I had been proficient in the language back in my secondary school days, I was certainly not very fluent in conversational Mandarin, let alone comfortable with leading an entire tour in the language!
Together with my fellow student Ambassadors hosting the same campus tour, I spent a lot of time and effort to prepare for the tour in advance, to make sure the language barrier would not hinder us from creating a pleasant campus tour experience for our guests.
We scripted what we were going to say during the campus tours, memorised all the Mandarin names of the facilities and prominent locations in and around school, and took turns to ask and answer each other’s’ questions in Mandarin. Fortunately, we managed to lead the tour and converse with our guests along the way smoothly without many difficulties—what’s more, we even had lunch together after the tour, where we traded stories about the different student life experiences at Zhe Jiang University and at SMU.
It was truly a once in a lifetime experience which would never have been possible had I not stepped out of my comfort zone and took on the challenge.
Pit Stop #3: Sharing on my student life experiences
I always derive a lot of meaning and satisfaction leading campus tours, because they provide me with the platform to share with the different stakeholders what I love about SMU.
Campus tours are about more than just showing off our school’s facilities to the guests. Through my sharings on campus tours, I am able to inject my unique student life experiences and share about SMU’s learning environment from a student’s perspective.
For example, because my CCA, Caderas Latinas, holds the annual SMU Salsa Festival in the otherwise ordinary T-Junction at the Concourse, it has become a place where I have created a lot of memories, and forged strong friendships with batchmates, seniors and juniors. The T-Junction holds a special place in my heart because of Caderas Latinas. Hence, whenever I introduce the T-Junction or Concourse to guests, I’m always sure to point this out!
It is through such campus tours that I am able to share with guests and stakeholders about my SMU experiences and what I truly love about SMU—and that’s why being able to live, love and share makes my role as an Ambassador deeply meaningful, and always rewarding!