Through the Looking Glass: Becoming a Yale Tour Guide

I first visited Yale’s campus the same way so many others do, as a junior in high school touring colleges during my Spring Break. To be honest, when my mom and I were deciding which colleges we wanted to see, Yale didn’t make the list. It seemed so otherworldly, and like everyone else, I joked to my mom that I had no chance of getting in. As it turns out, my mom and I missed one of our trains and ended up much closer to New Haven, Connecticut than we had ever expected to be, so we decided it wouldn’t hurt just to take the tour. Halfway through the tour, I knew I was going to apply to Yale, and by the end, I couldn’t imagine myself at any other school.

Exactly two years later, here I am working as a Yale Tour Guide, giving tours to hundreds of high schoolers in the same position I was in not so long ago.

Students at Yale have all different kinds of jobs. One of my suitemates works at a cancer research lab, one works at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, and a third will be mentoring first-year students in the fall as a Peer Liaison. I never had a real job in high school, so I started school nervous about finding employment and had a super irrational fear of being fired. After perusing through all of my options, I decided to apply to be a Tour Guide this past January.

My favorite stop on the tour is inside Sterling Memorial Library.My favorite stop on the tour is inside Sterling Memorial Library.

The application process for being a Tour Guide is much longer than most jobs, and spans the first three months of the spring semester. It begins with a written application, followed by a panel interview, then two one-on-one interviews, and finally an audition tour with real visitors. The whole process is pretty daunting, but I found myself learning more and more about the history of both Yale and New Haven every step of the way. Did you know that New Haven was home to the first hamburger in North America? And the first Frisbee? And that the very first spy for the American army went to Yale? Tour guides don’t have to learn all three hundred years of history, but each interview gave me a little bit more insight into these buildings I had lived in already for six months.

My tour as a junior in high school was the first time I realized that Yale could be a home for all different kinds of students, and that’s the exact message I put in the tours I give now. From the other side of the process, as a guide and not an applicant, I’ve been given a new perspective on the role a tour is supposed to play in college decisions. Trying to show visitors everything Yale has to offer and everything Yale is in a 90 minute tour is an overwhelming task, so instead of rambling about the history of the school and statistics about class size, I try to focus on showing them one authentic student experience, my own. I have succeeded at Yale and I have failed; there are some things at Yale that I love and a few things I would like to change, and all of that makes it into my tour. Sharing with others the ins and outs of my college experience has been surprisingly rewarding and a great chance for self-reflection.

Plus, as far as jobs go, it doesn’t hurt to be able to take a walk around Yale’s campus every so often and appreciate all the beauty New Haven has to offer. As they say, a beautiful place to work makes work beautiful.