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Walking backward: A tour guides perspective

 It all starts in Freeman Hall.

Prospective students and their families gather around the stairwell in the Office of Admissions as a Belmont student walks up to the third step and gives the standard “Welcome to Belmont!” greeting.

On any given day of the week at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m., a Belmont student, in a red or navy polo, can be found walking backwards around campus with a clan of possible future Bruins. The student is a Belmont tour guide, full of random facts and a love for Belmont.

There are 18 tour guides employed at the Office of Admissions this semester, said Audrey Wilson, Belmont’s admissions guest coordinator.  Collectively, the guides give about 10 tours per week.

“It keeps me excited about Belmont,” said Kate McMordie, a sophomore nursing major and tour guide captain. “Whenever I see them getting excited, I’m like, ‘I do love Belmont. I do love those things that you sometimes just walk by and don’t remember.’”

Becoming a tour guide is no easy task. The Bruin recruiters must first memorize an eight page script and multiple tour routes, learn to walk backwards and be evaluated before leading a group of their own.

 “It is pretty nerve wracking to be up there on your own and realize that most of the information these people are going to learn about the university and make their decision on whether they want to come here or not is based on what you say in the next 50 minutes,” said Zack Lord, a junior music business and management double major and a veteran tour guide.

For Lord and the other tour guides, it didn’t take long to get in the swing of things.

“Once you give a couple tours and people laugh at your jokes and stuff like that, you get more confidence,” said Lord. “So even though the first one was kind of scary, it gets really easy. It’s just like clock work.”

What makes this clock work different each time are the questions asked by the prospective students and families.

“I love it when families have a bunch of questions, particularly students who have similar interests that I have,” said Lord. “I just love being able to talk to these students and remember when I was in there shoes and how I felt.”

The questions are not always predictable.

Sometimes guides get out of the ordinary questions, especially on group tours, which can be made up of elementary or middle school students.

McMordie was once asked, “Is there a roller coaster on campus?” Lord was once asked. “Is there a twerk team?”

On some tours, it is an unusual occurrence that keeps things interesting. For Katelyn Lester, a sophomore music business major and a new tour guide this semester, it involved a boy on the tour and an unfortunate run in with the amphitheater water fountain.

“All of the sudden I heard a thump, some gasps, and then I heard a splash,” said Lester, who was facing the Bell Tower at the time of the incident. “I turned around and he was in the fountain. They don’t teach you what to do if someone falls in the fountain.”

If answering uncomfortable questions and keeping your cool when kids fall in the fountain wasn’t enough, tour guides also have had the sprinklers go off on tours and have had to talk above the rumble of the leaf blowers.

Other times, it is Belmont students headed to or from classes that interfere with the tours. Some yell, “Come to Belmont!”  Others try to to discourage the touring students, by bashing Belmont on a bogus phone call.

“Sometimes people tend to be obnoxious and pretend they are talking on the phone as we are walking by, and say ‘yea Mom, they cut the music business program here at Belmont. I don’t know what I’m going to do,’” said Lord.

The guides have to deal with these interferences all while walking backwards, something that is required of all the tour guides.

“I absolutely love walking backwards,” said Lord. “When I’m walking with a group of friends and I have something to say, I’ll jump up in front of them and start walking backwards and talking to them. Then I have to remind myself that it isn’t socially acceptable to walk backwards places.”

Although tour guides have to put up with a lot and walk backwards while doing it, it is worth it to them. For some of them, including McMordie, it was the tour guide they had as a prospective student that encouraged them to become a tour guide themselves.

“My tour guide was so personable, happy and genuine,” said McMordie. “I didn’t feel for a second that she was trying to push Belmont on me. It honestly just felt like she loved Belmont and was telling us about it. I can’t remember a single thing she said about Belmont, but I was sold. Belmont was the last school I visited.”

-Ashley Heyen

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