Come Along with G: Tour Guide Tales

Not everything is included in the price of the tour.

Madtown Lowdown | Maura Curtis | March 30, 2016

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Picture this: a sunny spring day, students rushing down Library Mall, stoves sizzling inside colorful food carts, an irresistible view of the capitol in one direction, and Bascom Hill in the other.

Then you see it.  The signature red and white jackets or polos, followed by a large group of lost-looking people…a tour! Students cling to their parents, resembling bobble-heads as they attempt to absorb Madison’s bustling campus. They’re hard to miss.

To put it in business terms, tour guides are salesman and the product they sell is UW-Madison. That’s a really frickin’ important job.

This tour of prospective students doesn’t ruin this picture-perfect day–in fact, it makes it even better. Campus tours and university tour guides are an essential piece in creating the next crop of Baby Badgers. To put it in business terms, tour guides are salesman and the product they sell is UW-Madison. That’s a really frickin’ important job.

Gina the Digester

Obviously, intensive interview processes and training are key to creating the best tour guide. It’s difficult, however, to prepare them for every curve-ball question a concerned dad is guaranteed to ask. For instance, “Do you have indigestion issues?” This was a real question that tour guide Gina Nerone, a junior at UW-Madison, was asked in the middle of a tour. Apparently, a curious dad was worried about the different water qualities in Wisconsin and California (Gina’s native state) and how it affected her…digestion? Or when a hopeful mom asked Gina for her phone number to give to her son…while her son was standing right there. (She gave them her email address instead.) And a more recent uncomfortable question, “Are you getting married soon?” Yes, a tour-going father really asked her this. Despite the occasional embarrassing question, Gina loves having the chance to talk to people, especially when it’s about our wonderful school, and even if it’s to answer a question about her marriage plans.

Gina the Entertainer

Over her two and a half years as a tour guide, Gina has found that students may need a little pumping up. I mean, they are a group of strangers who, most likely, find the idea of college extremely daunting. Gina, and tour guides in general, have several techniques to do this, like the joke, “Sorry for the cheesy puns, but we are in Wisconsin” (Get it?? Because Wisconsin=cheese) or when explaining the tradition of rubbing Abe’s toe for luck they occasionally say, “So if you have an exam like I usually do or a hot date like I usually don’t, you rub Abe’s toe to get some luck.” That’s an ice-breaker for sure. She once brought a group of accepted students to Camp Randall, the heart of Badger school spirit. She started to explain our deep Wisconsin football traditions, especially the famous post-third-quarter jump around, AKA the best tradition in college football. Gina assumed that her tour-goers would know this reference, but she was quickly met with blank, clueless stares. Naturally, Gina decided to demonstrate this wonderful tradition in front of the students, not only singing parts of the song, but also physically jumping around. To her dismay, their blank stares were unchanged after this highly entertaining performance.

Gina the Saint

As a tour guide, you help to form the first impression of our school. It’s a huge responsibility, but Gina and other tour guides love having the opportunity to help people create opinions about the university, and literally help guide them towards clicking “accept” in the Student Center online. They are there to answer questions, even if the topic is unrelated to the school (see indigestion/marriage), and to perform a solo of Jump Around in front of those who are unfamiliar. They are there to help you fall in love with our school. They are there to share the glory of Madison’s many picture-perfect days.


Featured photo courtesy of UW-Madison Campus and Visitor Relations @UWMadisonInfo