My fingers were shaking as I plodded backwards step by step, carefully planning out my sentences with each awkward, choppy movement I took. I spoke with an aire of nervousness, often stumbling over my words (and my feet) and spitting out sentences hastily. My heart raced at a million miles an hour and beads of sweat slowly traveled from my temples down to my jaw. Giving my first campus tour was one of the most nerve-wracking things I’d done at Hopkins, and boy was I struggling. I remember seeing all those pairs of eyes, some of them from curious prospective students, others from disgruntled parents who wanted the best education for their child, cutting through me like razors as I rattled out my next point about the seating capacity of Shriver (it’s over 1300, btw), or the size of Gilman.
Giving a mock tour to one person had been so easy and effortless for me. I was confident, laid-back, funny, and just had a good time traversing every nook and cranny of campus with some random person who was deciding if I was qualified enough to give tours for the school. My evaluation tour was a breeze, but as soon as I faced the real thing and had to talk to 15-20 people I just froze. Suddenly the calm, confident Varun who could have given a tour to president Ron Daniels himself couldn’t give a tour to a squirrel, let alone a large group of people. I remember trying to calm myself down as I cut across Shriver quad and headed down to Brody, “It’s just a tour. It’s just a tour. You know what to say, you know how to say it, just relax and do it.” And so with my heart still pounding out of my chest I lead the group through Brody and just talked to them. I didn’t overthink what I was going to say, I didn’t try to say it too fast or hit every single point that I was sure to miss when discussing an institution with 141 years of history, a 100+ acre campus, and a student body the size of a small town. I just had a conversation with my group and told them what I knew about the school so that they could see what Hopkins was really about.
For the first time during that tour I felt comfortable and in the zone. I didn’t feel out of place interacting with all these people I’d never met before, and I felt as though I was actually semi-qualified to be a tour guide. As I led my group across the Freshman quad, through the UTL’s past Remsen and into the twisting, winding hallways of Gilman I was still nervous as hell but I just trusted myself and said the first things that came to my head. By the time the tour was winding down and I had brought my group through pretty much every square inch of Homewood, I could tell they were tired from all the walking and were sick of hearing my voice.
As we powered down right next to Mason hall, and I finished with my spiel about why I chose Hopkins and why it’s been an amazing decision (WHICH IT HAS!!!! 😊), I thanked the group for coming on the tour and told them if they had any questions I would stick around to answer them. There were a few muffled thank you’s followed by a shuffling of feet, which was when I decided to tell the people that they had been my first ever tour group, and I was sorry for being such a nervous train wreck. The look on everyone’s face when I said that was something I’ll never forget, their eyes bulged and they immediately started saying things like “No you were fantastic.” Or “Thank you so much!” Simply realizing that I was unexperienced, nervous Freshman who had never done this before completely changed people’s opinions of me and my tour, and thinking back on it always makes me laugh. I’ve given many more tours since that day and they usually go smoothly with no hitches, though occasionally when I’ll forget a fact or stumble over a line I’ll think back to that day and just chuckle.