By Richard Coca
“Petty ass mf.” That was the comment I received under my last article about how I got rejected from the tour guide industry. While I got a good laugh out of my first hate comment, it got me thinking about how quickly I accepted my rejection. Yes, I was rejected, but everyone knows that a good rejection opens more doors than it closes — and, indeed, more doors were opened.
As a result of my last article, many people reached out to me saying that I would have been an amazing tour guide, or commenting on what an amazing tour guide I have been. You see, while the Stanford Visitor Center might have rejected me, I’ve accidentally stumbled into the unofficial tour guide industry.
Fellow Daily writer Rachel Ochoa ‘22 was one of the first to contact me about giving an unofficial tour. Her high school arrived one weekend and, along with other alumni, Rachel organized some unofficial tours of Stanford. I was recruited to give one of them. As I walked and talked to these sophomores and juniors about our campus, I got to see eyes light up and smiles start beaming. Every dumb joke I made elicited a laugh that reminded me of home. As they walked into Memorial Church, enchanted by the architecture and art all around them, they reminded me of a younger version of myself. As they fell in love with the campus, I found myself falling in love all over again. It was on this same tour that I rolled down the hills near the Engineering Quad and got to inspire a student in a more private conversation to reach out to his mentor back at high school.
Two weeks later and I was giving another tour, along with two other unofficial tour guides, to a group of students from Notre Dame. This group of students was different as they were already in college, but as we compared our schools, I gained an appreciation for what Stanford was doing correctly, but also saw ways in which the University could improve. It was also great to give a tour to a bunch of first-generation and/or low-income students, as our conversations became more genuine and centered around the FLI experience at our respective institutions.
I gave my most recent tour of the campus to a group of students from Los Angeles. I had just finished volunteering on a panel about FLI experiences at Stanford when the group said that they were just going to freely walk around campus and try to give themselves a tour. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to give a tour to such a lovely group. Among the 20 or more people there, many of them were also first-generation/low income students, and because their trip to Stanford had already been rescheduled, they couldn’t jump on another Stanford tour in time.
After putting on my unofficial tour guide hat, I began walking backwards and got my steps in as I taught the students all about Stanford’s traditions and showed them all the best places on campus. Veronica Ayala ’22, my fellow unofficial tour guide, joined me as we herded the large group, though she ultimately judged me in silence as I hopped into Terman fountain during the tour. The students were absolutely amazed by such a display of spontaneity that even the teachers in the group asked me, “Won’t you get sick?” I have yet to get sick once on this campus, and I’d like to attribute it to the fact that Stanford’s weather machine is up and running again. Veronica’s warm, welcoming, yet professional approach nicely contrasted my spontaneous and energetic vibe. Once we looped back and arrived at the Claw, I was intentional in reminding those FLI kids that they, too, can be here:
“I’ll see y’all in here in two years.”
That’s what I hope my tour inspired them to do: Apply. That’s what the unofficial tour guide industry is all about — genuine conversations and inspiration.
Contact Richard Coca at richcoca ‘at’ stanford.edu.