Gaining valuable skills through tour guide experience

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Heekyung Park ’12

Heekyung Park ’12, a graduate of the School of Political Science and Economics, came to Waseda to study the economy of Asia, but her classes were all in Japanese at the time. Park had not fully acquired Japanese then, so she struggled with her classes, especially those related to law.

“I still remember how my friends helped me along the way and how sincere they were.”

Despite facing such language barriers, Park decided to apply for a campus tour guide position in the autumn of her first year.

Campus tours at Waseda began in 1989 to open the University to the general public. Nearly 15,000 people annually participate in the tour, and it is Japan’s oldest and largest. Only students who complete rigorous training and become knowledgeable in Waseda’s history are selected as tour guides. Currently, many graduates who were campus tour guides work as news anchors, staff at airline companies, and other various positions that require excellent communication skills.

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Waseda University Campus Tours began in 1989.

Since all tours were conducted in Japanese, an international student becoming a campus tour guide was unheard of, but the Office of Information and Public Relations, which manages the campus tours, welcomed her to apply.

“Not only do campus tour guides need to learn about buildings on campus and the University’s history, but they must also be thoughtful communicators. For example, they should consider the participant’s age group to adjust the walking speed or change the content of the tour.”

Park not only studied hard in the campus tour guide training, but she also took courses on Japanese pronunciation to enhance her chances. Her efforts bore fruit, and she successfully became a tour guide at the end of her first year. Park made sure to keep in mind what her audience is interested in. She would talk about classes offered at Waseda to high school students, but for an older age group, she chose to focus on the history of Waseda.

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Park giving a campus tour

Through her experience as a campus tour guide, Park also learned about intercultural communication. Park, who is from Korea, says that because the Korean language is more direct in comparison to Japanese, where many expressions are softened, she was pointed out about the way she spoke when she first arrived.

“I have unintentionally hurt my friend’s feelings before because of the way I spoke, but being a campus tour guide helped me better express myself while taking the other person’s feeling into consideration. This experience has helped me acquire fundamental communication skills. In the future, I hope to hone skills necessary for working in the international scene by meeting people from around the world.”

Park’s interest in finance and her experience as a tour guide directed her career focus on positions that involve interacting with people. She was offered a position as a sales representative for a major international bank upon graduation, and Park now works for Nomura Securities Co. Ltd.

One of her responsibilities includes letting related offices within her company know about the changes in international rules of finance. She often gives presentations to a large audience, but the reason why she can remain calm and be confident is because of her experience as a tour guide. Before such presentations, Park thinks about how to convey her messages clearly and how to gain interests of people while doing so.

“To think about how the audience feels is a skill I gained as a tour guide, and it is really helping me now.”

Because Park often uses English at work, her current goal is to become equally fluent in English as she is in Japanese and build negotiation skills.

*The information in this article is from an interview conducted in AY2016.

Waseda University Information Square

Campus tours are organized by the University’s Information Square.

  • Open: Monday – Friday and Saturdays when classes are in session, 10:00-17:00 (the last group tour starts at 14:30)
  • Please call us or visit the campus tour website to check for closed dates
  • Tel: 03-5286-1276
  • For more information on campus tours, visit the campus tour website
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