For the past two and a half years, the defining aspect of my Cornell Career has been Campus Information and Visitor Relations (CIVR). You may know the team better as simply “tour guides.” I’m pretty confident that if you ask people one thing about me, it is that I am a tour guide because I am constantly spewing facts at them, even when they don’t want to hear it. Other tour guides have the running joke that I have no other friends outside of CIVR, which is and isn’t true. I do have other friends, but I’m sure they love me a little less because I usually bring up tour guiding and/or a specific tour guide at some point during any conversation. I mean, I’m even writing a column about them. But why should any of this matter to you, dear reader?
Because as of Monday, I am no longer a tour guide. Although management forced my hand, this decision was ultimately my own. I have severed ties with an organization that has given me a sense of purpose and both literal and figurative direction for the past two years. And now I’m going through a Cornellian identity crisis. If I’m not a tour guide, then who am I? I am a member of a business fraternity (PSE), a social sorority (KD), an affiliate of the Student Assembly, an A&S Ambassador, the former announcer of the Big Red Marching Band but always a bandie at heart, a former Mock Star and a former FemSexie. But these were all activities that I included in my introduction of my tour.
Last year when I ran for student trustee, my campaign platform was a stronger sense of community spirit. When I campaigned, I would be sure to make the claim that it didn’t matter if you were a tour guide, or a Sunnie, or an ILRie or whatever you found best represented you on campus. I campaigned on the idea that at the end of the day our extra curricular activities were just one feature of who we are on The Hill. It was the shared experience of being on The Hill, being a Cornellian, that should be the defining feature of our college experience.
Now that I am not a tour guide, I am not sure if that’s true, although I whole-heartedly believed what I said at the time. I by no means believe that the Greek letters I affiliate with define me, yet the title of Information Specialist has shaped so much of who I am. (That’s the official title of a tour guide, for your reference.) I now have in my possession an excessive amount of Cornell knowledge and know this campus literally backwards and forwards. The saddest part about this all? I honestly think it’s easier to walk backwards, but for now I will have to walk forwards.
This still leaves me with the question of is just simply identifying myself as a Cornellian good enough? And I know the answer is yes. Because for all of the extra curricular activities I have tried — I pride myself on picking up something new each year — the thing that doesn’t change is where I am. On The Hill. I had a swell of Big Red Pride when I first read my acceptance letter on December 11, 2008, and I know that it is a sense of pride that I will carry with me to the grave; there is no doubt that “Cornellian” will be the highlight of my obituary.
When I walk through campus now, I will continue to walk with a sense of pride to know that so many Cornellians have walked these paths before me and think of all those who have yet to walk them.
And when I walk these paths, I know that I am Kat Balram, Class of 2013, History Major. Brother of Pi Sigma Epsilon, sister of Kappa Delta. Former Member of Campus Information and Visitor Relations, Big Red Marching Band, Student Assembly, Mock Trial, Women’s Resource Center. CORNELLIAN.
Kat Balram is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Guest Room appears periodically this semester.