Monday, April 20, 2015

A Tour Guide: Intercultural Immersion

I have, for this semester, been harvesting volunteer hours for my Leadership Studies minor by working as a volunteer tour guide with Ars et Fides Firenze. Each week, I give guided tours of the Duomo, Florence's treasure.
During those times, I am forced to speak Italian and French, despite the fact that I barely speak either languages. However, when a tourist approaches me with a question, I am obligated with my badge to at least attempt to answer. I constantly surprise myself with how capable I really am. I can stumble through responses, and the conversations always end in one of three ways: 1) They smile and nod, meaning that what I said actually made sense 2) They do not understand, and I have to find someone who speaks their native language and try to explain the predicament to them 3) They finally decide to tell me they speak English, too
On several occasions, I have been complimented by tourists on my "impressive English-speaking skills." I also often have the tourists wanting to take pictures with me (don't mind if I do!). I have also received several tips, since our tours are free--these tips get donated back to Ars et Fides.
I interact with a diverse group of people. I have given tours to people from France, Austria, Switzerland, Germany, Cuba, US, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Jordan, England, New Zealand, Canada, and Israel. Each person has been amazingly pleasant (with the exception of the mother who could not control her ill-tempered boy, who blew out the memorial candles and cried when he couldn't play a game on her cellphone because she wanted to take pictures).
I was told last week by a tourist who had visited the church periodically throughout his life that this was the most information he had ever received.
It is a drag to have to get out of bed every Monday morning, especially when I do not have class until 3:15. However, it has been a rewarding and eye-opening experience, to say the least!


  1. Hi Lindsey!
    This might be a weird question but have you noticed any differences in how people fem different backgrounds experience/perceive other cultures? Are there things that people from different cultures are more interested in, that they really want to see?
    Emma Strick

  2. Hi Lindsey!

    Did you find it difficult or challenging to give tours to people from multiple cultures or backgrounds at the same time? Or was there really no difference at all?

    Shelbi Westfield