Last week, I went on a tour of Macalester. The air was damp, the back of my legs were covered in mud, and it was an unfortunate 40 degrees out — frankly, not one of Minnesota’s best days. Even then, Dan Klonowski ’17, my guide through Mac for the next hour, and his group of prospective first years (PFs) braved the storm and made their way around campus.
My tour started on Macalester Ave., cut through the dorms down to Olin Rice, and circled back up to the Admissions Office. I would later be told that this is the backwards route, a route taken only when there are many visiting PFs. I’ve made my way across campus every single day since the day I stepped foot onto the campus, but this was a different experience — I wasn’t scrambling to get to my 8 a.m. lab or frantically pacing to beat the 11 a.m. rush at Cafe Mac. Instead, I had time to look at the buildings, to listen to Klonowski, and to immerse myself in his stories.
My absolute favorite part of the tour, hands down, was when we entered into the Mairs Concert Hall. When Klonowski first opened the doors, we saw into absolute darkness, but as we made our way down the alley, he turned the lights on in a gradual fashion. There was a sudden rush of excitement and wonder as I looked around at this beautiful concert hall–it was almost magical.
On my way across campus, I also got to know Klonowski not as a tour guide but as a fellow Mac student. With his friend and partner-in-crime, Connor Valenti ’17, Klonowski had trained to be a tour guide his second semester here in Macalester. Both of them recently became tour guide coordinators and now spend most of their time overseeing the tour guide program, training potential tour guides, and at times, giving tours themselves.
In just under an hour, Klonowski and his fellow tour guides have to be charming, enthusiastic and fully express how they have grown to love Macalester over their time here. They’ll sometimes throw in a joke or two to lighten the mood or share with the group their most memorable experiences or activities they like to do in the Twin Cities. Klonowski and Valenti, as tour coordinators, sometimes like to stop on certain points of the campus as they train new tour guides and say, “This moment. Be your own,” because as Klonowski put it, “The most personal parts of the tour are my favorites because there’s a different experience that goes out with every tour.”
Ever since, Klonowski and Valenti have smiled and shared their own experiences in Macalester with the rest of the world. These tours, however repetitive they may seem, have proven themselves to be fulfilling and rewarding, especially when the tour guides get the chance to connect with students and inspire them with their own college experiences. In one instance, Valenti was invited into a photograph with a family he had just taken around campus. He recalls, “I just walk in and the family puts their arms around me. I’ll be forever in this picture of their college campus tour experience now, and it’s like I’ve had some sort of impact on their life.”
This is my second semester here, and I had thought I was already well-versed on the ins and outs of Macalester. I know where Café Mac is, I know what it means when I hear the bell ring and I know what goes down in Kagin on Friday nights. Turns out, that’s not quite enough, and as I tagged alongside Klonowski on his tour, I came to love Mac even on one of its murkiest days.