While I am so excited to graduate, having my "last" everything is certainly sad. I have truly had the most amazing experiences here at UT, and I just cannot imagine what my life would be like - or what I would be like - without this university and the outstanding friends I have collected over the years.
One of my first "lasts" was my Last Tour. I have been a UT Ambassador since Spring Semester my Freshman year. I was initiated, went through a full week of training and team bonding stuff, and started giving tours the following August, and I have loved every stinking second of it. I had the pleasure of being one of the Captains of our amazing team, sit through three years of interviews, assist in selecting our past three "pledge classes" if you will, give tours with countless partners, meet tons of parents and alumni (some wonderful, some overly obnoxious), and talk to literally thousands of students. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE being a UT Ambassador, and I am just tickled pink that my little Sees gets to have the same opportunity!
My precious tour partner, Ben Collins, has seen me through my entire Senior Year, and he has been the most incredible partner to-date. He is constantly making me laugh, has impeccable comedic timing, gives wonderful tours, and, above all else, is a fabulous friend. I couldn't have asked for a better last parter =) All that being said, we decided to paint the rock with our tour group as a fun way to end our year together (and my three years in the program). For those of you who don't know bless your precious little hearts here is my schpeel about The Rock: get ready for tour guide mode...
"The Rock is basically a student billboard. It is the only place on campus where graffiti is not only legal, but encouraged. It is sort of a right-of-passage that you have to paint The Rock at lease once before you graduate, but be sure to take a picture, because it is very likely that someone will be right behind you waiting to paint over it as soon as you move. Students paint all sorts of things on The Rock: Happy Birthday Wishes, Congratulatory Messages, Student Organizations post about application deadlines, and we've even had some phone numbers on The Rock. Tim Tebow, Steve Spurrier, Lane and Lala Kiffin have all had their numbers on The Rock Needless to say, all of those people have had to change their numbers due to too many charming messages from UT students. One very clever student painted a sheet of loose-leaf notebook paper on The Rock and wrote "Paper Covers Rock." haha! And there have even been three marriage proposals on The Rock - yes, yes, a little UT Tradition when getting down on one knee, but this is not something that we recommend to you gentlemen. Apparently, all of those proposals were turned down. I guess "The Rock" just wasn't big enough!" *ba-duh-CH* yes, I know, I am HILARIOUS
Now that we're all on the same page, I will continue....Ben and I went to paint the base of The Rock - which is quite a task - before our tour. Our fellow tour guide and friend, Lauren Kinnard, previously mentioned here as our resident wanna-be Mexican came after class to help us out. We knew we wouldn't have this kind of time during the tour, so we wanted to go ahead and get it done. Here it is! UTAS stands for University of Tennessee Ambassador Scholar...which we haven't been called since my first year...it's a sentimental thing...don't hate me non-Scholars....
which made me feel incredibly old and I had no idea that they were coming! Kelly saw me as they were loading the bus and immediately gave me this HUGE hug before I even recognized who she was! When I finally caught my bearings, I started getting emotional - so much for making it through the tour without any tears!! Not likely anyways.
But I had to pull myself together, and get that taxi on the move! We were heading through campus giving our usual script of awesome information and hilarious on-liners, and before we knew it The Rock was in view! Precious Roger, our bus driver, stopped at The Rock, our group got out and painted their names on The Rock, and we got a great picture which cannot be posted for liability reasons...sorry. Will Logan previously mentioned here even stopped by on his way back from class and graciously took umpteen pictures on my phone for me without a single complaint and then he highjacked a ride to the fraternity house on the TN Taxi. Kelly took a picture of Jess and I in front of The Rock on Jess' phone, which he promptly emailed to my Daddy with the subject, "You Must be Very Proud of Her." I mean it doesn't get much sweeter than that! I'm tearing up just thinking about it! I was just so thrilled to have them be a part of my last tour, and the rest of the group seemed very excited to take part in one of my favorite UT traditions!
After the Rock painting extravaganza, we continued along with our usual walking portion of the tour, and I miraculously held it all together and didn't shed a single tear the whole time! When we were heading back to the bus, one of the dads in the group asked if we could go into Neyland Stadium. Now, on a regular tour, we tell them that this is just not how things are done, that they will have to "come back to campus and find their own way," but this was no average tour, my friends. So, I said "WHY NOT?!" We gave Roger a heads-up, and Tennessee-waltzed not really, but that sure would have been fun on into the Stadium like we owned the place! Everyone "oohed" and "aahed" the appropriate amount over the 3rd largest and most beautiful collegiate stadium in the nation, we snapped some pictures (See Ben and I to your left), and we were back in the Tennessee Taxi before you knew it. Needless to say, this was the tour to top all tours. Quite extraordinary if I do say so myself.
On the way back to the Visitor's Center, I always give a heart warming speech about why I came to UT and why I stuck around. Clearly, this is where the waterfall of tears just erupted. I was doing just fine until I started to make eye-contact with some of our new members (who were shadowing our tour as a part of their training) and, of course, with Ben and Taylor (one of my closest tour guide friends, who joined at the same time as me, was a captain with me, and had hitched a ride on the TN Taxi so he didn't have to walk home...seems to be a trend on our tours). In my closing speech, I always tell people, "This was the only place I applied, I knew this is where I belonged, but UT has far exceeded my expectations. I can show you every building on this campus and give you every stat I know, but I can't show all of the people, and they're the reason I've stuck around." Now please, you try and say that line to a group of prospective students and their parents while two of your best friends, who you are leaving behind in two weeks, are staring you right in the face. It is absolutely impossible to finish that sentence with dry eyes! One of our shadowers, Morgan, also a sorority sister of mine, sneakily shot this video of my final words...apologies for the iPhone quality...she was truly trying to be sneaky!
Needless to say, Ambassadors has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have had at this University, and it was a very sad thing to give my last tour even though technically I gave a walking tour the following Saturday and think that I will never step foot on the Tennessee Taxi or tell "The Rock just wasn't big enough" joke ever again....at least not in a professional, $7.25/hour type of atmosphere. To all the Ambassadors (Scholars or otherwise), past and present - Thank you. You have truly made me a better public speaker, a better tour guide, and a better friend. And to all future Ambassadors, I hope you realize what an incredible opportunity you have to impact the lives of students and parents, and to have your own life impacted by your fellow tour guides. There is just nothing like it...