Saturday, August 03, 2013

The Traveling Rockower Circus

As many of you readers may, or may not, know- I am not the only itinerant Rockower.  When not fighting the epidemic of chronic renal kidney failure among sugar cane workers, or studying to be a proctologist (older brother propaganda alert), Harry works as as a "road runner" in the Admissions Office at his alma mater College of Charleston.  As a road runner, Harry visits various states to stop at high schools and college fairs to conduct public diplomacy on behalf of CofC.  Harry has always been amigo del mundo and never passes up an opportunity to meet new soon-to-be friends.  This position affords him a platform to wax advisorial to the young high schoolers who are wise enough to listen to Sancho Harranza dispense advise on what life in La Mancha entails.  Harry has a great piece in Southern Association for College Admission Counseling for his own brood of road runners about "Lessons from the Road."

Lessons from the Road

When I began working back in July I figured travel season would be pretty easy. Seeing new cities, talking to a few students: no big deal. Initially I referred to it as 'backing with a purpose' and gladly assumed the title of road warrior (or road puppy, depending on whom you talk to.) Despite suggestions and warnings from my office and from Dry Run, there are still some things that were only comprehensible once you hit the road. Here are a few tips from my travels for new counselors.

1) Just Because It Is Written (Or Spoken) Doesn't Make It So.
Strange as it may sound, GPS is not infallible. Always double check the night before how far away your first visit actually is. Even the slightest mistake in the GPS makes a big difference. For example, Highland Avenue is vastly different from Highland Drive, which happens to be nowhere near North Highland Drive (I'd like to have a word or two with the people who planned the Pittsburgh streets).

2) Make Sure Your Hotel Rooms Are Comfortable.
Nothing compares to sleeping in your own bed, so double check that the hotels rooms you book are legit. You don't want to be stuck with a place that has stains on the sheets, crumbs on the carpet and a chip on the toilet seat. It just does not make for a pleasant experience or a good visit the next day.

3) Traveling Alone Means Eating Alone.
This was one of the harder things for me to adjust to. If you don't feel like being social bring a book or an ipad. But, you are a friendly person and that is why you were hired for this job. Go and sit at a restaurant bar and talk to the person next to you or the bartender. Most likely they are in the same boat and you can strike up a good conversation.

4) Dress It Up.
This one is for the counselors just out of college or the younger looking crowd. I went to too many schools where I was told I looked like a student and was even asked by another rep what I wanted to major in (thanks University of Buffalo!) Make sure you look professional so that you can hopefully put your high school years behind you.

5) Keep Calm and Carry On.
Anything and everything will happen. From locking your keys in your trunk, having a student cry in front of you, or witnessing a pick-up truck fly across two lanes and smash into a barrier; calamity is inevitable. Just take a deep breath, crack a smile, and go get a drink. Happy hour gained its name for a reason.

Oddities aside, I had an amazing time during my first travel season. Working with students one-on-one and supporting my alma mater was something that I would recommend to anyone. After traveling, it is easy to understand the statement that you are either in the industry for three or 30 years. Just remember to be open to anything while out on the road and things will go a lot more smoothly.

-Harry Rockower
Road Runner, College of Charleston

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