Samuel Cass can relate to his European tour group more than the average tour guide — he was in their place just two years ago.
Cass was an exchange student in Vigo, Spain, when he was a senior in high school and ended his experience abroad with a tour from the Europe travel-based operator Belo Europe. He said he asked how to stay involved with the company and was told to apply for the tour guide position when he turned 21.
The junior international business and Spanish double major served as a tour guide with Belo Europe for the summer of 2019. His job was to show exchange students around Europe, from Paris to Rome.
“That's kind of the reason that the company hired me to come back,” he said. “Being able to relate really well with the students because, you know, I'm 21, just a few years older than them.”
The 21-day tour began in Paris and ended in Rome, with stops in cities like Venice and Amsterdam along the way. Cass said the group never stayed in the same city for more than three days.
“Best part, without a doubt, of doing the tour as a student is the opportunity to get a general view of nearly all of the European capitals in such a short amount of time and for a relatively low price,” Cass said.
As a tour guide, Cass was responsible for confirming reservations with local restaurants and other tour guides in each city, along with keeping track of his group of 33 students. He said the job meant being up from 7 a.m. until 1 a.m, to taking students on morning city tours to doing hotel room checks at night.
Cass’s experience as a student in a tour group helped him better understand what the students in his group were experiencing, he said.
“A lot of students appreciate having me there since I recently had a similar experience to them,” he said. “Just to listen to their perspectives and kind of compare their experiences to mine that I had just two years ago.”
Cass said he didn’t realize the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the tour before becoming a tour guide. One difficult situation he faced this summer included tracking down a student’s backpack that was left in a Hungarian gas station, he said.
“There were a lot of stressful situations that we went through that I never realized before,” he said. “Traveling with a large group like this and being responsible for students and their safety and their well-being is a completely new level of responsibility.”
Cass’s friend Will Parker, a former exchange student and sophomore hospitality, restaurant and tourism management major, said he wasn’t surprised Cass was selected as a tour guide.
“I was really excited for him, and I knew that Sam would be perfect for it because he's so great at mentoring,” he said. “He has such a passion for traveling and discovering new things.”
Cass said he enjoyed seeing students’ transformations at the end of their exchange.
“You change a lot [as an exchange student] — you spend 12 months in a foreign country with a different family and everything,” he said. “So, it was really cool to see how students have matured over their year.”
Cass also supports exchange students in the Lincoln community with his role as a rotex for the Nebraska Rotary Youth Exchange. A rotex is a former exchange student who helps incoming exchange students with cultural adjustment and immersion.
Cass said the experience he gained as a tour guide will help him with his career in international business.
“Doing it from a professional standpoint this time has given me so much confidence,” he said, “because I'm going to have similar situations where I have a meeting in a foreign country that requires me to use a lot of the same problem-solving skills I’ve learned on this tour.”