An overview of my experience living in Rome and working as a tour guide/tour promoter for a student travel company!
I’ve had lots of random jobs in random places all over the world. One of my favorites was working as a tour promoter/tour guide for a student tour company in Rome!
In 2018, I joined Smart Trip Europe as one of their tour promoters and tour guides.
It was an exciting and enlightening job, and living in Rome was incredible. I wanted to write an article about this experience living and working abroad.
If you’re curious about what it’s like to work for a student travel company, hopefully I can provide some insight!
Or if you’re actually interested in trying the role for yourself, hopefully this article will help you know what to expect on this journey.
Working For A Student Travel Company In Rome
Though I only worked for Smart Trip for about 6 months, I learned so much in this dynamic role.
I also had the time of my life living in Rome and traveling around Europe with a super fun group of people.
So get ready for a very detailed account of what it’s like to work for a student travel company in Rome!
Finding The Student Travel Company: Smart Trip Europe
People often ask me how I find my jobs and living situations abroad.
By September 2017, I had already done 4 work exchanges abroad. I was 22 and eager to keep traveling, but I also wanted a paid job where I could make money.
So after doing some online research, I found Smart Trip.
Smart Trip is based in Florence and offers affordable tours for study-abroad students.
They are always hiring young people to work as tour promoters and tour guides. You don’t even have to have a degree! It is recommended, but not required. All you need is an outgoing personality and a passion for travel!
So I applied, did an online video interview, got the job, and moved to Rome 4 months later!
Visit the Smart Trip website to learn more about the company and the position!
The Job: Tour Promoter / Tour Guide
The role was tour promoter, which is a fancy way of saying: SALES!
Working for a student travel company in Rome was mainly a sales job. It was my first sales job ever, and I felt pretty confident and eager to try something new.
Our main role was to sell Smart Trip tours to study abroad students around Rome.
Each tour promoter had their own promo code. When a student used our code to book a tour, we made a commission. That was our main source of income.
Our secondary role was working as tour guides. We would actually get to go on the tours we were selling and help lead the students around Europe.
Here are some of my experiences and thoughts about these two roles.
Tour Promoter / Sales
This job made me realize that I do not like working in sales. I was not very good at it, which is probably why I didn’t enjoy it.
I’m outgoing and friendly, but I’m just a bit too self-conscious and empathetic to be a good salesman.
Our main sales tactics were:
- Flyering in the streets of Rome
- Messaging students on Facebook
- Trying to make friends with students at events, bars, dinners, coffee shops, etc., and then naturally selling them tours over time
Flyering was so awful for me that it was actually hilarious.
I was so nervous on my first day of flyering that I was shaking and couldn’t form a decent sentence when I spoke to students in the street.
It didn’t help that I was cold from the January chill and my muscles were tense from carrying about 100+ thick flyers in my backpack.
I don’t know why I thought I would need that many flyers. I probably only handed out 5 at most on that first day. (This day is pictured in the photo above – the cute dog lifted my spirits a bit!)
Our go-to spots for flyering were outside study abroad schools, near popular students cafes and apartments, and at the airport.
I honestly felt like a stalker just roaming the streets of Rome and waiting to pounce on someone who looked like a student.
And if I approached someone and they looked the tiniest bit confused or annoyed, I would immediately apologize and run away.
My favorite sales tactic was just dropping off a stack of flyers with my code on them at a coffee shop and hoping someone would pick them up. Anything to avoid confrontation! (Hence why I suck at sales)
Bonding with Students
Our other main sales tactic was making friends with study abroad students.
If we made student friends, hopefully they would come to us when they needed help traveling around Europe!
We hosted group dinners at local restaurants, we frequented local student bars and clubs, and we sat in coffee shops hoping to chat up some students.
I actually enjoyed this social aspect of the job, to an extent.
Even though I had only been out of college for 2 years at this point, I was over hardcore partying.
So I didn’t want to go out every night and try to befriend students so I could make money.
When I actually made student friends, I didn’t want to pressure them to buy tours because I liked them.
And some students were entitled and annoying. So I didn’t want to be their friend, and I hated the fact that I relied on them for income.
I ended up just going out when I felt like it and having fun with my friends without stressing about selling tours. (Another reason why I sucked at sales!)
Check out my article: 5 Reasons To Continue Traveling After Studying Abroad
This was the best part of working for a student travel company!
Being a student tour guide was so much fun that any obstacles I faced with sales were worth it.
We would actually take the students on the tours and guide them around Europe. We had to coordinate with local operators such as bus drivers, hotel managers, restaurant staff, and tour companies.
It was challenging work, especially as a newcomer. You had to be working pretty much 24/7, and you had to be responsible for other human beings.
But it was pretty chill, mainly because those human beings were around 20 years old and were mature enough to handle themselves (most of the time!).
It was cool to work with all the local tourism and hospitality staff around Italy and Europe.
It was also exciting to be in charge of a tour! I got to help young American students travel to some gorgeous European destinations, which was amazing.
Check out my ultimate guide to traveling Europe: TRAVEL HACKS FOR EUROPE
Going On Tours While Working For A Student Travel Company In Europe
I’ll go into a bit of detail about this, mainly because this was the coolest part of the job. Most of you are probably more interested in the traveling stories than all the sales stuff.
Each tour usually had one tour leader and one tour guide. The most experienced staff member was the tour leader, and that was preferably someone who had been on the tour before.
Our student travel company offered day trips and weekend trips.
The office did a really good job of ensuring that all staff had relatively equal opportunities to go on tours.
This was a bit harder in Rome, mainly because Smart Trip’s presence wasn’t as established here as it was in Florence.
Rome is also less popular than Florence when it comes to studying abroad. So we sometimes had tours canceled because there weren’t enough guests.
In my one semester at Smart Trip, I worked on 2 weekend trips and 3 days trips. I was super happy with that, considering I was new to the job and didn’t have high expectations.
If you want to go on lots of trips, you have to stay at the company for at least a few semesters to gain more experience!
From Rome, most of our day trips were to nearby places around Italy.
Our most popular day trip from Rome was to the Tuscan Countryside. It was a magnificent day trip where we visited thermal pools, feasted at a local winery, and visited the medieval, hilltop town of Cortona.
I went on this tour 3 times! The first time was for our staff orientation at the start of the semester. The second time was for training to be a tour guide.
The third time, I was the tour leader! It’s not common for a newbie to be a tour leader, and it was pretty nerve-wracking being responsible for everything.
But I pulled it off and I remember feeling SO accomplished and satisfied at the end of the day. I also loved talking to the students on the microphone on the bus – I felt so official!
Read my detailed post about this day trip to Tuscany here!
Because Rome day trips often got cancelled, sometimes we got sent to Florence for a week so we could go on more tours.
I assisted two tours from Florence: Chianti Wine Tasting and Cinque Terre. Both were incredible, and all I did was assist the tour leader so they were super easy!
Going on weekend trips was the coolest and most exciting part of working for a student travel company in Rome!
There was a lot of work involved though. You were on-the-go from sunrise to sunset for an entire weekend, and weekend trips often involved overnight bus trips to further destinations.
As exhausting as it was working as a tour guide for a whole weekend, it was amazing getting paid to travel!
The first weekend trip I did was to Interlaken, Switzerland.
Not only was Interlaken one of the most stunning places I’ve visited in Europe, it was a relatively easy tour to run.
The tour leader had been on the tour before and she was super helpful.
Because Interlaken is an adventure town in the mountains, most students booked their own separate activities through different tour operators. People could choose to go skiing, snowboarding, sledding, paragliding, ice-skating, skydiving, and so much more.
Us tour guides just had to sit in the lobby for a few hours each day and help students organize their tours. In our free time we explored Interlaken and joined in on some fun activities.
I joined some students for skiing in the Alps and kayaking on Lake Brienz, which was a dream come true!
Read the post I wrote after this trip: 10 Best Things To Do In Interlaken, Switzerland
The second weekend trip I worked on was the Amalfi Coast. We ran this tour later in the semester, so it was late spring and it was an insanely popular trip.
There were so many students that we had 4 tour guides on this trip! It was still chaotic, but having extra staff made it run relatively smoothly.
This was an awesome trip because my best friend was visiting me and she joined the tour!
But this tour also involved so many more activities than Interlaken. We spent a day exploring Capri and going on boat tours, then a day in Positano on the beach, and then a day in Naples touring Pompeii.
It was an action-packed weekend, and there were lots of meals and even a night out at a club that we had to organize and attend.
But the Amalfi Coast is so breathtaking and I was loving life the whole time!! (Except when I had to go out clubbing with the students one night when all I wanted to do was snuggle up in bed and rest)
Read the post I wrote after this trip: Best Places To Visit On The Amalfi Coast
Payment While Working For A Student Travel Company In Rome
Now that I’ve gone into great detail about what sales and tour guiding was like, you may be wondering how much I got paid.
Commission from sales was our main source of income. Because I wasn’t that good at sales, I didn’t make much money.
I made enough to afford daily expenses, and I didn’t have to dip into my savings much during those 6 months. But I definitely didn’t save much money at all.
We also got a one-time payment from leading tours. I can’t remember exactly how much, but I want to say it was around 100 Euros per tour (less for day trips, more for weekend trips. Also you got more money as a tour leader and less as a tour guide).
And when you were traveling for work, all expenses were paid for!
So I personally didn’t make much money. But if you’re great at sales, which some of my roommates were, you can make a lot of money!
The key to making money while working for a student travel company is putting in time.
I only worked at Smart Trip for one semester (6 months). Most people use their first semester as a warm-up.
Then by the second semester you’re better at your job, and you’re more experienced so you go on more trips.
If you stay for a full year or more, you establish your presence and can make great money.
In addition to our commission and tour payments, we had other living expenses covered as well.
In Rome we had free rent and a free transport pass for the trams and buses. We also got sim cards, and all of our bright orange Smart Trip gear provided.
Because of our relationships with local businesses in Rome, Florence, and on our trips, we often got free meals and drinks as well!
So this really helped me out financially considering I wasn’t making much money through sales.
Note: Our HR manager always reviewed our sales performance. About halfway through the semester, she decided who would be asked to come back for another season. If you weren’t making any sales, you weren’t asked to come back. So you can’t just sit around and live in Rome for free without doing any work! I tried really hard to make sales, and I was asked to come back, but I decided it wasn’t really the job for me.
Living In Rome While Working For A Student Travel Company
So I’ve covered all the aspects of the job itself. Now I’ll discuss the best part of working for a student travel company: LIVING IN ROME!
Living in Rome was one of the best experiences of my life.
Rome is packed with mind-boggling history, rich local culture, and amazing nightlife. It has some of the best food in the world, and some of the most famous landmarks from all of human existence.
There are lush parks, adorable shops, bustling markets, grand public squares, empty alleyways, long walking paths, landscaped gardens, charming neighborhoods, huge cathedrals, and so much more.
As one of the most touristy cities in the world, Rome surprisingly didn’t even feel that touristy.
At the most popular tourist attractions, yes, it was crowded. But living in Rome meant I could see these famous spots at sunrise or sunset, or on mellow weekdays without any crowds!
And since my job involved roaming the streets searching for students, I spent SO much time just exploring hidden corners of Rome.
Rome is magical, and it is now one of my favorite cities thanks to this experience!
Non Touristy Things To Do In Rome, which I wrote while living there, is one of my most popular articles!
Our Apartment In Trastevere
As part of our job, we all got stay in a fully-furnished apartment in Rome for free.
It was located in a pretty quiet part of Trastevere, a neighborhood on the south bank of the Tiber River.
Trastevere has a large young population closer to the river, and plenty of boutique shops, unique bars, and classic restaurants.
Our apartment was basic, but it did the job! There was a small hallway, a tiny kitchen, a small bathroom, and two bedrooms with a few bunk beds each.
The 2 boys had the smaller room, and us 4 girls got the bigger room.
We had two balconies as well, one that looked into the courtyard of the complex and one that looked onto the street. That was the best part!
As incredible as it was living in Rome, my roommates were the main reason why this experience was so memorable!
There were 6 of us in total living and working in Rome. It was a bit overwhelming meeting everyone for the first time in January 2018 and knowing we would be living and working together for 6 months.
But we had such a unique and diverse group of personalities that those 6 months were hilarious, heartwarming, and always entertaining.
We nicknamed our apartment the Italian Trap House because of all the insane stuff that happened while 6 of us were squished in there together.
Although you could barely fit 6 people in our kitchen at once, we often cooked together and ate together. We worked together, shopped together, went out together, and explored Italy together.
There were many wild nights out in the city and many lazy hungover days in bed. The amount of wine bottles drunk in that apartment is probably too high to count.
It was a very intense environment, but I wouldn’t change any of it.
Because Smart Trip was based in Florence, we often took trips there that involved both work and fun.
Our staff orientation took place in Florence. There is an actual Smart Trip office where we could gather for meetings.
There were 6 of us in Rome, but there were probably about 20 tour promoters in Florence. They had multiple apartments all over the city, many of which were huge!
Visiting Florence was a nice change of pace from our cramped Rome lifestyle. There were so many more young people to hang out with, and Florence is a gorgeous city to explore.
Everyone who worked as a tour promoter for Smart Trip was around 19-23 years old. Most of us had just graduated college and most of us had studied abroad ourselves or traveled before.
So it was a very dynamic and fun group of outgoing people to work with!
Overview of Working For A Student Travel Company In Rome
So what was it like working for a student travel company in Rome? It was an incredible and unforgettable experience that I will always cherish. But I personally wouldn’t do it again.
But I do recommend that people try it, especially if you’re a young, adventurous, outgoing person who loves travel!
I’m really glad I tried it. I learned so much and I made irreplaceable memories.
Here is a recap of what I learned while working for a student travel company in Rome:
- Some people are amazing at sales, some people are not. I learned that I am the latter.
- If you’re not good at sales, you won’t make money while working a sales job!!!!
- Not making much money is fine when your living expenses are close to nothing.
- Not making much money is also fine when you’re living in the Eternal City and traveling around Europe for work!
- Tour guiding is insanely fun, and I would do that again.
- International work experience really helps you grow as a person.
- If you have a good group of people around you, everything is better.
- Living and working in a tiny apartment with 5 other people creates bonds of friendship that cannot be broken!
So that’s my summary of working for a student travel company in Rome!
I didn’t love the sales part, but I’m glad I tried it. I made lasting friendships with hilarious people, and I got to travel to some stunning European destinations.
Living in Rome was also a huge privilege. I felt honored to see the famous city from a new perspective.
I definitely recommend trying this job because even if you don’t love it, you’ll still walk away with amazing international experiences and knowledge.
Want to read about some of my other international work experiences? Check out these posts:
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