When focusing on rites of passage, it is quite clear that the United Stated lack the structure that many other countries have. I further believe that this poses a significant problem to one’s own national identity, and furthermore, the process of individual maturity. With the lack of a unified cultural rite of passage, citizens of the United States do not have a concrete process to identify themselves with. Where many other cultures have a “process” in which a child transforms into an adult of the community, the only way the American culture identifies an adult is for legal reasons – when someone turns 21. Some may argue that this alone is a rite of passage in itself. On the other hand, I fully disagree. A rite of passage is a process that involves the partaker to acknowledge and accept a specific challenge they are going to face, which will in turn, send them into adulthood. An extreme example of this can be seen by looking at the South Pacific Vanuatu tribe who display manhood through tying vines to their feet, and jumping off of 100-foot structures. If this isn’t enough, the vines have to be just long enough that their heads touch the ground on the way down. If the vines that they cut are four inches too long, the jumper will die on impact.
Although I am certainly not insisting that the American culture adopts such an intense process, but I am suggesting that we should consider developing a process or celebration that recognizes new members of the adult community, rather than just acknowledging someone’s 21st birthday. It is crucial for someone to feel as if they contribute to a national identity, and furthermore, know they are an official adult of the community. Although personally, I don’t feel as if I have gone through an official rite of passage, my abroad experience has opened my eyes to new ideas of what it means to go through a rite of passage. Australia’s rite of passage also relies on the celebration of someone’s 21st birthday in order to consider someone an “adult,” yet the indigenous aborigines have a separate process to adulthood. This taught me that although there may be overarching ways for nations to recognize a rite of passage, we also have to give focus on a smaller scale – maybe for these nations, the rite of passage originates from its subcultures, or possibly individual households. This thought caused me to reconsider my definition of the process of maturity.
The elements of rite of passage that I am looking to adopt in my digital story are personal challenge, opportunities to demonstrate new competencies, and play. These three aspects play a key role in guiding my family and friends through my process of separation, liminality, and reincorporation into society.
Looking into my personal challenges is crucial because throughout my entire experience abroad, I was faced with many problems which I had to overcome – the first being leaving home as well as the United States for such a long period of time. Being on my own for five months, I have been forced to challenge myself with being completely independent, as well as branching out to make new friends. One can imagine that both are difficult to do in such a foreign environment.
Another element I want to include is play. Traveling abroad has provided me with the opportunity to live in pure enjoyment for almost half a year, exploring the beauty of other cultures, as well as traveling to places one could only wish to see in a lifetime. This is definitely a topic I will not be able to hold back from my friends and family, as they are all excited to hear about the details of every adventure I have been on.
Lastly, I want to demonstrate how I have acquired new competencies which have enabled me to develop an enhanced set of social skills. The main aspects which I would like to focus on are independence, professionalism, communication, and global awareness. These are the most prominent skills I can take away from this experience, and will certainly continue to develop and polish them during my lifetime.
The digital story that had the most impact on me was Michael’s. In Michael’s story, he talked about his experience in Switzerland. I particularly enjoyed how he kept a constant theme of “redefining what a community means,” as well as providing some amazing pictures of his travels. I also thought that his way of expressing how has has grown as an individual made the story quite gripping. Michael was able to show the progression of how he went from an anxious small town guy who was scared of leaving home, to an open-minded traveler who was always ready for the next challenge. Michael did an excellent job with showing how he has grown as an individual, which I plan to emulate in my story as well.