Rites of Passage have been deeply rooted into the history of humanity and throughout many cultures around the world. Whether they are religion-based rituals marking one’s sacrifice and commitment, or a traditional birthday party heralding another year of life, Rites of Passage are special moments of transformation that are not only experienced by the individual, but also by the community that supports this individual. David G. Blumenkrantz and Marc B. Goldstein, researchers from Central Connecticut State University, discuss the importance of having a community present throughout a Rite of Passage in their scholarly article, “Rites of Passage as a Framework for Community Interventions with Youth.” They not only outline the framework and essential elements of a Rite of Passage, but they also emphasize how the American society is experiencing a decline in community-based rituals during these pivotal moments. My study abroad experience and those who have enriched it have taught me that the presence of a community during a Rite of Passage like mine is imperative in sustaining the healthy development of the global community.
In past travel logs, I reflected upon the stereotypes that are typically placed on students abroad. While there are those few who truly immerse themselves in the experience through studying and reflective traveling, there are others who solely see it as a vacation where nothing matters in the world but themselves. As Blumenkrantz and Goldstein point
out, “In the absence of meaningful community-based rituals, youth will define and create their own marker events based on peer or media values, many of which can be destructive” (Blumenkrantz 43). I have noticed many fellow students here who have been partaking in behaviors such as binge drinking and drug use while abroad, remaining blind and ignorant to the global community around them and how their behaviors are negatively influencing their host culture and their overall Rite of Passage experience. Watching their behaviors unfold throughout the semester has made me nervous; I was afraid of not finding a friend group who share the same purpose of studying abroad as I have and the same moral principles in doing so. Luckily, I have found a group of friends here who want to truly make their experience abroad worth their while through more positive behaviors. We all study and travel together, host dinner parties, journal about our experiences, get involved in the local Perugia community through community service and extracurricular activities, and ultimately uphold our positions as responsible members of the global community. The friendships I have formed here have not only provided me with the moral support that I need as I undergo the liminality phase of my Rite of Passage, but they have also taught me the most profound lessons about accepting change and cherishing the temporary. This is why it is so important to have community-based rituals throughout one’s Rite of Passage.
Many of the concepts that are discussed in the Rites of Passage article coincide with the purpose of digital storytelling. A digital story not only sheds light on your personal development through the three stages of one’s Rite of Passage, but it also shares those transformative experiences that you shared with one’s communitas and will continued to be shared with others. Blumenkrantz and Goldstein list twenty elements that add significance to the Rite of Passage experience and assist the individual throughout their journey of personal growth. There are three elements in particular that will assist me as I begin brainstorming the theme of my digital story.
As I mentioned in my application to enroll in this hybrid course, I have undergone a Rite of Passage once before — my second open-heart surgery. Yes, it was a challenge in itself, but it was a challenge that repaired my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. The same goes for this study abroad Rite of Passage experience: I unexpectedly encountered the adversity of homesickness and culture shock at the very beginning of this semester. However, after overcoming it with the help of forming close relationships and finding my bliss by getting involved in the local community, my resilience strengthened, and so did I. Thus, the elements of “adversity,” “relationships,” and “play” have inspired my theme to revolve around the metaphor of listening to the heart, both the physical and the soulful.
Exploring the purpose behind the digital story and viewing some sample projects through this travel log and the presentation provided by Mark and Laura has allowed me to better grasp of how it serves as a meaningful conclusion and summative of our Rite of Passage experiences. The two key factors of a digital story are “living in the story” and “unfolding lessons learned,” and Rachel Cox’s digital story reflecting upon her time in Paris, France embodied both of these elements. By providing vivid imagery of the Paris scenery through her narration, she told her story by working with the metaphor of seasons changing, especially as she cherished the first signs of Spring at the conclusion of Winter. Rachel was truly “living in her story” as she took her viewers by the hand down blossoming streets and shared fond memories of unlikely friendships blooming. Even her voice sounded meditative as she “unfolded lessons learned,” like the importance of opening yourself to the world and all of its uncertainties in order to gain confidence and grow. Rachel’s photographs and short video clips also complimented her story as they highlighted the simple, yet beautiful charms of Paris. Rachel Cox created the epitome of a reflective digital story, and it has inspired me to strive to do the same.