Travel Log 13 “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Storytelling” by: Stephen Sharo Dunedin, NZ

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I believe that the idea of “rites of passage” has lost its meaning in contemporary society. In their article, “Rites of Passage as a Framework for Community Interventions with Youth” Blumenkratz and Goldstein discuss the how there is a lack of valuable and structured rites of passages for young adults. After my experiences abroad and using the information of this course I couldn’t agree more. The students I have been studying and travelling with all agree that studying abroad is a “special” time in their life. The months we’ve been spending in New Zealand is having a profound effect on our lives. However very few, if any, would see our experiences as a “rite of passage.” These young people understand how important their experiences abroad are, but they do not view them from a rites of passage lens.

My prior exposure with the rites of passage workshop allowed me to appreciate my transition into New Zealand culture. My program The Education Abroad Network was successful in utilizing the rites of passage framework to help us adapt to our new country. We entered the separation phase by entering a remote island in Fiji where we were unable to contact our families or friends for days. The liminality phase occurred when they dropped us off at our houses and gave us some basic information about the city. Eventually we successfully transitioned to Dunedin life together. Our personal experience demonstrated how useful the rites of passage model is for key moments in life. Furthermore after discussing with other students who did go through the rites of passage model seemed to have a more difficult transition. They either did not separate entirely from home or did not fully adapt to life in New Zealand.

Some of the elements of the rites of passage which will enhance my digital story are the aspects of program success relying on relationships and only going as far as you have gone yourself. The adult and the youths in the program must have a deep relationship and the adult must also have a clear understanding of the program in order for a successful rite of passage. The adult must have gone through the experience his or her self.  I think that I will incorporate this as a theme relating to my older friends. As a prior study abroad students they experienced the rite of passage themselves and gave me advice to help me with a successful study abroad experience. They provided me tips on traveling, plans that worked or failed for them, and explained some of the feelings I might experience.

Two other themes which will greatly enhance my digital story are adversity and personal challenge and the connection with the environment. Adversity and personal experience provides personal growth through challenges and obstacles. These barriers provide new skills and allow the person an opportunity to enhance themselves. Also the connection to nature demonstrates the relationship between people and the environment and garners an appreciation for the outdoors.  These themes are especially useful to me based off of the activities I have done in New Zealand. Many of my experiences here have been “firsts” and provided unique challenges that I have never faced. For example I tried surfing for the first time once I arrived in New Zealand and took all weekend to learn how to stand up on the board. Moreover many of my experiences have been outdoor activities. I will definitely mention my experiences outdoors, the challenges I faced, and my appreciation for nature in my digital story.

The digital story that resonated with me the most was Michael’s. The focus of his story was community and related it to the friends he made. The relationships he made overseas is what made his experience so worthwhile and those relationships formed a community. I think that the story was so successful because throughout the course we focused on what makes a community and Michael related it back to rites of passage and showed how the two are interconnected.

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