Travel Log 13: “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Story Telling” By Abby Spooner, Dunedin New Zealand

During our workshop I slowly came to the realization that meaningful community-based rituals are noticeably absent within modern American society. I believe this may be due to our failure to emphasize true rites of passage throughout our youth. As a result many of us lack the ability and knowledge involved in embracing life changes, something other cultures seem to do so naturally.

Rites of passage can have a major impact on youth development. These community-based ceremonies not only bring communities together but also mark periods of change within an individual’s life. David G. Blumenkrantz claims that a shift in status is the most fundamental component of a rite of passage because it is this single event that connects and caused a change within the individual as well as the community (Blumenkrantz, 45). Considering that a some sort of shift is the basis of rites of passage, and that in modern day American society rites of passage are virtually nonexistent one may ask; Does our lack of rites of passage suggest that we do not go through the same developments in the same way other cultures with community-based ceremonies do; does our society lack the ability to recognize and quantify these developments within our own lives?

One of the first experiences I had upon arriving to New Zealand was being welcomed onto a Moare through a traditional Maori rites of passage ceremony. This ceremony not only highlighted the tight community bonds the members of the Marae shared but also my lack of experience with rites of passage. Since this experience I have learned about several other traditional Maori rites of passage, how the culture is built on a rites of passage framework, and how these rites of passage bond and help the community as a whole. For example Urungatanga is a Maori term that describes youth attaining new levels of responsibility and duty’s within their community. This is done through mentorships with the community elders, Pukengatanga. The hierarchical passage of knowledge within a community (elders to youth) is a central cultural concept within Maori society and is vital for any rites of passage. To this day Maori elders are the teachers within society, they take youth under their wing in order to teach them traditional and vital skills. This process ends when the individual becomes and adult, able to use these skills on their own. This rite of passage allows the Maori youth to become well-rounded citizens within their individual community, not only benefiting the individual but also keeping the Maori culture alive for years to come.

From the outside it may appear as though Maori rites of passage lack the ability to create global citizens in the manner we have been referring to throughout the course. Our worldview suggests that a global citizen must be well educated in a variety of cultures. However, creating a global “well traveled and multi-cultured” citizen is not the goal of Maori culture today, and often not the intent of traditional rites of passage. Many rites of passage involve an individual becoming a member of an exclusive community rather than a global one. However, I would argue that although the teachings of a rite of passage are often of a single culture, these ceremonies still create global citizens. Being a global citizen is not a race to discover the most cultures, but rather a gathering and acceptance of a particular culture in a manner that recognizes and respects the beliefs of other worldly traditions. We don’t need to learn every tradition to be considered global; we do however need to be conscious and respectful towards other traditions.

The way Maori quantify a rite of passage through community-based ceremonies marks a change not only within the individual but also within the community as well as the global community. A similar way to mark a rite of passage can be accomplished through the creation of a digital story. A digital story forces the individual to not only to reflect on their experience but also apply meaning to the change that has occurred. Additionally, a digital story is created in order to share an experience with others; this creates the illusion of community-based involvement without physical participation of the community at home. David G. Blumenkrantz explains that there are twenty elements to a rite of passage, the first, as mentioned above being some sort of shift. The purpose of a digital story is to explain this shift to my home community as well as the people I have meet abroad. However, a digital story is also an opportunity for me to look back and recognize how far I have come, much like a rites of passage ceremony. Blumenkrantz stresses that reflection is key to a successful rite of passage. Many study abroad students may do this when they return home. However, throughout this course we have all been able to reflect on our experiences weekly, causing us to recognize the challenges we have over come. By further examining the challenges I have faced abroad, a greater understanding of my liminal phase can be obtained. Blumenkrantz emphasizes this by mentioning the fact that situations that challenge us are often the ones that create the most positive change once over come.

This week I was able to reflect on my experience in an unexpected way. While watching the digital story examples I enjoyed most of them but made a real connection with one in particular. The digital story explained the impact Daniel Razas trip to Thailand had on him. I was able to relate to this because I experienced many of the things he described during my time short time in Thailand a few weeks ago. Daniel was truly able to explain the uncomfortable feeling I also felt of wanting to be respectful to the culture but not really knowing how too. While I enjoyed how Daniel was able to express the ABCs of his trip, I also enjoyed how the other two examples used a metaphor to explain their journey, the changing Paris leaves and a bicycle. These examples have already gotten me thinking about my own story and how I am going to present my own rite of passage into the global community!

IMG_9005            Above is a picture I took of Mt. Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand. It is one idea of many that I have for my digital story because I feel the imagery depicts the emotional roller coaster we looked at during our workshop. Studying abroad is not always comfortable, its filled with ups and down and this landscape represents those feelings perfectly!


One thought on “Travel Log 13: “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Story Telling” By Abby Spooner, Dunedin New Zealand

  1. Hey Abby,

    Love the post. I think as Americans we do have rites of passage for youth but they don’t really have a significance. For example, when your mom gives you your first set of chores. To them it is a test to see how you can handle responsibility, but there isn’t a celebration for it. As weird as it sounds when a child is given their first set of chores they are now given trust and a chance to be sort of an adult. That was just a thought that came to mind as I read this.


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