Travel Log #13: “Connecting Rites of Passage and Digital Storytelling” Kathleen Flynn

In the article “Rites of Passage as a Framework for Community Interventions with Youth” the authors clarify what the term “rites of passage” means and how they should be properly applied. They describe the misconceived idea of the term today as simply, “A ‘first’ or otherwise special experience for the individual, a moment with meaning.” However, the difference of experiences that are rites of passage lies in the depth of community involvement. In fact Arnold van Gennep coined the term: “community-created and community-directed experiences that transmit cultural values and knowledge to an individual.” Unfortunately, the absence of rite of passages in American society may be partly due to the lack of physical “home communities.” With the ease of transportation from one place to another and the Internet to show us what lies beyond our small towns, geographical barriers that normally form a physical community no longer limit us. Furthermore, with more focus being directed through our screens to other places and people there is less focus on the place and people currently around us every day. As a result, community members such as adolescents are not receiving the attention and approbation from the community that they need to properly become adults. Instead these adolescents turn to media and their peers to develop their own markers of development, which can be detrimental.

As a clear reflection of the community’s importance to an individual’s growth, a comparison between my school district and the district just a short drive north of me is a striking example. My school district is comprised of two small towns and has been rated one of the highest performing public schools in Maine where top students are accepted into ivy leagues every year. Oppositely the school district north of me is much larger, containing more towns, and sees many students drop out. Teen pregnancies are so frequent that a day care was even established at the high school so that teen moms could continue going to school. Growing up, it was shocking for me to see the strong differences in two bordering areas. Looking back, I see that perhaps it was a lack of strong, clear community values and morals from the vast range of towns that attended that school, whereas the two small towns of my district are very close knit and highly interactive as a community.

In expanding this thought to discuss the Global Community I do believe that problems could be presented in its healthy development without community-based rituals. If we can think of the Global Community as a much larger version of our own local communities it is easier to understand how a lack of rites of passage could affect it. Simply put, without at least one community ritual that demonstrates clear values and expectations there is nothing that binds all of us to one another on a global scale, and nothing shared that can give us the feeling we are all members of a global community.

Creating my digital story that depicts my personal growth in all stages will enhance, at the least, the physical existence of a village, connection with nature, and giving away components of rites of passage. The physical existence of a village was personally a very important element for me during my abroad experience as Florence became my home and the place that gave me a sense of self and security, especially after returning from weekend trips to other cities or countries. The connection I had to this definitive geographical place grounded me during the process of being abroad. To expand from that, the connection with nature element was very profound for me as the food I ate, the views I saw, and the old Renaissance structures were all a result of what the nature surrounding Florence had to offer. Lastly, I would like to enhance the giving away component in my digital story because of the life lesson I will always carry because of it. As attached as I became to Florence and its culture it was important for me to realize the changes that would occur not only during my experience, but also upon my return home. Studying abroad has changed me because of the realization that change is always occurring, that people and places come in and out of our lives as we must give them away to move forward. I feel that I matured by letting go of the fear of change and understanding that “leaving something dear in the past behind is an integral part of (life) transitions.” In order for me to complete my abroad rite of passage I had to let go of Florence and cherish the memories that were made there.


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