In the article entitled “Rites of Passage as Framework for Community Interventions with Youth,” Blumenkrantz and Goldstein call attention to the lack of formal rites of passage in the American society. They cite more tradition rites of passages held my specific cultures, such as Bar or Bat Mitzvahs for Jews and Quinceaneras for Latinos. In contemporary American society, we tend to acknowledge specific stepping stones, or ‘firsts,’ rather than true rites of passage. Getting a drivers’ license of turning 21 represent “special experience[s] for the individual, a moment with meaning, but they are not necessarily rites of passage” (Blumenkrantz & Goldstein, 2010). The main difference, to me, seems to be in intentionality. True rites of passage require deliberate planning, mental preparation, and most importantly, change or maturing of the individual. Something like turning 21, however, would happen with or without the efforts of the individual or the community. I do believe that more clearly defined rites of passage would only aid the adolescents and their communities in our society.
The three elements of rites of passage from the article that meant the most to me were community values and ethics, play, and opportunities to demonstrate new competencies and status. Community values have framed a large part of what I see as my personal growth throughout this semester. Coming from a large Italian-American family, in a local community where I am surrounded by many others like mine, I did not expect to be taken aback by the Italian culture. However, during my time in Rome, I have observed many striking differencing between the values held by my community at home and those respected here. Specifically referring to the adolescent rites of passage discussed in class, I am astounded by the differences in what is expected of young adults in the United States versus in Italy. Further, I am deeply troubled by the differences in what is expected from young (and old, and everything in between) men and women. Many people in the United States like to talk about the inequality men and women experience, but as a community value, it seems to me that equality is practiced there with greater reverence than anywhere else in the world.
The article defines the element of ‘play’ as “The opportunity to help individuals find their ‘bliss,’ those activities that they can immerse themselves in with great passion, and from which they receive unbridled joy.” While it is often considered that moments of play and fun are just a break from responsibilities, and step in the reverse direction as far as maturity is concerned, I have found the exact opposite. During my moments of ‘bliss,’ and abroad there have been many of them, I have learned new things about myself. I have learned that I am genuinely happier when I am near the ocean; I sought it out on as many of my weekend trips as I could. I learned that being able to come home from school and spent five hours preparing a meal for all of my friends gives me infinitely more satisfaction than burying my head in books. I learned while free falling over the Swiss Alps that its okay to not be in control all of the time. In what I have enjoyed most, I have learned about what I should continue to use my life to do.
Finally the opportunity to demonstrate new competencies and status is something that I very much look forward to upon my impending return home. Before coming abroad, I was so directionally challenged that I spent the better half of high school not knowing how to get there, despite following the same path every day, twice a day. Now, I have gained an infinitely greater sense of direction, and also much improved confidence in how to navigate nearly every method of transportation. I have also developed some great cooking skills that I am very much looking forward to showing off.
The digital story that stuck with me the most was Michael Colson’s, who studied in Lugano, Switzerland. I thought he spoke in an excellent manner about the transformation of his understanding of community. In many ways, my time abroad has represented a parallel experience. I came to Rome not knowing a single person, and developed a community around myself of people representing various backgrounds and beliefs.