Blumenkrantz and Goldstein (2010) tell us that a Rite of Passage allows for personal growth and understanding, in which ultimately contributes to society. It allows the individual who underwent a life transition to be aware and acknowledge new expectations that are associated with their new status. A crucial element in reaching this final feature of incorporation is self reflection. Digital stories allow study abroad students to effectively reach this time of questioning and clarity, looking back on his or her transition already changed from their experience. Rachel Cox in Paris, France did just this, grabbing the attention of her audience as she discussed an influential aspect of her study abroad experience. The essence of Cox’s experience was somewhat sorrowful, noting how the beautiful blossomed flowers in which welcomed her in the spring have slowly changed, preparing for the summer season. She explained how a stranger would happily admire these flowers with her daily, however, their last conversation was just shared, likely to never to see each other again. This student reached a concise articulation of her experience within this difficult parting with her surroundings, as Cox recognized her simultaneous personal transition with the flowers. As the beautiful flowers changed with the seasons, Cox grew as an individual, becoming a global citizen during her life transition and Rite of Passage. She began to grow in confidence and comfort, strengthening her ability to converse in the French language. Her life was forever changed, as she was touched by the meaningful interpersonal relationships she formed abroad, significantly related to her personal growth and transition. Despite Cox’s effective translation of her experience in her digital story, I believe that adding more depth would have created for a better format to reflect on course themes and her experience. Specifically, perhaps mentioning how she managed saying her goodbye to the kind lady in whom she exchanged several meaningful conversations with, and how this affected her separation from her new home. While watching this digital story I was moved, foreseeing the complex future of saying goodbye to newfound local friends I have made during my time here. I was happy for Cox, as it is clear of the self-assurance and independence that she gained during her time abroad. In order to elicit these feelings, Cox ended her video with time for the audience to reflect, with simply music and visuals playing. Instead of the digital story concluding with speech and the audience ready to move on, Cox allows this moment for stillness and interpreting her story.
As a psychology major and sociology minor, I found the article by Blumenkrantz and Goldstein (2010) extremely interesting. These authors recognize the lack of purposeful, community-based rituals to identity important life transitions into adulthood, “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 may be destructive both individually and communally” (Blumenkrantz & Goldstein, 43). This concept is clearly recognizable as a college student studying abroad. Luckily, I have had the great privilege of participating in this course, so I have had a clear marker and structure of a life transition taking place. However, without this course, I am saddened to say that this Rite of Passage would have gone unnoticed, as I simply took off for a fourth month long semester of aimless traveling. Unfortunately, this is what I notice of others around me, leaving their host countries the same as when they arrived, unchanged with a lacking role in the global community. I definitely believe that this absence of community-based rituals presents a problem for the healthy development of the global community. Without students being consciously aware of the potential Rite of Passage, they will not properly give reflective thought or execute the steps of separation, transition, and incorporation. Due to these ill-prepared and advised young adults, the importance of their active membership in the global community will not be an essential component of their study abroad experience. Instead, they will simply travel and move through the motions, similarly to as they would at home, “Indeed, this is how binge drinking, drug use, teen pregnancy and other similar behaviors have become elevated to rites of passage reflecting adult statues” (Blumenkrantz & Goldstein, 43). The influence from other poorly advised and guided communitas therefore leads many study abroad students to participate in frequent heavy and culturally inappropriate drinking, as this is commonly an associated theme with the overseas experience.
As previously stated, I am fortunate to have this course in order to prevent this blind traveling from occurring. Through my digital story, I will also have the time to thoroughly reflect upon this destination, in which has become my home, and the experiences I have had here. In particular, I will focus on my connection with ancestral roots, as this is where my story truly begins. Having a father who was born and raised in Italy and a mother who moved and grew up here, I have several personal ties with the Italian culture. However, living here has given me the chance to strengthen these ties, learning more about my family history than ever before. Next, the element of adversity or personal challenge will demonstrate the strength and independence in which I have gained through my time away from home. Study abroad is filled with several obstacles, the first and most difficult is separating from all that one knows and loves. However, overcoming these struggles is what creates for a more enriched transition. Lastly, time alone for reflection is an essential part of my story; this is what allowed me to come to terms with what I was feeling, what I was learning, and how I was changing and growing. Without this devoted time for clarity, my current active role in the global community may not have successfully developed.
When creating my digital story, I hope to connect with my audience as I did with Michael Colson’s Lugano, Switzerland narrative. What I truly admired about Colson’s story was the fact that any study abroad student could relate to his message. I am studying abroad in a different country, surrounded by different people, experienced different highs and lows, and am my unique self all together. However, I understood and agreed with Colson’s overall meaning, that a community is not characterized only by similarities. I, too, have met people of different cultures, different religions, speaking different languages, and holding different beliefs, however we still formed a community with one another. It is important to embrace each other’s differences, allowing them to add value to one’s community. Colson utilizes the element of paradigm shift to portray this message. As an audience, it is understood that his personal development correlated with the community around him as the main factor in his transition into the global community. Colson states that his experience abroad would not have been the same if it were not for the people in which he considered his community.
Blumenkrantz, D.G., Golstein, M.B. (2010). Rites of Passage as Framework for Community Interventions with Youth. Global Journal for Community Psychology Practice. 1 (2), 41-50.
Digital Storytelling Presentation Slides