One could easily argue that throughout my 20 years of life I have experienced quite a few rites of passage. Growing up in a Christian family, there is always a new status to work towards within the Church. Between my Baptism, Communion and Confirmation, it seems as though I have changed dramatically over the years. The thing is though; those experiences weren’t as meaningful to me as they were to my family. In all honesty, they did not change me as a person. In addition, I have experienced a few additional events that can be considered Rites of Passage. These include graduations, birthdays of significance such as 18, getting my drivers license, etc. Although I believe that I have changed as a person throughout the years, I would consider these events as milestones rather than rites of passage.
I personally believe that structured rites of passage enhance community bonds and provide a strong sense of identity for individuals. I remember during our workshop we watched a video of a young girl going through a lengthy process to become a woman in her tribe. By the end of the process, she had improved her status within society. In the United States, we lack these traditional and meaningful rites of passage when compared to other societies. This is unfortunate for us as a society for many reasons. Typically, eople of similar age are all grouped together as one (millenials, baby boomers, etc). For example, millennial’s are all looked at as the same- emotional and technology obsessed people. There is nothing to differentiate us from one another. In addition, I believe that the absence of these rites from our society has a negative impact on our personal identities. When someone experiences a rite of passage in his or her community, most of the time it is a positive change. This change usually improves their status in the community and allows for them to form a new sense of identity. In America, most young kids blend together. They tend to stick together and follow trends in order to not stick out. Kids know that they should aim to go to college after high school, but this is only because their mentors tell them to. Everyone is expected to do the same thing and conform to the norm of society. Unfortunately, oftentimes these kids lose the ability to form a strong personal identity as they follow the “rules” that society has set up for them. As stated by Goldstein, “It could be argued that cultural rituals and secular strategies in modern American society do not effectively assist in our children’s transition to adulthood” (Goldstein, 43).
I have experienced many of the “Twenty elements of rites of passage” laid out by Goldstein. Three in particular stuck out due to their relevance throughout my study abroad experience. These include silence, adversity or personal challenge, and giving away one’s previous attitudes and behaviors. These three are going to play a large role in my digital story. I am going to focus on my own challenges upon arrival as well as my personal weaknesses, and how I learned to turn them into strengths. My first few weeks here can be described through adversity or personal challenge, as I struggled to find my way and become comfortable with myself. Silence has played a huge role in my development, as spending time alone has been the biggest contributor in terms of learning to enjoy my own company. Finally, giving away one’s previous attitudes and behaviors describes my final weeks here in Barcelona. I have finally grown to love and appreciate the struggles I have faced, and in turn have become more appreciative of change.
A digital story that I really enjoyed was that of Rachel, who studied in France. Her story sounds similar to that of mine in terms of personal growth. I really loved how she described her transformation using things such as the weather. Her digital story was extremely descriptive, which made it even more interesting. It felt as though I was right there with her, smelling the cherry blossoms.