my pathway experience

The Long and Winding Road: Exploring the Detour of Emerging Adulthood

Ashley Blais '11 of Bow, N.H. is a Business Administration major and serves as secretary for the Students in Free Enterprise Club. She is also involved in the Dance Club. Here, she discusses her Pathway, “The Long and Winding Road: Exploring the Detour of Emerging Adulthood,” led by Assistant Professor of Social Sciences and Education Basia Pietlicki. Pathways, the foundation of Colby-Sawyer's Liberal Education Program, are a group of theme-based, interdisciplinary seminars that students choose for their first and second years. The Long and Winding Road asks first-year students to consider if they are adolescents or adults, or perhaps somewhere in between. What factors help us to identify our current stage of development? How do we know when we've successfully transitioned to the next stage?

The First Year Seminar explores these questions by asking students to define themselves and answer the age-old question, who am I? This intellectual path winds through wooded areas (structures of adult thought), cozy meadows (friendship and romance), and opens up to mountain vistas (the sources of meaning in life).

In the Sophomore Seminar the path becomes a superhighway with numerous exits where we'll explore the economy, a sense of community, and the media. Students will look at whether Emerging Adulthood exists in other cultures, whether war and tragedy contribute to arrested development, and the nature of globalization.

Why did you choose this Pathway, and what are some of the important things you learned through the course?

I chose my Pathway based on my interest in the subject area. The title caught my attention, and it seemed like a course that would be beneficial because it was in an area to which I could relate. Some important things I've learned through this course is that this “Generation Me” we are in looks at the world as having endless possibilities – I know my parents always stressed that I could do and be anything that I set my mind to. This course explains the idea behind identity exploration and what it truly means to be an adult. Even now that I am 20 I still don't consider myself an adult. This Pathway has been very interesting because a lot of personal experience can be incorporated.

Pathways are designed as theme-based and interdisciplinary. What do you see as some of the major themes discussed in the course?

Some major themes are that emerging adulthood exists between the ages of 18-26 or sometimes beyond. This is a stage between adolescence and adulthood that's been newly designated as emerging adulthood. We are always looking at what contributes to this stage, such as identity exploration, looking at the endless possibilities, the instabilities - being financially dependent on parents, a stage of being self-focused and the feeling of being in-between. We are always talking about what needs to be considered when declaring true adulthood.

Please describe some of the resources used in the class.

We used many scholarly articles, some movies - we recently watched Failure to Launch and analyzed how the main character is 30 years old and still living with his parents. There are also published texts we read such as Generation Me by Jean M. Twenge and Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties by Jeffery Arnett.

What kinds of projects have you completed for the course?

Freshmen year, we did many projects such as a personal project of "Who I am" that focused on our likes and dislikes. We created a family tree, and analyzed patterns in marriage and adulthood, looking at different ages that were acceptable for adulthood.

Sophomore year, we focused on different aspects that contribute to emerging adulthood by doing projects in each of the different areas such as culture, where our group interviewed and talked with some of the international students here on campus. Another topic was the role the media has on choices and personal actions on emerging adults. The last topic we focused on was mental health and how this age bracket is affected by depression, bi-polararity, suicide and other health problems and addictions.

The name “Pathway” suggests that these courses take students on a journey to a new place or level of understanding. How has this course, and you and your classmates, evolved from one year to the next?

This Pathway helped not only me, but the whole class evolve because we all have a better understanding of this period of our lives. I have learned that it's normal for people to have high expectations and dreams or goals - we grew up having our parents tell us we could do anything we wanted, they gave us the expectations that we would go to college and make more money than them someday. I aspire to become an eye doctor, so I've got a lot of work ahead of me. Taking this Pathway reassured me that I'm not crazy for setting such high goals. After taking this class, I look forward to the future, and I know what I need to accomplish to help me become a "true adult." This pathway has been very beneficial and was an interesting topic to explore.