If you are in Sweden, you can’t miss that it’s graduation time. One of the traditions is flatbed trucks adorned with balloons and greenery, driving through the streets, honking their horns, and carrying students that are dancing and shouting out in joy. Here’s your guide to “school’s out”, Swedish style.
Students running away from their secondary school for the last time. Video: Sweden.se
In 2011, around 110,000 Swedes graduate from high school, after twelve years of grades and homework. The last three years are optional, but almost everyone attends. To the relief of many students, the big final exams were abolished in the 1960s. Nowadays graduation is mostly about the celebration. And there is a lot to cram into a single day.
Several stops, one big party
A vital part of the Swedish graduation outfit is the student cap, which is white with a black/dark blue rim and black peak, and dates back to the turn of the 19th century. Students write greetings in each other’s hats, a way to remember the past years and the close friends. As for the rest of the attire, colors of choice are white or light ones for the girls, while guys usually don darker suits or jackets.
The placard with a photo of the graduate as a child — one of the traditional musts. Photo: Aila/Flickr.com (CC BY SA)
Graduation traditions vary across the country, but a champagne breakfast is the classic way to start the day. Students gather in a park to toast their champagne — or something cheaper but equally bubbly. The graduation ceremony is usually held inside the school and for the eyes and ears of the students only. Afterwards students rush out into the school yard where friends and family await with a huge childhood photo with the name of the pupil. Flowers are handed out and cuddly toys or other trinkets are hung around the necks of the graduates.
Hugs all around! Video: Sweden.se
The happy — now former — students then board the awaiting flatbed trucks, to tour around town for a couple of hours. Drinking, dancing, shouting (and sometimes bathing in public fountains) is very likely to occur.
Next stop is the student reception, which usually takes place at home. Parents hold sentimental speeches, gifts are dealt out, and guests help themselves to generous buffets. Later it’s time for the students to head out again, now for the grand finale — usually a big student party at a club, restaurant or a rented venue. And so, an intensive day of celebrations draws to an end.
But what happens the day after, not to mention the years after graduation?
Over the last couple of decades, more and more people have attended university. According to a survey in 2010, 60 percent of seniors planned to start college within three years. One in five had no such plans, but wanted to start working instead.
Gap years are very common. A recent survey showed that 40 percent of university entrants had taken a “school break” of five years or more. But higher education is on most young people’s agenda: in 2007, only 10 percent of 16 to 19-year-olds planned on settling for a high school degree.
Tamara Jovanovich is very pleased to be done with high school. What’s next? Well, it's her choice to make. Video: Sweden.se
On the verge of freedom
Andreas Elvelo is graduating in Stockholm, and plans to move on directly to medical school. However, many of his classmates are taking a sabbatical.
”There’s quite a bit of stress around grades at our school, so many people need a gap year,” Elvelo says.
In Kristianstad in southern Sweden, Felicia Hellgren has settled for a more relaxed plan. “I’m going to travel to Ireland this autumn. Then I’ll look into studying abroad, and also check out courses in Malmö and Lund for next spring.”
In Umeå in northern Sweden, Amir Hajdarevic has applied to law school, but would be happy to work as well. As graduation draws near, his uncertainty grows.
“You don’t really know what to do. You don’t know if you’re going to get a job,” Hajdarevic says.
In Gothenburg on the west coast, Alice Bengtsson Gravander has mixed emotions about leaving school. Relief meets with sadness over the fact that she’ll lose contact with many high school friends. And perhaps her experience is graduation in a nutshell — partying, and excitement over the future on one hand, sadness and anxiety on the other.
Anna Sandelin is a freelance journalist based in Stockholm. On her graduation day in 2002, she went home in a very small but cool sports car. The greetings written inside her student cap have waned, but it was a day to remember.
The author alone is responsible for the opinions expressed in this article.
Published by the Swedish Institute on www.sweden.se. All content is protected by Swedish copyright law. The text may be reproduced, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast in any media for non-commercial use with reference to www.sweden.se. However, no photographs or illustrations may be used. For more information on general copyright and permission click here. If you have any questions please contact webmaster.