Most people dream about graduation. There are certain milestones in life that can be easily measured and graduating from an academic achievement is one of them. For some people graduating from high school is the most exciting, as you get to celebrate with people you have known your whole life. For others, graduating from a first degree is even more so since they might be the first in their families to attain that level of education. And yet, others may anticipate their Master’s or PhD graduations, since these are not paths that most people choose and having a reason to celebrate is what brings joy in life. The idea of putting on a cap and gown and walking across the stage to collect the diploma that you worked so hard for while your family and friends are there cheering you on is what drives most of us as we continue to work through long hours and even longer nights.
Before coming to Sweden, my curiosity led me to search graduation ceremonies in the country. In my former university, graduation was a big deal requiring months of preparation. Entire venues were blocked off for our special day and our families were notified months in advance so that they could secure their places to attend. We were celebrated as having achieved a huge academic milestone and the graduation ceremony reflected that.
When I looked online, I saw that in Sweden they had a similar sentiment towards graduations. There were many pictures of students in their brightly coloured sashes throwing balloons and confetti of blue and yellow (Sweden’s national colours) into the air, while they tossed their special boat captain hats and drove around honking their horns and celebrating with their friends. The pictures gave off this feeling of pride and celebration for people who no doubt overcame a difficult period of their life and were proud of their achievements. Feeling hopeful, I searched “graduation at KI” and saw similar pictures of people wearing the boat captain hats and blue and yellow sashes as well as crimson gowns. I assumed then, that graduation would entail components of these.
We were told early on that our graduation would be in the first week of June. Since I am an international student I immediately set about letting my family know this so that they would be able to take time off, and book their flights early. I told my mum to come on the 29th of May, just in case graduation was super early on, and so it would give us time for me to show her around Stockholm. Imagine my surprise when we were told that our graduation ceremony would actually be held on the 01st of June, but our thesis submission would be on the 02nd of June. On one hand I was super happy for the extra writing time, on the other hand it sort of meant…that we weren’t really graduating. This was our graduation day….but not really.
To make matters even more devastating we were told that there would be no gowns. No gowns, no caps, no sash, no nothing. The dress code was “smart casual” with no colour scheme to mark us as the graduating class. This made me feel a little sad I will admit. I was truly looking forward to wearing a nice billowing gown and walking across the stage to mark this momentous achievement in my life. And so, I decided to get the most billowy graduation suit that I could find to give myself the moment I couldn’t get from the dress code.
The graduation itself was beautiful. It was simple, quick and very efficient. We were ushered into a section just for graduates to practise before the actual ceremony began. Once it started a short speech was given by each head of the programmes, after which the students from that degree would walk on stage together and be given a white envelope by a man in an actual graduation gown that we did not get (yes I am salty). This envelope had a congratulatory message from the president of KI who did not attend. Then we were all told to pose for a picture and walked off stage to celebrate the next class. Short, sweet and simple.
I absolutely loved that we did not have to sit through 5 boring speeches each 20 minutes long from people we had never seen before telling us that we were the future of the world. And I was so happy that everything was done promptly. The biggest highlight was the entertainment that was booked for us. A string quartet and a soul singer with the most incredible voice. They made the day feel like a graduation day. Also, like myself, I realised that no one really bothered with the dress code. One guy walked across the stage in a jeans and baseball hat. Some students wore their ethnic garb looking like the Kings and Queens they were that day. And some wore actual gowns while others were more casual in Sunday dresses.
After the ceremony was a bit of a rush. It was not the most organised situation, so I lost my parents and the chance to meet some of my friends. The ceremony is held on the second floor or Aula Medica and all three floors are used for the after-fika event. This means that people spill out into any floor they can from any door that they could, where we are served some strawberry cake and some champagne or sparkling juice. I wish that this had been done a bit differently to be honest. Since we had just graduated, I would have liked if the three floors had be split into smaller sections for each of the programmes. That way our class as well as our families would know where to gather after the ceremony. This way we could meet each other’s families and celebrate together with the people we spent a whole year of our lives with before meeting our other friends.
Despite the very beautiful ceremony, I did not feel like a graduate that day. I did not have that feeling of relief or accomplishment or that we were actually being celebrated at all, but more like this was event was expected from the university, so it was held. My parents were there waving to me, but they also knew how stressed I was counting down the minutes until I could get back to writing my thesis. After the ceremony I wanted to hang out with my friends, but I could not allow myself that time since I wanted to read and re-read my submission a few more times.
So this is my advice dear future classes of 2024/2025. Have your parents fly in the day before or 2 days before the graduation. If you are stuck writing your thesis, having to take care of them can become a huge burden on you along with the stress. Plan with your class to meet up somewhere outside for your class photo before the big day. Discuss it in the group chat because it will become chaos after the ceremony. And wear your loveliest, fanciest clothing, because you are graduating that day. And although you won’t have a gown or a cap or anything to make you look like a graduate, you own that stage and walk across like the big achievement that you are.
Hi, my name is Zaynab and I am from Trinidad and Tobago, a country in the Caribbean. I am currently studying a Master’s in Global Health here at KI and am a blogger for the DA team. I look forward to sharing my experiences at KI and I also hope to expose students from the Caribbean to university life here in Sweden.