Post-Graduation Plans: What Follows After Swedish High School

New NYU Shanghai freshman Sabina Olsson reflects on the new future facing her high school class.

On June 8, I graduated. It was incredible; despite the (as usual) chilly Swedish pre-summer weather, it was a day filled with great food, high pitched screaming laughter, and countless pictures for everyone’s social media account. When I looked out over the familiar concrete backyard, it was filled with sprawling teens in the identical traditional white hats. Granted, this was the last day we had to be at the dull school grounds, because I, and around 500 other students, now became alumni.

It wasnt until I took a break from my visa applications, my packing list(s), and my Google-research on everything from subway stations to soap in Shanghai, that I glanced at my phone and noticed that it was strangely quiet. Turns out, all of my friends were busy. What?! And they were busy doing basically the same as me; preparing for the next steps in our newly given freedom. However, when walking around in my violet T-shirt from ASW and rambling on about how warm it is in China in the summers, I had honestly not even given any deeper attention to when, where, and what, my fellow classmates were planning on doing after our white hats had been put away. I was too busy to notice how busy they were.

However, unlike what the previous paragraph might suggest, I actually dont have some huge inflated ego. I was just too absorbed in my own adventure to give everyone elses a thought. When drifting around between murky classrooms in a dusty old brick building five days a week, obsessing about your own post-graduation plans, its hard to reflect upon what the person next to you in the uncomfortable plastic chair is thinking and dreaming about.

But these people arent some anonymous strangers. These are the people I met everyday in crowded hallways, in boring classes, and by sticky lunch hall tables. The people I gossiped with about the strange teachers new haircut, smirked with at the naive people not taking IB classes (and clearly, not understanding the struggle), and cried with over things that teenagers preparing to grow up cry about. Just like me, they all have plans, hopes, dreams, fears, and expectations about the future. But for three intense years our lives had been overlapping, as we had all worked towards the same goal: standing there smiling proudly in our white hats in the chill breeze us Swedes call summer. And now, our common denominator had disappeared; we were no longer high school students. Yet this is only the start of something much greater and much better.

Like C, who recently got a full-time job as a barista in a neighboring city, whilst saving up to sooner or later meet up with her Australian boyfriend on the other side of the earth.

L is heading off to Edinburgh in Scotland to major in Psychology, yet still focusing on her performing arts hobby-gone-career as a Youtube-cover dancer.

While everyone else is heading south towards the continent, R is looking north, to settle in at university in northern Sweden to study engineering.

Adventurous I is backpacking in Australia for half a year, before settling down under to study medicine.

Meanwhile, M is four months pregnant, as she and her boyfriend are planning for a family of their own.   

D is hoping to go to college close to home, and figure out what she actually want to do in the future, whether it is psychology, history, or anything in between.

A dropped down to part-time attendance in our senior year due to personal issues, and is looking at another part-time year at our old high school.

E is planning to move to Berlin in a few months, to experience true adventure (and hopefully learn some German too).

The other L is currently part of the unemployed youth, yet looking to change that, while deciding on a possible university major.

S dreams about studying architecture in one of the Scandinavian capitals, channelling her creativity into a profession.

Healthy P is aiming to become a nutritionist, continuing her self-proclaimed mission of saving both the health of animals and that of humans.  

K is going in a similar direction as she applied for culinary school, working to feed the people whilst refining her dessert-making skills.

All of the people behind the letters above deserve a full article about their own plans and preparations, but that is not really my purpose as of now. Im just here to highlight the impressive steps we have taken, some random recent foreign high school graduates. Leaving school might be an ambivalent feeling, but when you understand the different destinations in life everyone is heading towards, the post-graduation feeling is amazing. To summarize with a cheesy metaphor: we havent reached any end stations, were just merely getting off to switch to different lines.

Oh, and me? I will shortly be starting my academic career in NYU Shanghai.

This article was written by Sabina Olsson. Please send an email to to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Sabina Olsson

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