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  • Henriette Johnsen

Student gradutation celebrations

Many international students finishing their IGCSEs go on to IB; and you may have noticed that upon graduation, they are rewarded a white hat with a colourful band of flags around it. This tradition is inspired by the Danish students’ “studentereksamen” which is the equivalent to the English A-level exam - an exam allowing students to apply for courses at university and other educational institutions providing tertiary education. Being an old tradition dating back more than 160 years, students look forward to this hugely exciting time all the way throughout their youth education.


The much-awaited last day of school in May is often celebrated by dressed up students eagerly waiting to hear which subjects to sit exams in as well as which day to finally wear the hat. Depending on what subjects they have chosen, they either drown their sorrows or celebrate their luck with a day of partying in town; for many, the last bit of fun for 6 weeks till they graduate and can embark on a week’s, if not more, celebration.


The educational institutions throw proms for the students who turn up in funny, stylish, crazy means of transportation. Outside school, their families are lined up to welcome the students in their suits and elegant dresses. Many schools offer a seated meal followed by a dance. Often proms are opened by the students dancing lancier, a Danish dance tradition consisting of various formations dating back to 1817. Normally, parents are invited around to witness this very stylish, fun dance.


On “hue-day”, the day the students sit their last exam and start wearing their hats as a symbol of their achievement. Upon having had the mark for the last exam, students are met by family outside the exam rooms. The student has chosen some one to do the most honourable and emotional job of putting the hat on their head, champagne is popped, congratulations thrown left, right and centre. Words cannot describe the joy these school rooms are filled with on this special occasion nor the sense of pride, both students and family feel. After a short celebration at school, many continue to celebrate either at home or at cafés and restaurants around town.


What follows are days of partying with classmates and other friends in the same joyful situation. There is an official graduation ceremony and not to be forgotten, a trip around town to visit everyone’s houses. Purpose built trucks are rented and decorated with banners, slogans and green leaves to take the students around to visit their families. On board the truck, students sing, drink, dance and cheer at people who in return hunk their car horns or wave at them.


This trip takes a full day, and each family have a 10-15 minutes visit where light food and drinks are served. Though drunk and tired, the students are lovely, innocent in their behaviour and full of gist for life. It is a truly wonderful experience, and I can only encourage you to take part in this if you are lucky enough to be invited around for such an occasion or indeed have a child of your own doing this.


For many, this is a most wonderful way to end their innocent youth lives. Up until then, most have been living at home and parents have had a say in many important things in their lives. For the students, the festivities mark the ending of three years of (hard) work as well as the ability to now apply for further education. For parents, this also marks the end of childhood and beginning of adulthood. Though legally adult by 18, many continue to live at home whilst preparing for this exam. The courses are simply not built for holding up a fulltime position to support yourself. Furthermore, many wish to have a gap year of two before moving out to further study.





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