BY Sohpie Herrington
My First Trip Abroad
My junior year of high school, I became friends with Tella, a foreign exchange student from Gothenburg, Sweden, who spent the year at my school in Mobile, Alabama. We were determined to maintain our close friendship, so she visited Mobile again the next year, and I decided to take my first trip outside of the United States to attend her high school graduation.
I made it to Sweden to watch my friend graduate on June 7, 2018, and the experience was much different than I anticipated. While graduation in America is a more formal ceremony, Swedish graduation is a 24-hour celebration. Each class at Tella’s school ran along a red carpet onto a stage to dance and celebrate their accomplishment. The students wear white dresses and sailor caps rather than a cap and gown. Family also ties items such as flowers, champagne, and stuffed animals attached to string around her neck. This part of their graduation is called utspring.
After utspring, Tella and the rest of her classmates are driven around the city cheering before attending parties for the rest of the day. One party is celebrated with family and friends, and the last party of the night is celebrated with all of the graduating classmates.
Aside from Tella’s graduation, my adventures in Sweden included swimming in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time, eating a giant cinnamon roll, visiting the famous amusement park –Liseberg, and many more! We spent my last day on the island, Galterö, which we nicknamed Sheep Island due to its high sheep population. Sheep Island had a notebook in which travelers could write about their personal experiences on the island, and we were happy to contribute our own.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Tella in Sweden. She has had such a positive impact on my life, so it was important to me that I was able to help her celebrate her graduation. In our friendship, distance has been no more than a physical separation, and we won’t let it keep our relationship stagnant. I highly recommend doing what you can to maintain friendships with the obstacle of a little distance. Tella and I can’t wait to plan another trip together. Here’s to international friendships!