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Swedish exchange student gets East Islip, hometown graduations

Anton Hagberg, a Swedish exchange student who spent

Anton Hagberg, a Swedish exchange student who spent a year at East Islip High School, enjoys his graduation in his hometown of Vanersborg in June 2013. Credit: Handout

High school students have a lot to look forward to after their graduation – celebrations with family and friends, often followed by college life.

But one East Islip student had something different to look forward to: another graduation.

Anton Hagberg, an exchange student from Vanersborg, Sweden, was able to attend both an American and Swedish graduation ceremony after spending his “first” senior year of 2011-12 at East Islip High School before doing his actual senior year in his native country.

“I knew what it was gonna be like, because I saw it,” Hagberg said during a Skype chat, explaining that he saw American high school life in Sweden via TV shows like “Beverly Hills: 90210” and “The OC.” His host mom, Doreen Anderson, 48, of East Islip, chimed in, “Cheater! I didn’t know that you saw that stuff.”

Anderson and her daughters, Alicia, 18 and Erin, 20, chose Hagberg from a pool of potential students they would be housing.

“To be honest, it was kinda late and my mom really wanted a female,” Alicia said. “But I chose someone who was most similar to me and played sports!”

It was the first time that Hagberg had sisters and that Alicia and Erin had a brother. Hagberg, 20, is the oldest of three sons back home. But in America, he became the middle child.

“It took some getting used to,” Erin Anderson said. “Like him leaving the toilet seat up. But he was also protective as a brother.”

Besides changing family dynamics, Hagberg also experienced the differences between American and Swedish schools. He focused on science-related courses back home, but at East Islip took part in the business academy program.

Israel Malinowitzer, the director of careers and student services, noticed Hagberg’s ambition early on.

“The kid was very motivated,” he said of Hagberg, who participated with other students in a program that allowed them to run a virtual business. “We selected him to be the vice president of human resources.”

As his East Islip school year came to an end, Hagberg braced himself for graduation and the fact that he would soon head back to Sweden.

“I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to walk across,” he said of the ceremony since he wasn’t technically graduating. Although he watched from the bleachers, he was still able to attend prom with host sister Alicia, and then invite his entire American family back to Sweden for his actual graduation in June of this year.

Unlike American ceremonies, the entire town celebrated the high school graduation, with floats, parades and music.

“Thousands and thousands of people were waiting for them to get to the center of the town,” Doreen Anderson said. She and her daughters were able to watch as Hagberg marched with his fellow graduates into the Vanersborg town square to join their families. Waiting in the middle were friends and family, accompanied by massive signs of their baby photos.

Since his latest graduation, Hagberg has been working to save up money for higher education in the United States.

“My dream is to study medicine,” he says, noting that until he reaches that dream, he will continue to keep close ties back to his second family.

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