My Life in the Netherlands

Samantha Kulhanek
Nursing Major
Focus on Health Care: Summer School Utrecht 2015

My name is Samantha Kulhanek and I am entering my senior year of Western Michigan University’s Nursing program. I recently embarked on the journey of a lifetime to The Netherlands as part of Western Michigan University’s study abroad program. There, I had the opportunity to study pediatric oncology for nursing at Utrecht University among many other students from varying countries. The precious time I spent exploring this beautiful country has forever changed me in ways I never thought imaginable.

I dove into this experience with an open mind a fearless attitude. I was so ready to experience another culture and pick apart the aspects that were different from my own.  Coming from one of the most fast-paced countries in the world, it was so very relaxing to move at my own time and pace. The amount of stress and weight that was lifted off of my usually heavy shoulders and enormous.  Whether I was strolling down the street, making my way to class, or enjoying a meal at a restaurant, never once did I feel the need to rush. Also, the cleanliness of The Netherlands was magnificent. Not only was the air and environment clean, but the food and health of the locals was clean as well. With people almost always biking or walking to their destinations, it not only kept the air and streets clean but the bodies of the people clean as well. To see overweight people was a rarity there.Kulhanek, Samantha Focus on Health Care 153 pic

However, my education of cultures wasn’t limited to the Dutch, but to many others. I had the pleasure of sharing my classroom and housing with students from other countries such as Italy, Spain, Cyrus, Cameroon, and South Korea. Many of the other European students lived relaxed and clean lives just like the Dutch did. On the flip side I got to understand the hardships countries like South Korea and Cameroon have to go through on a daily basis. Above all, it was most interesting for me to compare how the profession of nursing was portrayed around the world. To hear from the other countries what they thought of the United States was sometimes hard to hear. The majority of the speculations surrounded the topics of obesity, police brutality and Donald Trump running for president. I’m honestly not surprised because that is all the media ever wants to talk about so it’s only natural that it is all they think about.

Furthermore, this trip affected me on a personal level and made me grow to understand not only other cultures but also myself. The amount of confidence I gained from stepping out of my comfort zone by experiencing new things is something that money cannot buy and for the I am eternally grateful. On a professional level I feel that I will be able to connect with patients of different upbringings and cultures. Academically I have the confidence to take on challenges that normally I would have been more fearful of taking on. Personally, I am a happier person.  Words simply cannot describe the immense amount of gratitude I have towards Western Michigan University’s Study Abroad program for making this experience possible. I would do this over again in a heartbeat and would recommend to anyone who is considering a similar program to follow his or her heart and do whatever they can to make this dream possible.


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