Culture Shock: The Ugly Truth


Photo was taken during my most recent weekend excursion at Castell Coch in Cardiff, Wales.


If you haven’t noticed by now, I’m kind of bad at blogging. I forget to check my e-mail daily, so I’m having a hard time keeping up with this thing. Apologies.

Since my last post about Belgium I have traveled to The Hague, Germany, England, and Wales. I had so much fun in all of these cities/countries, and they each deserve their own blog post, but I have more important things to talk about.

I’ve started this post a handful of times, trying to figure out the best way to put my thoughts into words. I’m finding it hard to be honest with you all, but I started this blog to document my journey and it would be unfair if I didn’t paint the correct picture for you.

I’m dealing with serious culture shock.

While I briefly mentioned the culture shock I was feeling during my first few weeks in Utrecht in this post, the full effects didn’t sink in until two weeks ago.

If you have me on Facebook, you might have gotten the idea that I’m having the time of my life. And while that’s mostly true, I’ve also been dealing with the not so picturesque side of study abroad.

I was having a very hard time settling into my new home. I cannot read or speak in Dutch, most of the time I have no idea where I’m going, and people in the city can be less than pleasant on an average day (but that’s anywhere).

I also felt very trapped. Since I’m from America, the average one way ticket to go home would cost me approximately $700. It would also take a full day of traveling and a new time zone to get used to, so I wouldn’t be able to swing a weekend trip like most of my fellow European study-abroaders (new word, Webster?).

Two weeks ago, I was crying to my mom over the phone about how much I missed home. I didn’t think I could make until July in the Netherlands. I was googling cheap tickets home and panicking when I saw the prices. Thankfully, she convinced me to not be impulsive and to sleep on it before making any rash decisions. And I’m so happy she did, because staying is what’s best for me.

Throughout the past two months of this experience I have learned so much about myself:

I learned that it’s okay to be really uncomfortable in a new place. 

I went through a lot of changes by coming here and they all happened to me at once. From starting my job at the hostel to starting classes at Hogeschool, I was bound to feel extreme emotions of excitement, shock and anxiety. It’s okay to not always feel okay.

I learned that home is not necessarily a place, but a feeling.

I feel at home every time I talk to my mom on the phone. She tells me stories about her coworkers, my family members, and even the crazy Michigan weather. Talking to her reminds me that living in the Netherlands is only temporary and I cannot take this experience for granted.

I felt at home when I visited my friends Taylor and Jens in Kleve, Germany. Taylor was my roommate for six months when I was at Ferris last semester, so being around her always feels normal. It also helped that Jens’ mom made us dinner one night, because obviously a home cooked meal is comforting.

But I’m also learning to accept Utrecht as my home. I have three amazing roommates and a handful of coworkers that always bring a smile to my face. We often have karaoke and jam sessions in the living room, and they always make me the happiest. My apartment is surrounded by green grass, canals, tulips, and millions of Dutchies riding endless amounts of bikes – which is so great I almost take it for granted.

And lastly, I’m learning to try new things.

In the middle of writing this sentence, my roommate offered me to try Turkish pita bread topped with a “liver spread” and a funky smelling cheese. I loved it so much I am now eating it for dinner.

But on a more serious note, I work, live and interact with people from different cultures on a daily basis. When someone asks me to go somewhere with them, or even try a new food that’s unusual for me (raw herring thanks to Andrew), I have learned to always say yes. It could be the best raw herring in the world (it was), or it could have been the worst. But I never would have known if I didn’t try.

It has taken me so long to write this (much needed) blog post because I feared my readers would think I was crazy for not always enjoying myself during my study abroad. I don’t want you all to think I’m ungrateful for this experience, because I most certainly am not. I worked very hard to get to where I am, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But I want you to all understand that there can be other sides to studying abroad that aren’t always noticeable through smiling photos on Facebook.

Below you can see a few pictures from the trips I’ve taken since Belgium!

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5 thoughts on “Culture Shock: The Ugly Truth

  1. Anna Marie Hogan March 16, 2016 / 1:13 am

    Awwww! Big hugs to you. I can relate to how your missing home. Although I wasn’t abroad….I was alone in 6 different states for 5 years and many many times wanted to come home. Now I am thankful that I did it! Home is always right here waiting for you. I missed the empty seat at Firenzes tonight where you would always be. I miss you so much and so does Leo and Onie bugs. I have thought by seeing all your great pictures on Facebook that you were having a blast but understand ….what your feeling. It all made me come home and appreciate the little things that I missed about home. The things we can all be at fault for taking for granted. I apologize for not sending Leo’s artwork yet. I will give it to your mom to bring. Feel free to IM me. I miss you tons and we are happy to hear you’ll be home in June! I’m also happy you’ve had this experience . It will be one you will remember for a lifetime . Love you, Aunt Anna


  2. mary hogan March 16, 2016 / 1:55 am

    Lindsey I’m so proud of you. What an opportunity you have to experience and see another side of the world. And I’m so happy that I’m able to come visit you. If you weren’t studying abroad, I would have probably never traveled to Netherlands & Ireland. It won’t be to long and before you know it you will be meeting me at the airport. I can’t wait to experience the trip of my lifetime with you my beautiful daughter. Love you, Mom


    • Lindsey Hogan March 16, 2016 / 8:39 am

      You’re the cutest mom in the world. Thank you for always supporting me. I’m counting down the days until you arrive (43). Love you!


  3. Nancy Mettlach March 17, 2016 / 2:46 pm

    I’ve been following your blog and you should be proud of yourself. This was a really scary thing to take on, and you have done it with class. Soak up as many memories as you can and before you know it you will be back home.


    • Lindsey Hogan March 17, 2016 / 4:39 pm

      Thank you Nancy. I hope all is well and I can’t wait to be back in the office!


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