Hello! My name is Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath. I am a teacher at the Faculty of Food Science, Savannakhet University. This was my first time to meet my partner from PH KarIsruhe, Germany. Dr. Remmele’s arrival time at Savannakhet International Airport was 2:30 p.m. on February 25, 2019. Although I did not go to pick him up at the airport, I was really excited to meet him at dinner time, because it was our first time to meet each other after a long communication via email.
At 6:30 p.m., a driver and I went to pick him up at the Vivanouk Hotel for the welcome dinner at Kin View restaurant. Lao hot pot and Lao barbecue buffet was the cuisine we ate together with the hosts of the welcome dinner, which was organized by the Faculty of Food Science and Dr. Phetsamone Kattiyavong, Dean of the Faculty of Linguistics and head of the SKU Erasmus+ team. We had a very wonderful dinner enjoying the food a lot, while simultaneously beginning our discussion of objectives and possibilities of collaborative research concepts, and also of Dr. Remmele’s desire to observe Lao style teaching-learning lessons during his two-week visit.
First day on the new campus, Faculty of Food Science, Savannakhet University
At 8:30 a.m. on February 26, the Dean of the Faculty of Food Science, Mr. Satheuan Thikeo, welcomed Dr. Remmele and also introduced him to other colleagues. Beginning at 9:00 a.m., we started to give presentations in order to exchange our research work and to get to know more of each other and our distinct academic backgrounds, so as to find a fitting way to collaborate our research. There were three presentations from participants of the Faculty of Food Science, one participant from the Faculty of Natural Science, and three presentations from Dr. Remmele’ side. The presentations helped to make clear to us concepts for developing our research proposals.
Second day for seminar “Psychological Theories for Enhancing Education”…
There were 17 participants from the Faculty of Food Science, the Faculty of Natural Science, and the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Science who joined in this seminar. It was really an interesting and helpful approach for us, to think about applying such psychological theories to the practical work and students’ problems in the classroom. This enables us to understand more about our students’ desires. His lecture led us to discuss the differences between German students’ and Lao students’ classroom attitudes on learning-teaching. I came to know a major different between German students and Lao students is that German students are brave to show their ideas and react to answer the questions very quickly, while Lao students are shy and afraid to share their ideas because they afraid that their responses may be wrong. This may be a difference of cultural atmosphere.
… and setting up the scope of the proposal research development in the natural sciences
After a long discussion on finding an appropriate research topic, we agreed on the topic, “study on distinguishing useful and dangerous insects for farmers”. Another interesting topic we discussed was regarding amphibian species of Germany and Laos. These topics would be useful for education on sustainable development for farmers in Laos. To help us work effectively and efficiently, we divided our work for each member to take responsibility for an individual task. This would help us to work in effective way and be punctual sincere to work. Besides the official research, Dr. Remmele also guided me and advocated that I get my findings distributed in order to apply for an ASEAN-wide Fellowship. I have learnt a lot from him on techniques how to write an effective proposal. Of course, I haven’t heard any results yet – but if I get selected by the ASEAN-wide Fellowship, I will immediately inform Dr. Remmele, as I would not be the only one to be excited by such good news. I would like to thank Dr. Remmele for his kindness; he is a really helpful and attentive person.
Furthermore, as we worked on our collaborative research tactics with the aim of publication, we made a plan to set up deadlines to help us keep in touch as our research progresses on our topic. We also planned that our research will show up on the International Symposium day, which will be held at SKU on 11 October 2019. Hopefully, we can make our dream come true!
As it was the first time for Dr. Remmele to visit Laos, and to relax from our stress of official work, we took time to visit my hometown on the weekend. It took about 2 ½ hours to reach Thakhek by car. We went to have a picnic at “Tha Falang”. It is in fact a river with large pond and surrounded by mountains, where the French army used to set up camp in the 1950s. Then, we returned to the main road and continued for a few kilometers to visit the famous Buddha Cave, which was discovered in 2004. The cave has 229 bronze Buddhas that are over 300 years old. We gave a donation to be a part of building a temple there, and we also did some sightseeing by riding a boat inside under the cave. We then finished our trip by parking the car along the Mekong river bank, from where we could see the Thailand side and enjoy the spectacular natural view, particularly of the sunset. We spent about 45 minutes there, then traveled back to Savannakhet Province.
One week later – welcome to Dr. Isabel Martin and participating in her workshop
I was delighted to meet with the German Head of the Erasmus+ programme Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin again on 4 March 2019, and with her we had the first official meeting of Dr. Martin Remmele with our Vice-president, Assoc. Prof. Dr. Sitha Khemmarath. In the morning we had a meeting to discuss our activities, set up our activities plan, and to clarify everyone’s responsibilities. Then we headed to visit Savannakhet Teacher Training College, with the aim of extending our collaboration between PH KarIsruhe and Laos to an additional partner. There was much interest and a lively discussion chaired by Dr Phetsamone (SKU) and the Vice-President (TTC).
It was an honor for me to participate in Dr. Isabel Martin’s workshop on “How to Communicate with German Partners”.1 Her workshop helped me to have a clearer understanding of various aspects of the German people, including culture, communications, working styles and national characteristics. From my point of view, it was not only useful to me in the short term, but also showed how we can work more effectively together and maintain our collaboration with more strength in the future. I am glad to have had the chance to be a part of her workshop.
Text by V. Botthoulath, with a note by I. Martin
Photos by V. Botthoulath, S. Botthoulath & P. Sibounnavong
Note by the editor
1 Besides insects, amphibians, the English language, and teaching methodology, we also study each other. I learnt “How to work with Lao partners” from observation, listening, experience, books on Lao culture and history, but also from an enlightening CIDA brochure. After three years of acclimatising to the “Lao style”, I felt it was the right time to now communicate more directly some of our own cultural peculiarities and expectations, seeing as an Erasmus+ programme requires communication by email and has hard deadlines.