Hello everyone! My name is Somsanouk Xayyavong. I am Vice-Dean at the Faculty of Information Technology, Savannakhet University (SKU), Laos. I have always dream of living a short life abroad so that I can use English.
I was nominated to participate in a Staff Mobility Program under the Erasmus+ project “Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship“, which is the second collaboration between the University of Education Karlsruhe and SKU. I departed on 3 May 2022. The flight time was 13 hours and the flight distance was 8,452 km. I still remember the day we arrived at Frankfurt International Airport, which is a big airport, and we had to hurry to get on the high-speed train to get to Karlsruhe. The train was so good, it looked nice and had a big rest room, also had wi-fi service, the space for using a computer you can work while you travel in contrast to my country. We never had public trains in Laos until the first railway, the Boten-Vientiane or China-Laos railway, was officially opened on 3 December 2021.
I worked in Karlsruhe, Germany, for two months in the Institute of Computer Science at the Karlsruhe University of Education, I shared the office with Mr Sitsanou. He was a staff mobility from Laos as well but worked in the Physics department. I had Dr Nico Hillah to be my cooperation partner. He was very kind, gave advice and supported me about my work. I observed the lecture course in the department of Computer Science, which is a modern classroom by using a high-quality device like a Macbook or iPad and some courses had mini-Robot so the students paid attention to the teacher’s explanations and as well as the actual practice in the classroom.
I also observed the teaching-learning in the English Department many times and joined Prof. Martin for the mentoring of internship students at a primary school in the Integrated Semester Practicum which has given me a new experience here because the lecturers can revise and improve the curriculum every semester and there was something very special each school had its own course of study so it was so surprise because in my country, we use the same curriculum in all schools. Another very good experience also was the session about Lao education and culture in Prof Martin’s “Global English(es) & Global Citizenship” course, which Mr Thanousone and Ms Souphansa had prepared. They first presented general information about Lao P.D. R. and then we decomstrated our rich cultures and customs in a practical way such as Lao food, tourist material and postcards, a Baci performance and dancing Lam Vong and some social dance steps together.
Every day I got up at 6:30, after that I did exercises for 20 minutes then cooked breakfast. I shared the food with Mr Sitsanou and Mr Napha. We bought the ingredients for cooking from Asian store. Some Days we cooked Lao food and maybe cooked fast food like fried-egg with sandwiches but normally we cooked Lao food for dinner every day here. Our favorite foods here were fried vegetables with pork, fried noodles, and spicy soup. While we had dinner we shared about work and activities that we did during the day so the feeling in the house that we stayed with family as well as we were in Laos.
I went to school by train every day because my house was about 6 km away from the city. The weather was so good and most people in the city liked to ride bicycles and there was a bike lane so make it feels safe to ride a bike, although I did not ride a bike for 20 years ago, because in my country they liked to use motorbikes. However, I decided to rent a bicycle. Unfortunately, renting a bike here was only available for a day or an hour, and a monthly rental shop, such as Swapfiets was accidentally closed a branch in my hometown that why I decided to buy a second-hand bike instead.
On the day I went to shopping for a second-hand bicycle, I encountered many problems, such as boarding the wrong train, the Machine ticket refused my money, I asked for help from some few people on the train, but they could not do that and the last problem was the owner of the bicycle shop could not speak English. Finally, I met a young man. His name was Philip. He has got black hair and medium height. He bought me a train ticket, took me to a bicycle shop. But the second-hand bike was quite expensive and the condition was not good, so I decided not to buy it. Then the young man helped me again by lending me his bicycle for two months, on which day I rode my bicycle back home. I was very happy and fortunate to have been helped this time.
In addition, I was impressed with many things in this city such as beautiful old buildings, a lot of old churches and chock-full of historic sites and attractions for tourists. I spent some time touring ancient sites and beautiful towns. There were many places like Karlsruher Schloss, Turmberg, also Heidelberg Castle, Hauptstrasse and the Altstadt (Old Town) in Heidelberg, Church of the Holy Spirit.
Also, Karlsruhe has a convenient transportation system with regular public trains, and the city was very clean, when you walked in the city you could not see the rubbish. I noticed that most of the people in this town would not smile back, even if I did, but look at other side, but they are very polite and responsible for themselves and others, for example they helped other people who are old or pregnant on the train and they are always on time.
Finally, I would like to thank you the Erasmus+ project and Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin for gave me the opportunity to came here and got new experience, I will bring all the knowledge that I got to back home for develop myself and also my university and share it example I will report to the president, share to my colleagues when we have meeting and also when I have lecture with my students.
I really enjoyed my time here for two months for learning new things like the education system, trying new foods and learning about the culture. It was wonderful to celebrate our stay with so many guests at the 7th Lao-German Friendship Feast towards the end. I expect that we will keep in touch with good cooperation in the future and welcome my partner Dr Nico to visit SKU later this year. I also hope to come back to visit here again.
Text by S. Xayyavong
Photos by S. Xayyavong, S. Phoudthavong