Back to my second home Karlsruhe after 3 years – by Napha Khothphouthone

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Back to my second home after three years!

Three days of travelling from Savannakhet to Karlsruhe went by so fast, because I was going to see my warm home again in 4th of May 2022. It took 10 hours by car from Savannakhet to Vientiane and we have to stay overnight, from Vientiane to Frankfurt I took two days with a long overlay in Bangkok, I was extremely excited to see Karlsruhe because I was here in 2019 for 6 months on an Erasmus+ Student Mobility together with Mr Thaithanawanh and Ms Viengvilaiphone and it was a great memory.

This time I came on a Eramus+ Staff Mobility together with my colleagues Ms Somsanouk and Mr Sitsanou.

While I was sitting beside the window, gazing out at the edge of the wing I pictured myself standing in front of the building 2 (PH building) take mindfulness breathing, it felt light as a feather.

As soon as I landed I felt that encouraged, joyful. When I started walking with two colleagues forward to the passport control I was a bit worry because last time I had not a very good experience I was stopped at Istanbul airport, somebody (the woman who check passport and boarding pass) did not know Laos, she had never seen the passport like mine before so she stopped me at the gate and waited until everyone got in the plane then talked to me. I negotiated with her very hard, showed her every relevant documents that I have (certificate of insurance, confirmation of Erasmus+ stipend) but it did not help me at all until the man (I think her boss) came to me and checked my passport then say I can go, he apologize for that situation, it took about 10 minutes or event more.

Fortunately, this time everything was going very well and I had a very beautiful trip, from passport control I went forward to the luggage claim then fast to the train. After spending half hour in the train arrived Mannheim station I recalled back to 2019 as I was late for 15 minutes at Istanbul airport ,so train that run direct from Frankfurt to Karlsruhe had left already so I was worrying, depressed, nervous and fearful. There were so many question came to my mind for example: What if I lost the train? Where should I sleep? How can I survive? Who will help me? Because it was my first trip to Europe, so everything was new for me.

Finally, I decided to ask someone at the train station to help me and she told me to take the train from Frankfurt to Mannheim and then continue to Karlsruhe.

As soon as I heard announcement that the train has arrived “Karlsruhe Hbf” (“Hauptbahnhof [Hbf]”: main train station), my heart beat faster and faster until the door is opened, I step out of the train and Dr. Isabel Martin has already there waiting for us. We hugged very tight. For me it was a super great moment thank you to her again and again.

And I lived in Karlsruhe  for 2 months in total on a Staff Mobility working with Dr. Martin Remmele  as job shadowing, doing research, present our previous research topic “Contribution to amphibian conservation in Laos” to PH students and visit some of Prof Martin’s and other English classes for instance “Flipping the classroom”, “Colloquium”, “Planning and Designing Lessons (PDL) for primary school, “PDL for secondary school”, “Media-didactic competence”, “Global English(es)”,  and the “Intermediate English B1-B2 level” course within the framework of the Erasmus+ KA107 programme. I also visited some ISP (Integrated Semester Practicum) lessons taught by pre-service teachers (PH students) at school again. Thank you also to International Officer Julia Friedl that working very hard support me with every relevant documents without her help it would be very difficult for me to be here.

From visiting the classes that I mentioned. I have learned some new teaching methodologies, especially in PDL course. Students who attended the course will graduate to be secondary teacher, when I visited they had to do their duty by teaching a simulated school lesson. As I said I was in Karlsruhe as staff mobility so I visited the class as guest, in order learned about the class I was asked to act like a students, the topic was California so we leant about the city by seeing the map and answer where is located, watching video to learnt about California and then read the text to learn some more detail and then used the information from the text and video to created the advertisment finally the group presented to the class. While the class was running there was a student pretended sleeping and the student-teacher has to deal with him by asking question to engaged him to class . PDL is a good class that I can learn about planing the right amount activities for time I have, and to be able to engage to stay on task 

This kind of situation  happened in the real class Primary school when I joined ISP and I saw teacher did exactly the same, but this time was not that easy even teacher asked question but I seem the student put his forehead on the table then teacher decided to take him out of the the class and then come back to the class again of course I did not know what she talked to him outside the classroom.

In ISP I was not only learned about new teaching method but I also learn about the reflection. Every time, after class internship students, teacher and lecturer come and sit together to talk about what happened the class. we ask questions, give our comments for what he or she did is good and some things that need to be improved. For me I really love the idea of a “feedback sandwich” (positive-critical-positive comments) which can help students to correct his or her mistakes and starts and finishes with compliments his or her well doing. From this discussion the student-teacher then picks one “development goal” for the next lesson, what they want to do better next time.

Another course that I like the most is ” Global English(es) & Global Citizenship Education”, it is not only about different Englishes but also study global developments for changing English teaching and cultures all around the world, there are several session. I attended the course in 2019 as a student mobility and shared about my job and buddhist life style to the class. And this time we (Lao students and staff mobility) helped to contributed our beloved culture. In the class I act as “Mor porn (well-wisher)” to do Baci ceremony for international students and for Ms Martin as well. I would say I was very happy to shared this to the world. Click here if you want to see the video that I filmed how great of the atmosphere in the class is.   

Living in one place for a long time, I am constantly surround by people who speak Laos language and share my culture, go to work in the morning and go home at night repeated the same schedule made me easily forget how special of life is. To me as a teacher, international experience is very important because it can enhance creativity and promote career success, so I try to promote by filming myself for example: eat in the restaurant, go shopping, bicycling, crossing the road, using city train, tell what I do in PH – then post on my Facebook page ຄູນະພາ-Kou Napha  and Youtube Channel Kou napha. I am not an influencer but I want to inspire my young followers to study, especially English, in the other hand I want my beloved family to see what I do in abroad I would say that get two birds with one stone.

In Laos I am a young father, in order to play with Nadeer, (my daughter, 4 years old) I some time do not act my age and realized that life is light as a feather and for my child every word, sentence and every play is always amazing. “Being in Germany I feel like being in the new world, I think I am a young baby that learning to speak a language and a new world” I said this phrase in the International Symposium on the “Internationalization of Higher Education” organised shortly after my first return in 2019 by SKU and PH Karlsruhe.1 People were laughing but I think there was not really insight what I try to say.

And it always goes like that, as I try and fail to complete the simplest tasks in German like buying a train ticket at station, telling house owner what I want, ordering Doner kebab, only without pickles I realize that I am completely a baby and a baby is excited by everything while the adult lost sense of this simple joy.

In Germany punctuality is the basis manners, everybody has schedule, appointment, and duty so nobody wants to be late. Nevertheless I when time is needed people willing to help each other for instance one day’s after noon, after I finished work and hurry home walking to Europaplatz tram stop to take tram to Hagsfeld Bahnhof and it was about to leave so I put all of energy on my feet to reach the tram then I hopeless to see the door are closing and the first thing came to my mind was “wait for the next one” fortunately while I was running the man who stand close by the tram, he saw and knew that I will missed he suddenly touched the button to open the door, it was not his business but he willing to help he used his leg to stop the door until I got on.

Yes it is a very small thing but I am very impressed thank you to the kind stranger man. The tram arrived Kronenplatz people got in and got off as usual, when the tram left I saw one man without a facemask few minutes later the securities came and talked to him I do not know what they were talking about because it was in German, yes it is normally securities come and check if passengers have train ticket. I noticed he shown his ticket but it seemed he still under the trouble then I offer him a new facemask then the problem were solved. As I Buddhism believer I was thought that “The happier one is not the taker but the giver” before the securities left the tram one of them smiled at me.

I lived in Hagsfeld it takes about 20 minutes by tram to PH, even though Karlsruhe public transportation is the best ever in my life, but I wanted to have a bicycle because it easily go out especially on the weekend you can see the countryside very exclusive by bicycling but I cannot find it myself because the Swapfieth the bicycle shop that Miss Lea (a volunteer of Team V who now works in the International office and who also wrote several articles on this blog) told me where I can rent is closed.

Luckily I also met Ms Beate Pinisch again, who worked in Laos more than 20 years and of course she speak Lao very well, she kindly give me her bike. She helped me and Mr Thaithanawanh already on our first visit. So I now have a very good bike Thank you to Beate Pinisch.

I am very happy to be back in Karlsruhe.

My name is Napha Khothphouthone.


Text by N. Khothphouthone

Photos by N. Khothphouthone, S. Pouthavong & I. Martin


Editor’s note

1 The International Symposium on “The Internationalization of Higher Education” was held on 11 October 2019 at Savannakhet University (SKU), Laos, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the university, and it was organised and chaired by the two partner universities in Savannakhet and Karlsruhe. It was the first International Symposium held in Lao P.D.R. Projects partners from different subjects united on this day to report on their research. Reports on this joint conference were written by several participants at the time and supposed to be published once the Conference Proceedings were out. This publication was disrupted by Covid-19 and then delayed by other complications. (The reports will be published when the Proceedings have been made available on the SKU website.)

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