Letter from Cameroon (no. 2) by Larissa Faiza Kongnso

Academic Research, Activism, All Posts, Decoloniality, Decolonise Your Mind, First impressions, Partnership, Teams

Dear Readers,

I am Larissa Faiza Kongnso, a student teacher from Higher Teacher Training College in Yaoundé  Cameroon, which is a training ground for those who aspire to become teachers. I am taking part in the ASA Academia project, Rethinking education: Decolonising internationalisation and knowledge production 2024. In this project, our aim is to decolonise our minds, discover new ways of knowledge production,  challenge existing stereotypes and create awareness about the different power imbalances that clouds the society. I am writing to tell you how I became part of this project. I would also like to express my enthusiasm and expectations about my trip and short stay in Germany and share my first impressions of Karlsruhe with you.

There was a conference at the Higher Teacher Training College in Cameroon on November 22, 2023, organised by Dr. Ekembe and chaired by Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin, Prof.Dr. Nkemleke,which I attended. During this conference, many lecturers like Professor Neba, Professor Dasi, Professor Kusi, Professor Angwa, Dr Maiwong from the Training College Yaoundé presented their research about decolonising English Language Teaching systems in captivating ways. Afterwards, students who became interested could apply for the ASA Academia exchange program. The requirements to apply, such as being able to work under pressure scared me a little but I took it as a challenge. My motivation to take part in this project was mainly to interact and exchange ideas with the other project members (bi-directional learning system). Upon my return to Cameroon, I will share my experience and insights gained during the project phase through workshops, seminars, and conferences.

We are six participants: three from Cameroon and three from Germany. This is interesting because we come from diverse backgrounds. I think this project is important because it helps connect people with common interests from diverse cultural backgrounds, which is crucial since the world is a global village.

Despite the undulating internet network, I decided to apply. Fortunately, in the end, I made it to the shortlist. I was really happy and waiting for more good news from the team. And then, I received an email from the German program organizer: Engagement Global. They sent a link to complete the ASA registration form. In this email conversation, I got to know my contact person – Miroslava (Mirka) Gaborova . At this point, I had to start preparing my travelling documents and read the ASA guidelines for participants 2024.

I have had so much fun up until now. Just the thought of traveling to Germany has always given me butterflies in my belly. Germany has always captivated me with its extensive farming systems in my Geography lessons in secondary school. And behold, the landscapes are not different  from what I expected as I can see asparagus and strawberry fields, especially in Bruchsal.  With regard to education, Germany is known to be a ground for quality education, especially with scholarship programs offered by DAAD, Humboldt research fellowship, etc., which aim to achieve  Goal #4 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations Agenda for 2030. These goals are relevant to me, because they serve as a guide to check the development of countries, especially in terms of sustainability. 

Cameroon, my home country, has two official languages – English and French – and about two hundred local languages, making the country linguistically diverse. Cameroon is also blessed with rich natural touristic sites like Reunification_Monument in Yaounde, Mount Cameroon, Twin Lake, Museums, Kribi Waterfalls.  

The culinary tradition in Cameroon is diverse, with various dishes representing the country’s rich culture. Some well known dishes in Cameroon are “waterfufu and eru“, waterfufu is made from cassava and eru is a vegetable cooked with beef, cow skin, and smoked fish. “Fufu and njamanjama with kahti kahti, fufu is made from maize flour and eaten with njama njama (huckelberry), and khati khati (roasted chicken). “Ndole which is a meal from peanut butter, green vegetables commonly called bitter leaf“, spices, beef or fish, to be eaten with plantains, potatoes or yam. Personally, I enjoy  eating  “fufu and njamanjama with kahti khati” because it is a meal from my place of origin. Therefore, I always feel a connection to my roots while savouring it. Regarding traditional dances, there are numerous dances and traditional regalia such as “toghu“, “kaba ngondo“, “boubou“. All these reflect the diverse heritage of the Cameroonian people.

Agriculture is Cameroon’s backbone. There is cattle rearing, cultivation of rice, maize, millet, vegetables, fruits. Sports is very important and diverse as well. Cameroon has a whole lot of sporting activities like football, volleyball, gymnastics, judo, etc. And whenever someone hears Samuel Eto’o Fils“,  Cameroon comes to mind.

I think these background facts about Cameroon are helpful in decolonising and diversifying our minds. Moreso, I am writing to you, so you can get to know Cameroon’s culture through reading.

I’ve heard a lot about how efficient, clean, and orderly German cities are, and I have seen it for myself.  I expected  German people to be nice, accepting, and open-minded to international students like me. My first impressions of Karlsruhe confirmed that, they are even more than I had imagined. I am excited to have immersed myself in their way of life. Nevertheless, I had to get used to some unfamiliar aspects.

Starting from the temperature which was one of my first impressions of Karlsruhe. It was really strange how cold (six degrees and sometimes zero degrees at night) it was. That was my first time to experience that. It was really too cold for me for the first week but after the second week, I was already adapting to the temperature differences in Germany and Cameroon. Additionally, I also noticed that, at 9 pm in Germany, it is still daylight. Meanwhile in Cameroon, at 6 pm, everywhere is already engulfed in darkness. This was really fascinating to me.

Another cultural shock was the way people in Germany  love and cherish pets, especially dogs. Many people own a pet or two, and love galivanting around with the pets. This is so unusual in Cameroon, that is why I was scared of pets at the beginning. However, I soon realised that the pets are harmless and very friendly.

Furthermore, I still struggle with the train and tram system. There are just so many and it is difficult to master them. Mostly because to me, the streets are so much alike that I am likely to confuse one for another.

Nevertheless, my first impressions of life in Karlsruhe and at the university are very positive. So far in Germany, I have had a good time at PH Karlsruhe. We have been attending some courses like “Decolonial Praxis” offered by Prof.Dr. Isabel Martin. In this course, the aim is to turn decolonial theory into practice, particularly via Critical Language Awareness as future English teachers. We aim to deconstruct course books, the enrollment process or module handbooks. Another course is “Decolonial English Languge Teaching”, which also focuses on decolonising the English language teaching system, different ideas on knowledge production and having exchanges with the other students. All in all, we are looking at how our thinking and actions influenced by colonialism can be decolonised through bi-directional exchange.

Furthermore, I have tried  different types of German cuisine like: pretzel, döner, asparagus and ham with creamy sauce, schnitzel, aperol spritz, strawberry cheese cake, iced tea, apple cake,  mashed potatoes with spinach, strawberries and much more. I have visited places like Heidelberg, Stuttgart, a Lake in Forst. To add to my first impressions, I have gone to a concert in Karlsruhe, played beer pong and had bicycle training. I also attended cultural activities like singing and theatrical performances. That has added even more fun to my stay in Germany so far.

I am grateful to the ASA team for bringing such opportunities.  I’ll keep you in the loop about my activities and experiences in Germany.

With warm greetings,
Larissa Faiza Kongnso


Text by: Larissa Faiza Kongnso

Photos by: Nsom Randol Ankiambom, Kwalar Larissa Njuh, Dr. Nicole Bachor-Pfeff, Sandra Ngainjang Shonkeh, Bright-Mercy Ebane Ndutu

Share this: