How I fell in love with Germany – a training-and-travel report by Ms Moukdala Keomixai

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Editors’ note: Within the Recruitment and Training Programme of BHS Corrugated with the Lao-German Technical College, the company invited five teachers of the college and two apprentices to an eight-week training course in Weiherhammer (Bavaria, Germany) in July and August 2018. For these seven people three different kinds of training courses were offered, to suit their occupational specializations: Electrical vocational training (Mr Bouthavy Siphonephath, Mr Lumphone Kounglavongsa, Ms Siliphone Arnousavanh), Mechanical vocational training (Mr Somphou Khamphila, Mr Soksai Aphaiyalath), and Administration of Dual Vocational Education and Training (Ms Moukdala Keomixai, Mr Saythong Insarn). The technical training courses consisted of a total of four weeks’ training in the production and assembly facilities of BHS Corrugated and four weeks’ guided training in the ÜBZO (Überbetriebliches Bildungszentrum in Ostbayern gGmbH – Intercompany Training Center in Eastern Bavaria). The scope of each training was accustomed to the participants’ needs, so there were different modules offered for the apprentices and the teachers. The administrative training course was mainly conducted in the ÜBZO.
Ms Moukdala Keomixai and Mr Saythong Insarn from the department “Cooperation, Development & IT” at the Lao-German Technical College joined the administrative training course in order to gain insights into the ways training is conducted at BHS Corrugated (and in Germany in general). In this post, Ms Moukdala Keomixai reports on the experiences she made during her six weeks in Germany.

Hello, ladies and gentlemen! Moukdala is back if you are a real fan of “The Laos Experience” blog you probably have read my article on that page. If you have not read the article, please go back and  find the article, “Letter from Laos – Hello, I’m Moukdala”. I said at the end of the “Letters from Laos”: “in the future I will get new experience at somewhere in abroad and I will let you know again.”

You know what? My dream came true. I had an opportunity to go to Germany. The trip was supported by BHS Corrugated Company (BHS) and it was six weeks long (four weeks of training and two weeks of traveling). I was very happy when I heard “Mouk, You are going to Germany!” I was in shock and my hands were cold. I could not stop smiling for whole day.

In July of 2018, my Germany trips began; I went to Germany with four teachers and two students. We flew from Laos airport to Thailand airport and then from Thailand to Munich. It took 11 hours from Thailand to Munich airport and it was a very long flight.  BHS’s staffs picked us up from the airport. It took another two hours by car from the Munich airport to guesthouse. We had a pretty long day. When we arrived at the guesthouse, we saw Johannes Zeck was standing in front the guesthouse. We were very happy to see him!

I work as a coordinator at LGTC. In our school, we conduct Dual Cooperative Training (DCT) system for students and BHS in Germany has a very good DCT system. I had a chance to go to Germany to learn and observe DCT system on how they do what they do and why they have a good system. I had trained in UeBZO Center at the BHS in Weihammer in Bavaria.

Johannes Zeck gave us tour at BHS on the first day. BHS was huge. BHS has high technology system and it was built in modern style. BHS also has good working system and it is very organized. Every workers have to follow every process that BHS has. I have seen many high technology machines, and have learned a lot of new things for first time visited BHS. People at BHS are nice and friendly. They say Hello, Morning, Morgen,… (Greeting) every time we passed each other. I saw one program (vocational orientation course in the field of electrical, mechanics and IT) that I really like at BHS. BHS gives students hand on training for the field that students are interested in studying when they go to college or university. If in Laos gives the similar program to high school students. I think it would be a great benefit for students because some students might not like what they do and it would not be too late to change their mind.

As I mentioned, BHS is huge however, there are not many staffs because it was full of working materials and high technology machines. The high technology machines help BHS to do a lot of things. For example, it has a lifter to move the heavy things. If Laos has a huge company like that it would have more than 1000 persons.

Everything during the training was organized by Ms Sonja Pruell; Sonja Pruell organized what we have to do and where we should stay. Sonja Pruell also planned some activities for us. Sonja Pruell was nice, and she took us to the market to buy food and other things. There was only one supermarket that is near the guesthouse, but was quite expensive. It was a small supermarket and it didn’t have all of the things that we wanted, e.g. special seasoning for Asian food or shavers for the men. So, we went to  a bigger supermarket in Weiden once a week. The guesthouse was pretty near to BHS. We bike to BHS everyday. It was so convenience.

The training was four weeks. During the training we went sightseeing in several places around the city on the weekends. We were invited to Madam Gerlinde Engel’s house because she made a birthday party for foundation assistant Ms Bouangeun Hanthavong’s husband (Mr Boontee Hanthavong).1 Johannes Zeck organized the van and drove us there. We had snacks and chatted. And then we all went to a nice restaurant for dinner and the food was amazing.

A week later, Johannes Zeck invited us to visit Wuerzburg. The city where he lives at the weekend – he is working in Weiherhammer during the week and commuting to Wuerzburg on the weekend. He guided tour us through the city. It was big city, and there are many big shops. I saw many people were standing and enjoying their time on the bridge. Some people were drinking beer and wine and some of people were there to enjoy the nice weather. I was very surprised to suddenly see two beautiful ladies there (Ariane Kummetz and Sandra Uhlig of Team V). They knew we were coming to visit Johannes Zeck and they came to meet us as a surprise. We had lunch together. We went up to the castle to see the city overview, and the castle was beautiful in the inside and out.

The day after, on Sunday, we went back to Munich with Ms Sonja Pruell to explore the main city in Germany. Unfortunately, the shops were closed and we walked around the church in Munich and took some pictures. We went up to the town of the church called Old Peter It was beautiful to see overview of the church and the city. We saw the place to sit and watched football that day was a final match for world cup.

My time in Weihammer has been almost three weeks. I met Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin and the three new volunteers (Team VII: Dilara Erdogan, Nicole Wiesa and Patricia Hopp) when they came for a meeting to Weiherhammer. We had lunch at a restaurant in BHS. Later during that day, the three volunteers gave a presentation to get to know each other. Saythong and I also presented about LGTC.

I could not believe that I spent four weeks in Weihammer already, time went by so fast. I still had two more weeks to travel. I had a plan to meet a friend (Sandra Uhlig from Team V) in Karlsruhe. Luckily, I didn’t have to travel from Weihammer to Karlsruhe by myself because Johannes Zeck had a meeting there. Right after we got there, Johannes Zeck had to go a meeting and Sandra Uhlig was still at work. I went to a mall alone to kill my time while I was there; I was excited and scared at the same time.

I stayed at Sandra Uhligs’ place for three day. I met some great new and old friends from different teams (Patricia Hopp (Team VII), Anna-Lena Hajek, Tasja Reule (both Team VI), Ariane Kummetz (Team V), Amelie Reiling, Christiane Morlok (both Team IV), Lena Wink (Team III). We spent some time together. we went to castle in Karlsruhe and watched the lights show.

After three days in Karlsruhe, Sandra Uhlig and I went to visit her mom in Brigachtal. Sandra’s mom was amazing. She treated me like her own daughter. She cooked food for us, and she took care of everything. Sandra’s mom took us to different places in town, but the Black Forest and a park were my favorite. I heard the name of the Black Forest before, at that time I thought in my mind Black Forest would be only black trees, but when I was there, the Black Forest was a wonderful place that I have ever seen. The Black Forest was actually green!

There were a lot of trees and the shape of some of the leaves were very tiny like a needle. The park we went looked like any other parks just one thing was different. The park had “Kneippen”. The Kneippen is a small pond. The pond fills with cold water about knee deep water and the cold water flows from mountain. People here believe that walking in the cold water will help improve their bodies and make they feel healthy. I walked in the pond two rounds and water was cold as ice. I liked it but I don’t think that I can walk more than two rounds. I would go visit that park again when I go to Germany.

Three days later, I took the train back to Karlsruhe to meet some old friends (Denise Burkhardt, Lena Wink, and Juliana Kase, all from Team III). Denise picked me up at the train station, and we had dinner in Karsruhe. It was very nice to see all of my friends again. The last day in Karlsruhe, we watched the lights show at castle in Karlsruhe again.

Denise and I then went to Denise’s house, her family was so kind. I stayed at Denise’s house for a week; her family treated me I am a part of the family. Denise took me different places (Heidelberg, camping, theater, cave, and zoo). Denise introduced me to her good friends, and they were very friendly to me. I liked every places that Denise took me but I liked camping the most because I’ve never been camping before. It felt good to get away from the city and got some fresh air.

The last week in Germany, I stayed at Mr Bernhard Fuerst’s house in Bogen. Mr Fuerst gave me very warm welcome. I’ve worked with Mr Fuerst for awhile in Laos and I felt so grateful to finally met his family.He invited all of us to come to “Gaeubodenfest” in Straubing. It is one of the biggest festivals in Bavaria. There is a big agricultural exhibition there. I met Sandra Uhlig again. Sandra Uhlig came to say goodbye to us. Mr. Fuerst kindly drove us to the airport.

I was sad and happy to come back home. I wanted to explore the country more and spend more time with my old and new friends. At the same, I was excited to see my family and eat Lao food.

Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip was amazing and unforgettable! I have done and seen a lot of things that I’ve never done or seen in my entire life. It was great learning experiences. I will apply what I gain from this trip to develop our school and my life. I would love to go back to Germany again because they are other things that I have not done. I am sure that every time to go there I would gain new experiences.

Fell in love with Germany!


Text & photos by M. Keomixai



1 Editor’s note: The Hanthavong family, including 10-year-old Thonee, were invited by Angels for Children to Germany for one month for a holiday and in order to discuss the foundation’s further development. Mr Boontee Hantavong is a pediatrician currently working in a governmental medical plantation in Huaphan province, in the north of Laos. After graduating from his state-financed medical studies two years ago, Mr Boontee Hanthavong was sent there to supervise the project activities as part of his governmental duties. He is planning to return to Vientiane soon, in order to work in a public hospital and to open up a private pharmacy in Ban Sikeud.

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