Living and learning in Karlsruhe, Germany – by Thanousone Sangthongphet (Erasmus+)
Hello everyone, this is my second post in which I would like to tell you about my three months and a half experience in Germany. Maybe you read my Letter from Laos which I wrote before of my Erasmus+ Mobility in Karlsruhe.
During the first arrival days
After long flights from Vientiane to Bangkok and from Bangkok to Frankfurt, finally, I arrived at Frankfurt Main Airport in the morning on March 5th, 2022. I took a train to Karlsruhe and arrived at the Karlsruhe main train station around 10 am. The weather was super cold for me on that day but luckily, Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin was very prepared. I think she knew in advance that we would have to deal with a big adaptation to the very cold temperature when we first get here that was why she prepared some coats for me and Souphansa. She bought some breakfast for us. I got in her car and she drove us to explore the city, Paedagogische Hochschule (“PH” – University of Education Karlsruhe) campus, and her office then she drove me and Ms Souphansa to our student dorm.
When I already learned about my new room, Souphansa’s and my buddy (Buddy program provided by PH International Office) walked to the center to explore the city and teach us how to do things and where to shop for food and clothes, and so on. They taught and helped us a lot to do an online interview with German staff before we open and register for our new German SIM Card. They helped us to do registration at the Municipal Residence Registration Office and also helped us to open a German bank account in the week after.
During the first 2 days in Karlsruhe, I got up very early at three o’clock in the morning because of jetlag. However, the days later my body was very good to cope with a big environmental adaptation.
Normally, the summer semester here starts in the middle of April but for me as an international student here, I needed to join the German Intensive Language Course first in March which was organized by the PH International Office. In the class, there were different countries the students are from such as Spain, Israel, Taiwan, Korea, and Laos.
The regular lectures of the spring semester started on 11th April 2022. I selected to attend four courses with three instructors in the English Department – “Global English(es) & Global Citizenship Education” with Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin is about the effects of globalisation and digitalisation which has been a dramatic increase in the demand for English teachers abroad over the last 30 years. This led to increased teacher and student mobility as well as research into teaching internationally and interculturally (whose “Englishes” are taught where, how, and on what political and economic terms). Prof. Martin also teaches the “Colloquium for Ph.D. and Master Students”, which “investigates and discusses research in two major fields: teacher professionalisation (Global Citizenship Education, internationalisation, digitalisation, media-didactics), and the decolonisation of their discipline (TEFL, Applied Linguistics, English literature & culture). They aim to identify convergences and crossovers between those fields and develop a discourse about our own journeys into decoloniality, to arrive at a deeper understanding of our particular responsibilities and orientations as English teachers” (course description by I. Martin).
I also visit “Flipping the Classroom“, which reverses the traditional organization of teaching and tasks: “This course examines the ideas behind this modern form of teaching and how it can be implemented in the classroom. Students will use different forms of media to create materials that can later be used in real lesson plans. Students will be expected to use their creativity to develop interesting and exciting ideas for flipping their future classrooms” (course description by J. Bearden). In “Exploring Reading” the seminar was discussing to the “three seemingly simple questions: What happens when we read? Why do we read? And how can we motivate others to read?” (course description by A. Becker) which closely interrelated and both similar and different regarding L1 and L2 reading processes. Last, but not least, I also study in a German language course as it is mandatory for international students.
In the Global English(es) class, we also got some extra workshops: The first was on “English Database Research” (guest lecturer Dr. A. Stello) which I could learn about the steps involved in writing a scientific paper, which one is helpful for English studies and what academic database sources such as MLA (“Modern Languages Association”) or JStor (“Journal Storage”, a digital library for research and teaching) can students use to access academic literature via the campus licence. The second one was “Competences for Democratic Culture” (guest lecturer Dr. R. Beecroft), which was very new knowledge and understanding for me but it was very interesting. The lecture was talking about the Council of Europe’s Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (RFCDC): “Counteracting Chauvinism with Internationalism”. A double lecture later built on this: “Self-experiments for Competences for Democratic Culture” and “Teaching the Sustainable Development Goals” (Hon.Prof. Dr. T. Hoffmann). They provoked the 80 participants to discuss urgent questions for their future.
Furthermore, I was also invited as a guest to observe the primary English classes in a primary school in Karlsruhe for two times and went along with Prof. Martin who mentors students in the ISP (Integrated Semester Practicum) by visiting their lessons and giving feedback and formative evaluation after. During the observation, I saw the ISP students have a very good lesson plan, well prepared and handle with problems in the class very well too. They had very good teaching methods, good games and quiz to motivate their pupils to play attention and be involved to their lessons.
In addition, one of my favorite part was the ISP students and their university professor (Prof. Martin) and one of the teacher in school usually had giving a feedback and evaluation after the class with the “sandwich” (positive-negative-positive comments), but before the student-teachers self-evaluate their lesson and the other students give their assessments. After the feedback from everybody, the student-teacher decides on one new development goal what to do better next time.
We usually had activities organized by the tutors of the International Club at the PH Karlsruhe. They had different activities for us like going out for dinner, bowling, playing mini-golf, trekking, etc., or even trips to different cities (Heidelberg, Speyer, Triberg, Stuttgart) so that we could see and experience as much as possible. We mainly use WhatsApp to stay in touch and inform each other about our activities. So, when we had some problems or questions we just texted and asked each other in the group. However, I am kind of an approachable person when I needed to ask someone something more privately, I usually asked directly to the one who I wanted to talk to. They were very friendly.
We as students mobility from Laos still worked closely with Prof. Martin and often had meals and talks with her. More especially, we had an international lunch on 29 May 2022 held outside at the house of Prof. Martin. It was a lovely day with the great food from different countries. It was also a wonderful chance for me to meet and talk with the new friends and learned each other culture as well. We are looking for it again in the end of July.
First impression in Germany and what I learned so far
The first thing that made me so impressed about Germany is the basic infrastructure like public transportation (long-distance, local trains, subways, trams or even buses always serve for their people all day). Second, road conditions (as I could see during my trip, most of the villages are accessible), buildings engineering (houses or apartments were designed to reduce the troubles and make their people lives easier and more comfortable).
In my three months here I think I learned so many things new for example, I can make more international friends. We had time to learn about each other cultures, talks, parties, and games and I also have more chance to travel and see what I never see before.
Finally, I think Germany has very good educational background for their population. Germans are very organized and on time. They usually have plans in advance before doing something. Regarding the lectures I participated, I love the ways that the lecturers organized their lessons and class activities. They have very good lesson materials, and also the platform LMS (Learning Management System) named StudIP, it was very useful and more comfortable for their students to follow what they would do. Therefore, I do hope that in the future I would bring my new knowledge and experience to be used for my own class, my home university and my country in general as well.
Last but not least, I would like to thank the Erasmus+ project, Karlsruhe University of Education, Savannakhet University (SKU), SKU leaders, and especially Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin for providing me this excellent and unforgettable opportunity to see and learn the new things. I gained a lot of new knowledge. I strongly believe that I would bring to develop myself and also my home institutes in the future.
Text by T. Sangthongphet
Photos by I. Martin, E. Wermuth, S. Inthichack, I. Bahar, M. Maier, S. Phouttavong, T. Sangthongphet
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