My name is Dr Martin Remmele and I work at the Institute of Biology and School Gardening at the University of Education Karlsruhe. Last year, I co-mentored Shirin Ud-Din‘s Bachelor thesis about Health and education: First steps in medical awareness concerning health issues in Lao schools together with Prof. Isabel Martin, who then invited to me to join her Erasmus+ project with Laos. As I supposed that collaborating with Lao colleagues might be fruitful for both sides I spontaneously said “yes”.
The 25th of February 2019 was quite exciting, because this is when I met my Lao colleagues of the Erasmus+ project at Savannakhet University for the first time. I went to Savannakhet aiming to collaborate especially with researchers of the department of Food Science in teaching and research. For our first meeting, only a few hours after my arrival, a wonderful restaurant with some typical Lao barbecue specialities was chosen.
Dr Phetsamone Khattiyavong, head of the Lao Erasmus+ team, and Ms Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath, my direct cooperation partner, and some further fine colleagues were excellent hosts on this evening. I immediately got the impression that I was a welcome guest here and that this could be the starting point of successful work during the next two weeks.
Finding the red thread for collaboration
The following two days were very interesting because we started to get to know each other – how would a researcher in food science and a researcher in biological education fit together? We started off by giving presentations about our work: Ms Viengvilaiphone Botthoulath, other colleagues of the Lao working group and I introduced ourselves by presenting our distinct research and teaching topics. It became clear that the meeting-point of both institutions would be sustainable development and education for sustainable development. From this moment on, all working days – even Saturday afternoon – were dedicated to working on this topic besides also doing some job-shadowing in teaching and administration.
We also made a plan how to collaborate in the future even beyond the present Erasmus+ project. It became obvious that visibility of the present collaboration’s outcome would strengthen any further applications for funding. This is why we developed a strategy for research with related publications. As major topics for this research, both cultures’ viewpoints on sustainable development queries in both countries were chosen.
Meeting on the personal level
However, we did not only meet for professional collaboration, but also on the personal level. My stay at Savannakhet was escorted by great kindness. We got along well with each other, had dinner together on several evenings, and – this is probably my most memorable experience – I was invited to go by car to Thakek, had a fantastic barbecue for lunch at a beautiful riverside, visited some exciting caves – and one of those by boat.
For the grand finale my colleague Prof. Dr. Isabel Martin and I were invited to celebrate the International Women’s Day at the house of Dr Phetsamone Khattiyavong and Mr Sonexay Pasitkhammun. Then, we were sorry to say goodbye. However, we are really looking forward to further collaboration with our SKU partners in Germany and in Laos later this year.
Text & photos by M. Remmele