Home office – away from home*

At the end of January 2020, shortly before Corona, it was a done deal: my full-time office position at the Karlshochschule in Karlsruhe became location-independent and part-time. I could fulfil my dream and live as an international nomad working from my home office abroad.

I had wanted to turn my back on Germany for some time back then, live again in another country and have time to explore the unknown. After Norway, Northern Spain, Cuba and New Zealand, the next destination should be Andalusia. After all, it was winter in Germany. After a few weeks in Seville and Malaga, Corona overtook the world and forced me to return home to Germany. Two months and three cancellations later my plane finally took off to Lisbon, where I spent half a year before I moved to Algarve in winter. I was drawn to by Portugal after I hiked from its southwest tip, the Cabo Sao Vicente along the coast with its wild shore and pristine beaches over 1,000 km to Santiago de Compostela a few years ago.

Alexander Trefz
Alexander Trefz – working from abroad as Fundraiser and Partnership Coordinator in the International Office of the Karlshochschule.

Since the beginning of July 2021 I am now in Georgia – a country which had been completely unknown to me. I only knew that the mighty Caucasus attracted hikers from all over the world and that it was – just like Portugal – a popular destination for the so-called Digital Nomads. Any place where there is good Internet, it is safe, not too expensive and no complicated visa procedures hinder the entry they call home.

Settling in Portugal and Georgia was no problem at all. There are regular meet-ups, networking events and co-working organized over the internet by the numerous Facebook expat and nomad groups. You quickly learn where it’s best to live and work and in which co-working space the coffee is the tastiest. The dynamics of the communities are dampened by changing Covid regulations, for example, when meetings are limited or even prohibited. Another challenge is certainly the developing of a routine when you are new to a place; work in the morning or evening? From home or to coworking? Which coworking space does suit me needs best? Heading home for meals or to the coffee shop?

There are other challenges too. In the workday itself, I miss the social component. I’ve always enjoyed maintaining a personal relationship with students and my colleagues – not just talking about work or chit-chatting over the laptop screen. There is no more after-work beer accompanied by a game of cards either nor a round of table tennis in the Play Space at the Karlshochschule, unfortunately.

If you If you don’t meet in the office every day, it’s important to have a good digital connection with the team. That way, you can exchange information regularly and are always on call when you’re needed. In the International Office, I mainly take care of the management of our scholarship programs. We are proud to be able to offer our students a wide variety of scholarships, mainly for their semester abroad. This involves a lot of work for us which is not always that visible to students; for example, every year we have to submit new applications for the scholarship funds, submit proofs showing its correct use, and prepare extensive final reports. Not to mention the operational management, which fortunately my two colleagues Alina and Leonie take good care of. Maintaining contacts with the partner network, acquiring new universities, and implementing internationalization at Karls are also areas of responsibility that I can handle just as well from a distance. I was recently allowed to visit a university in Tbilisi, where we do not have a partner yet and it gives me great pleasure to announce that my visit was successful and our President Prof. Michael Zerr has just signed a student exchange agreement with the prestigious Caucasus University, one of the top universities in Georgia.

Café Stamba Tiflis
Alex working at the Café Stamba in Tbilisi, Georgia

All in all, I am really happy for this opportunity and I would like to thank Karlshochschule for making it happen. I am still proud to be an ambassador of our university and to represent the Karls’ spirit and its values from my home office abroad.

Article by Alexander Trefz *AT – Fundraiser and Partnership Coordinator in the International Office.

*Karlshochschule is an educational institution and a non-profit organization as well. We want to encourage individuals and young people to take responsibility, find their own voice and initiate change in a sustainable and tolerant way. Listening to different opinions not only promotes different perspectives, but also discourse. The content of this blog is characterized by the diverse experience and opinions of the authors, which may not be the majority opinion of the university, but provokes reflection and discussion.

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