Project Diary: German sports student Fabian Otte about his research journey in India

Right now he is studying sports at famous University Deutsche Sporthochschule in Cologne, Germany. In 2019 Fabian Otte took a trip to India – combining his passion for sports and game playing with his studies.

For the transatlantic diablog Otte recaps his trip to the sub-continent.

140 subjects in three weeks? Sounds unrealistic – but it is not, at least not in India,” Otte says. His idea: Collecting data on traditional games and emotional game intensity in India. “I would also like to motivate people to do research abroad, as it brings a number of advantages.

Here is his report:

Saturday, 13th July 2019 – The semester was just one day over and besides an expedition in Norway I had not planned much for the lecture-free time. As so often on Saturdays, I was about to call my good friend from India, Roopam Sharma, with whom I regularly talk on the phone on weekends. He is a scientist and young inventor of an alternative technology for Braille – we met in May 2018 at a conference for social entrepreneurship in Sweden.

Since then, we have been exchanging ideas and constantly accompanying each other on our paths through life. He often travels to Europe because of his work, where he is invited to conferences, which is why I asked him the following question just for fun: “Tell me Roopam, when are you actually coming back to Europe so that we can see each other again?” He constantly answered: “The question is, when are you coming to India?” For a short moment I was winded, because I actually noticed that I hadn’t planned anything for the first half of the semester break. In answer to his question I told him that I would let him know by Monday whether I would be coming to India during the semester break or not.

Data collection with students in a school in Andra Pradesh. Photo: Fabian Otte

Sunday, 14th July 2019 – After I had slept for a night, it was clear to me: I will fly to India and collect data that I can use for my bachelor thesis and the organization “Global Sports & Play Initiative” which I founded at the beginning of the year. I applied for the visa, told Roopam about my decision and booked the flight for Thursday. In other words – I had three days to create a complete study design and prepare my trip.

After targeted literature research, a meeting with Prof. Dr. Daniel Memmert and a few Excel experiments, my study design was complete. I had designed a study for a 10-person experiment with 3 questionnaires per person. More precisely: I wanted to find out how people – children and adults – react to certain game instructions. In addition, my study was designed to find out more about traditional games and cultural sports and exercise practices in India through some open instruction. So I started looking for a way to measure the intensity of playing and came across the playing intensity scale from a Dutch researcher. As this scale was an observation instrument, I transformed it into a questionnaire, which made it possible for me alone to collect the data.

Fabian Otte during the execution of the experiments in a Badminton Academy with the players’ parents. Photo: Fabian Otte

Game instructions? Playing intensity? What?! – The reason why I want to do research in this field is simple. I would like to find out how I can bring people, especially adults, back into childlike play, which they perceive as intense, and thus enjoy personality development. My hypothesis is: If children perceive game X as intensive, then it is also possible for adults. However, it is likely that adults need different instructions than children, so I tried 3 different types of instructions, which should lead to different variation possibilities of the participants: Open instructions, half closed and closed.

The open instructions also gave me the opportunity to find out more about traditional Indian forms of play, sports and movement, more on this later. Since a good study design in quantitative research is unfortunately not sufficient to actually carry out the studies, I also used all my contacts in India to find test persons with whom I could finally conduct my experiments. For this purpose I wrote to some NGOs, whose founders or chairmen I already knew through conferences or other contacts, to ask them about research possibilities within their structures. The feedback came surprisingly quick and almost all the organisations I contacted confirmed my request. This gave me the opportunity to cooperate with 2 universities, 4 schools, 2 communities, 2 NGOs, 2 sports academies and a social enterprise and to conduct my experiments in their structures.

“In all places I was friendly welcomed,” says Fabian Otte. Photo: Fabian Otte

These organizations and institutions are located in the 5 cities of Faridabad, Delhi, Vijawada, Ahmedabad and Dehradun, all of which are located in different states. Accordingly, within 3 weeks, I travelled all over the country from north to east to west and back to north again, carrying out a total of 14 one-and-a-half hour experiments in groups of 10 with 140 people, 7 groups of children and 7 of adults.

In all places I was friendly welcomed in the structures of the institutions which additionally supported my data collection. That was a real blessing for me!

Apart from the idea and implementation of the project, I would also like to discuss how valuable it can be for you to plan and carry out such a stay abroad. First of all, I would like to emphasize that travelling and the contact with people of other cultures has helped me a lot here in Germany to broaden my perspective on the world and life and also to look at my behaviour from a completely new perspective and reflect it differently.

We already live in a globalized world where it has never been easier to interact with and learn from people from other cultures. It’s very simple and trivial to talk to an international student and try to find common synergies. I have already had the experience that people who come to Germany from other countries are mostly very curious and willing to learn a lot, especially about different personalities. It is up to us as hosts to make the first step. Maybe it may not seem so enriching at first sight, but it is very worth it.

Read what Fabian Otte says about the main motivations and key success-factors of his work here.