Interview with Kerem

Let’s start by quickly introducing yourself. What do you study, how did you get in contact with IstKon and why did you choose to become an IstKon coordinator?

My name is Kerem and I study Political Science & International Relations at the Marmara University in Istanbul. When I was in Erasmus, I saw all the pictures of IstKon18 in istanbul. After that I said to myself: I really need to be part of that! And so I applied for IstKon19 as a participant in the academic team. IstKon was an opportunity to develop myself, so I really wanted to join the core team. So I thought a lot about how I can be beneficial for IstKon and saw that the coordinator position really fit well with my skills. 

Being a coordinator surely had its ups and downs, what was the most memorable moment in your IstKon work?

This academic year had two ups:

  • At one night during the Future Conference in Istanbul (around the end of the night) we were all very tired & happy, but I thought: That’s the stuff that I would like to do!
  • Also the Combined Core Team meetings during the ongoing pandemic were very memorable, when we were deciding how and what will happen. It was stressful and exciting at the same time and it felt like it was nothing regular, but special.

While we talk about IstKon, when did you know that the conference wouldn’t happen this year? How did you feel at that moment?

The decision of the Turkish government to close the borders was the moment, when we lost all confidence that IstKon might happen in the near future. But we needed to look for alternatives and to stay positive for the participants. So we tried our best and thought about what we could do instead. The closing of the border was still a big risk for IstKon. I felt a lot of stress, my hope was really low and damaged at that moment.

But then you somehow came up with the digital conference, right? What was the concept of it?

First we discussed if we should do the conference digitally or not, but then we wanted to show that an exchange can continue without crossing the border, so we tried to make it digital! The concept was two-fold and simple: The first and biggest part of the digital conference was the focus on improving relations between buddies. The smaller second part was about staying active and connected like through the presentation sessions (f.ex. about climate change).

So did it go as planned? Tell us your experience.

Yeah, better than expected! The participation was higher than expected, since we promised a real person-to-person exchange to the people, not a digital one. But we were surprised about the enjoyably high participation. People showed a feeling of belonging to IstKon.

So what are your plans with IstKon now?

  1. We want to have IstKon happen in the future safely, so we need to find a way to overcome uncertainty.
  2. We will prepare the next Core Team as good as we can for the tasks they’ll have to master.

Do you want to tell the readers something in the end?

Even during uncertain and hopeless times, we made the exchange happen. Having an exchange is not only going to another country, but also sharing ideas and chasing the future!

Thank you for joining this interview! 🙂

Interview with Liese

Let’s start by quickly introducing yourself. What do you study, how did you get in contact with IstKon and why did you choose to become an IstKon coordinator?

My name is Liese and I study Political Science and Public Administration in the Bachelor at the University of Konstanz. Through a presentation, I came in contact with IstKon and the exchange & the concept of the buddy program seemed interesting to me. Then I joined the IstKon conference in 2019 as a participant in the logistics team. I just loved it! I made a lot of friends with whom I am still in touch. It was eye-opening, I got a different perspective and wanted to get more involved. So I questioned myself: What am I good as? I am kinda comfortable with coordinating, communicating and organizing…So coordinator it is? I really enjoyed that, especially because of the great Core Team!

Being a coordinator surely had its ups and downs, what was the most memorable moment in your IstKon work?

I was sitting with the Core Team of Konstanz in a study room at university: It was midnight and we were choosing participants while eating pizza. It was very exhaustive but fun at the same time. So I thought “If we still have fun now, IstKon will be fine”. The people just made it fun, because it is working toward a common goal with friends and not some boring work.

While we talk about IstKon, when did you know that the conference wouldn’t happen this year? How did you feel at that moment?

It was a kinda really drawn out decision, nobody knew how Corona would change things. In mid march we decided during three Skypes (which seemed to take forever) that we have to cancel IstKon. After that decision, the people just stayed in the skype, like friends. We were very invested and worked up. It was difficult to make that decision, because the travel ban into Turkey was just ending some days before IstKon. Still, everybody supported the decision and in retrospect, it was the right thing to do.

But then you somehow came up with the digital conference, right? What was the concept of it? 

The concept was quite simple: Give participants the possibility to meet people and buddies they would have, if the conference would have worked as planned in person. A big part of IstKon is connecting people and building friendships. We decided to spend 5 skypes in a span of a month with different activities like PowerPoint Karaoke, Game Night or movie night. Also we matched people into buddy pairs and had buddy challenges (f.ex. VLOGs about days or presenting favourite songs). We wanted to give people the IstKon experience and they enjoyed it a lot!

So did it go as planned? Tell us your experience.

Sometimes we had technical difficulties (f.ex. not the best internet connection at everyone’s place overall), but because things were organized collaboratively, other people could step in to save it. In general it went very smooth, probably because we could draw from the experiences of having many skype/zoom calls. We want to keep that digital part for next IstKon to enrich the physical conference with a digital get-to-know beforehand.

So what are your plans with IstKon now?

Now we will choose the new Core Team for IstKon21 and introduce them slowly to the concept of IstKon, so they can organize it well. Also we hope IstKon21 will happen as normal… We want to cooperate more with SCC for the Future Conference and in general organizing our events. It’s important to connect the organization team, because the Future Conference will be probably digital as well. Let’s see, I am excited to see where everything goes!

Do you want to tell the readers something in the end? 

I am really hoping that IstKon21 will take place in person. But this experience of organizing IstKon20  was also very valuable for me. I am glad for the IstKon and SCC family, that everyone is holding so much together. It’s a great project and I hope it’ll continue for years!

Thank you for joining this interview! 🙂

#3 post from the quarantine – Covid-19

Covid-19 is spreading and we see everyday news about Covid-19. What we can do is to help to #flattenthecurve by #stayingathome and #socialdistancing. Therefore, we asked some of our members how they experience the crisis, how they have been affected and what their country is doing against Covid-19. To share also some positive points, our members will give recommendations on what we can do while staying most of the day at home.

In our previous blog posts, we have dealt with the situation in France and Turkey. This article deals with the situation in Italy: The pictures from Italy go around the world. Italy was the first European country where the corona pandemic broke out and has a high mortality rate. Therefore, Itlay has been in a national lockdown for three weeks now, but with a slight hope, because the numbers are finally decreasing

Today we speak with Elisabetta Girardi who stays in Italy at the moment. She talks about her own experience of the situation in Italy and what makes her realize how serious the Corona crisis is.

SCC: Please describe how you are and where you are staying right now

Elisabetta: I am spending the quarantine in my hometown, a small village close to Bergamo, that is one of the European areas most affected by the Covid-19 crisis. Luckily I am fine, as my family is. 

Have you had to move in the past couple of weeks? If yes, why and to where?

No. In Italy, quarantine has been established in the first days of March and since then I have remained isolated. 

How is Italy reacting to the Corona crisis?

The Italian government has emitted several decrees that keep us citizens informed about what we can and can not do. To date, most productive activities have been shut down and we can exit our homes only for undelayable necessities. 

How do you feel about the actions of Italy against the Corona crisis?

I think Italy is reacting relatively well considering the exceptional situation. No one was ready, and the government initially reacted slowly, sometimes prioritizing the economy over people’s health. However, as the gravity of the situation became clear, the government has taken strict measures and working to ensure economic support to little entrepreneurs. 

Let us talk about your experience. How are you affected by the Corona crisis?

I should have spent the current in Brazil, studying at the University of Sao Paulo. Unfortunately, my flight scheduled on 12th March was canceled and I could not leave. However, I am being able to follow the courses via online tools, since also Brazil has closed down its universities. 

How do you experience the Corona crisis living in isolation?

After three weeks of almost complete isolation, the need to meet people is strong. But I am lucky since I am healthy and I have all I need at home. I am worried because the hospitals are reaching their limits and we do not see the end of this emergency. 

What is for you most important concerning the Corona crisis?

Seeing friends with relatives in the hospital not being able to receive information. Grandparents dying and the families being denied funerals… I think this made me really understand how serious the situation is.

How do you spend your time while being in quarantine?

I have tried to establish a routine that helps me going and feel productive! I follow my classes online, do sport, cook (a lot) and read. 

To conclude: Do you have any tips on what to do during the Corona crisis?

Establish sport routine! Helps the mood and keeps you healthy 😉 

#2 Post from the quarantine – Covid 19

Covid-19 is spreading and we see everyday news about Covid-19. What we can do is to help to #flattenthecurve by #stayingathome and #socialdistancing. Therefore, we asked some of our members how they experience the crisis, how they have been affected and what their country is doing against Covid-19. To share also some positive points, our members will give recommendations on what we can do while staying most of the day at home.

Today we speak with Ilay Ozsan who reports from Turkey and how she experiences the Corona crisis as a medical student.

SCC: How are you and where you are staying right now?

Ilay: I live in Ankara. Just like everyone else, I also feel worried about the coronavirus pandemic because it is something that we have never faced before. We do not know much about the virus, and it is spreading all around the world at a horrific rate. I am making an effort to stay calm and trying to control the viral propagation by taking simple precautions and educating friends and acquaintances.

How is Turkey reacting to the Corona crisis?

The schools are closed in Turkey and many of the hospitals have been designated as pandemic centers. These hospitals test as many suspected cases as possible. Media campaigns, including television and social media, are encouraging people to stay at home and maintain social distancing. They are also encouraging everybody to work from home if they can. People older than 65 years old are not allowed to go out, and people with symptoms are self-isolating for at least two weeks. Some banks and shopping malls are closed. Concerts, meetings, gatherings, and social activities have been canceled.

Now we would like to get to know more about your personal situation: How are you affected by the Corona crisis?

I am a fifth-year medical student at Ankara University. The university is closed and my classes have been suspended, which may delay my graduation. On a more personal level, I am worried for my family and friends who may be affected.

How do you experience the Corona crisis as a medical student?

The university hospital is being used to test potential coronavirus cases. The ones who test positive are also treated here. All the doctors at the university, including my professors, are tirelessly to treat patients. I appreciate and admire their resilience, courage and hard work. The medical staff here is on the front-lines, at great personal risk, and is helping in this area regardless of their specializations.

What is for you most important concerning the Corona crisis?

I think this pandemic will make us realize how important it is to have pandemic response plans in place so that societies are better equipped to deal with similar situations in the future. I also hope that in the future we will be more cautious of the factors that led to this pandemic spreading so quickly.

What would you recommend our readers to do right now? How should we act now?

We should take the necessary measures and not panic. Specifically, we should keep our hands and environment sanitized as much as possible and we shouldn’t go out, if possible. If we do have to go out, we have to avoid close contact with people. Social distancing is the key to breaking the chain of transmission. Also, everyone needs to realize that this pandemic is a global crisis and all countries need to support each other to control it as soon as possible in order not to suffer from its negative physical, mental, social and financial impacts in the long term.

#1 Post from the quarantine – Covid-19

What has been first in China, reached Europe in the last couple of weeks: The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The infectious disease caused by a newly discovered coronavirus is called a pandemic by the WHO (World Health Organization) and at this time, there is no specific treatment or vaccines against Covid-19.

Thus, countries adopted different measures and policies to contain the spread of Covid-19. Initially, the virus emerged in Wuhan, China and after hiding the problem from the public at first, China executed a strict lockdown in Wuhan which is currently being gradually loosened after China no longer reports any new infections. Taiwan and South Korea could flatten the curve through extensive testing, quarantine measures and public health education. 

In Europe, Spain, France, and Italy implemented countrywide lockdowns as countries with one of the highest infection numbers and death rates. But also Germany has imposed a contact ban. The same can be observed in Great Britain but is criticized for hesitating so long. 

The call to each and every one of us, which follows from this and is specifically formulated by heads of government and presidents in speeches to us on television: We can help to #flattenthecurve by #stayingathome and #socialdistancing. Therefore, we asked some of our members how they experience the crisis, how they have been affected and what their country is doing against Covid-19. To share also some positive points, our members will give recommendations on what we can do while staying most of the day at home. 

Today we speak with Andreas Brox who reports from the situation in France and how he has been affected by the Crisis. We will also talk with him about what is now most important.

Happy Andreas in France before the outbreak of Covid-19

SCC: Where you are staying right now?

Andreas Brox: I moved from Bordeaux back to Germany this week, because of the developments around the Corona pandemic.

How is France reacting to the Corona crisis?

France has announced a countrywide lockdown last Monday. It is only allowed to leave the house for grocery shopping, going to work, taking care of relatives and to do individual sports, close to your home. This is enforced with controls by the police, which can issue a fine if you do not carry a document with you that states one of the reasons to leave the house. Many parks and public places, like beaches and rivers sides, are closed.

How do you feel about the actions of your country against the Corona crisis?

France seems to have acted quickly, with first closing schools and universities and a few days later deciding the countrywide lockdown. The restrictions are extensive, but I guess necessary. Positive was in my view that the announcements and rules were very clear.

Now we want to talk about your own experience: What is most important for you during the Corona Crisis? 

I think it is most important to act responsibly and see how you can help and protect others around you. Despite how shocking the pandemic is, I think it’s a time to concentrate on the really important things and show solidarity for everyone more affected than oneself.

How do you spend your time at the moment?

I am constantly listening to podcasts and spend a lot of time on the phone with my friends. At first, I was only following the news and dealing with organizational issues. Now I can use the lockdown to do things I never had time for.

To give our readers some practical tips on how to cope with staying at home, or being in quarantine, what are your tips? 

Do any projects and hobbies you can do at home! I can especially recommend cooking and baking. And to contact friends and relatives you haven’t been in touch with for a while. My podcast recommendation is “the Ezra Klein Show”.

Voices of the Members: Felix Kreis

SCC consists of more than just the Members of our Board. Our engaged members are an equally integral part of the association. In this series, we want to present to you some of them and what they are volunteering as.

What is your name?
Felix Kreis

Where do you volunteer?
Young European Federalists (Konstanz)

Since when and as what do you volunteer as?
I became familiar with the association in 2017 at the beginning of my studies. Since then, I was an active member and later a board member with the special task to organize a joint-seminar together with the Austrian section of this organization. Currently, it is difficult to participate because of my Erasmus-stay in Great Britain where it has almost no local sections.

Please tell us a bit about your organization.
The Young European Federalists are a political youth organisation, that is active and organized in local sections all over Europe The main goal is to promote the European Integration through a strengthened and further democratized European Union.  One local project of the local section in Konstanz is the “Bodenseeseminar” (Lake Constanze-seminar) with yearly changing topics that connect participants from countries around the lake and further, while providing them with skills and knowledge to help the European Integration gain momentum.

What is your motivation for volunteering there?
I think the European Project is crucial to ensure a secure, wealth-entailing and progressive life for all Europeans. The EU could become an influential humanitarian, peace-fostering global actor. But we need informed and committed citizens to fulfill this comprehensive promise. This can be best achieved through small local grassroot movements, who encourage people to think about the EU and what it could become. Besides that, it is great fun to discuss and work with many people who want to achieve the same goals, but often in another way.

Do you want to tell the readers something additionally?
Start volunteering! It is a good way to make new friends and develop your skills! And besides, you will change the world a little.



Interested in the Young Europeans Federalist (JEF) in Konstanz?
Check out their webpage (in German only): https://www.jef-bw.de/konstanz/
Be up-to-date with their facebook page (in German only): https://www.facebook.com/jef.konstanz

Voices of the Members: Irem Aytac

SCC consists of more than just the Members of our Board. Our engaged members are an equally integral part of the association. In this series, we want to present to you some of them and what they are volunteering as.

What is your name?
Irem Aytac

Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer in this association, Students Connecting Cultures.

Since when and as what do you volunteer as?
Since the establishment of SCC. I was one of the project managers in its initial year. In the first General Assembly, I chose to be an active member due to my tight schedule in school.

Please tell us a bit about your organization.
SCC is a supportive organization for cultural and academic exchanges, composed of university students. The association aims to create new exchange projects, to provide an atmosphere for international students to share knowledge and experiences in life. I think the most important aim, for now, is ensuring the sustainability of the IstKon project, which is the starting point of SCC and a base for all possible exchanges.

What is your motivation for volunteering there?
When I participated in IstKon2018, I was curious, because I have never been to a project like that. In the end, I felt capable of using my knowledge from lectures and articles. I could apply theoretical knowledge to practical cases. This was the biggest motivation I had when I decided to be a founding member of the SCC. Additionally, it is always nice to meet people from different cultures. When I combined these two, I said, that I want all students to discover this amazing combination and this association may help them do so.

Do you want to tell the readers something additionally?
It is perfectly normal to hesitate about your knowledge or your linguistic capabilities in that kind of project or organization, but in order to overcome your concerns, you need to step in. When you do that, you will see that IstKon and SCC exist to make you aware of your capabilities, exist to support you, to teach you, but more of a learning experience from you. 

Voices of the Members: Philipp Hausmann

SCC consists of more than just the Members of our Board. Our engaged members are an equally integral part of the association. In this series, we want to present to you some of them and what they are volunteering as.

What is your name?
Philipp Hausmann

Where do you volunteer?
Apart from IstKon, I’m currently volunteering the most in the ‘Young Europeans Federalist (JEF)’ in Konstanz and the ‘Jusos’, the youth organization of the ‘Social Democratic Party of Germany’.

Since when and as what do you volunteer as?
I’ve been involved in the Young Europeans as well as the Jusos since I began my studies in October 2018. Currently, I’m the district chairman of the JEF Konstanz and deputy chairman of the Jusos in Konstanz.

Please tell us a bit about your organization.
Both organizations are committed to a just, free and strong Europe. The Jusos are committed to this at the national level, the JEF at the European level. Therefore both organizations are organizing discussions, presentations, election campaigns and educational trips to various European cities, e.g. to Brussels or Berlin.

What is your motivation for volunteering there?
I’m a volunteer in both organizations because I want to be active in our daily politics. Political participation is an important cornerstone of democracy in one country. Because of issues such as education and social justice, freedom, and peace, I joined the ‘Social Democratic Party’. In addition, the struggle for the future of the European Union has been a concern for my engagement in the ‘Young Europeans’.

Do you want to tell the readers something additionally?
Get involved as much as possible! At a party, a political organization or something else. During your studies, you have the best opportunity for your engagement and you will gain important skills that will help you in your future career.


Interested in the Young Europeans Federalist (JEF) in Konstanz?
Check out their webpage (in German only): https://www.jef-bw.de/konstanz/
Be up-to-date with their facebook page (in German only): https://www.facebook.com/jef.konstanz


Interested in the youth organization (Jusos) of the ‘Social Democratic Party of Germany’ in Konstanz?
Check out their webpage (in German only): https://www.jusoskn.de/
Be up-to-date with their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JusosKonstanz
Or keep yourself informed with their instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jusos_konstanz/

Voices of the Members: Sena Adikutlu

SCC consists of more than just the Members of our Board. Our engaged members are an equally integral part of the association. In this series, we want to present to you some of them and what they are volunteering as.

What is your name?
Sena Adikutlu

Where do you volunteer?
I volunteer in the IstKon Student Exchange as an organizer.

Since when and as what do you volunteer as?
I’ve been volunteering at IstKon since 2018 and currently am in the IstKon Core Team as the Head of Culture on the Istanbul-side.

Please tell us a bit about your organization.
IstKon is an academic and cultural exchange organization, which was founded by a group of students from Marmara University in Istanbul and from the University of Konstanz. It is fully organized by students, has nine days of a yearly conference and financial support provided through sponsors. The main aim of the program is to provide cultural exchange and to support social science students academically.

What is your motivation for volunteering there?
I have participated in many conferences, seminars and workshops to improve myself, have taken part in many student clubs and worked as a volunteer in some organizations. At the beginning, IstKon was also one of these “self-improvement” tools for me, but today I see, that IstKon means more to me than an ordinary tool.  Because all the results of addition equal one in Istkon. Two plus two equals one, ten plus ten equals one, sixty plus sixty equals one. With that I mean, that we are able to become “one” and “same” here, although we are coming from different cultures, different geographies, different languages or different beliefs. That’s why I am still part of this organization and try to do my best here.

Do you want to tell the readers something additionally?
Our perspective can sometimes be quite narrow in some cases, even though we do not notice much in daily life. Because we all use personal windows to look at life. These windows consists of what we have learned so far and the experiences we have gained. So what should we do? Should we keep looking at the increasingly globalized world through our windows which are not wide enough? Of course not! We need to get out of the comfort zone. Right now! And take an action step immediately. How about taking your first step to IstKon to look at life from a new window? 


Interested in this organization?
Check out their webpage: https://istkonexchange.com

Be up-to-date with their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IstKonExchange/

Or keep yourself informed with their instagram:
ttps://www.instagram.com/istkon.exchange/

Voices of the Members: Helena Akst

SCC consists of Members of the Board and members of our association. In this series, we want to present to you some of them and what they are volunteering as (outside of SCC or our projects).

What is your name?
Helena Akst

Where do you volunteer apart from SCC / IstKon?
I volunteer in the Equality Council of the University of Konstanz.

Since when and as what do you volunteer as?
I was representing the students of the University of Konstanz between spring 2018 and autumn 2019.

Please tell us a bit about your organization.
The Equality Council is – as the name already suggests – dealing with matters concerning gender equality and diversity in different spheres (teaching, research, etc.).

What is your motivation for volunteering there?
I volunteered for the simple reason that our society as well as the University of Konstanz are still shaped by patriarchal structures and norms. Topics related to gender, race, class etc. are discussed too little in teaching and all too rarely reflected upon when it comes to the working conditions and organisational structures in the academic field. I believe that the University of Konstanz can and should do better. It should do more to promote people of color, working class people, women, people who do not fit into the binary constructed notion of gender etc. Being a student representative in the Equality Council is a good possibility to contribute to those efforts and to make the university a better, more inclusive place.

Do you want to tell the readers something additionally?
The knowledge and experience gained from the Equality Council can always also be used to promote a more inclusive organisational culture within other organisations, such as the SCC.


Interested in this organization?
Check out their webpage (in German only): https://www.uni-konstanz.de/universitaet/leitung-organisation-und-verwaltung/gremien-und-ausschuesse/ausschuesse-der-universitaet-konstanz/gleichstellungsrat/