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! 🙂