FAQ

Restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic

We are planning to organise ISWI 2021 as a real conference happening on the campus of the TU Ilmenau. We know that we will have to deal with many restrictions in order to keep ISWI safe and to minimise the risk of infection for all those involved in ISWI. This means you must be prepared that the events during the week (especially the cultural events on a large scale) will be modified compared to past ISWI’s and that you will have to follow certain rules. Still, we think that it is worth it to organise a conference where participants can actually meet each other to have a vivid exchange of their thoughts and opinions which can hardly be replaced with an online conference.
In addition, we want to improve our online contents in order to reach people who might not be able to come to Germany because of the COVID-19 pandemic or other reasons.

Right now the issuing of visas for Germany is strongly restricted and there are quarantine regulations for all people entering Germany. We hope that the situation will improve until spring 2021 but we cannot make any predictions. Nevertheless, you need to be aware that there will be additional difficulties depending on the situation next year.

We are planning different scenarios to be prepared for different situations. Possibly we will have to limit the number of participants, particularly the number of participants coming from far abroad. However, our goal is to have a conference with about 300 participants.

The application

To apply for ISWI 2021 you have to be at least 18 years old (on 28th May 2021) and you must be a student. Unfortunately we cannot consider other applications.

The application starts not until the 1st of October. It consists of two steps (1. Registration 2. Filling out the application form, writing two essays & submitting the application)

  • Essay 1: A statement on your personal connection to the topic of ISWI 2021 ‘Our future, Our responsibility – There is no Plan(et) B’ and your motivation to join ISWI 2021.
  • Essay 2: A statement concerning the choice you made regarding the working group.

The essays will serve as the basis for choosing the participants of ISWI 2021. They will be assessed by the Organising Committee of ISWI 2021.

Tip: Use a text document to compose your essays before you apply. This way, you can take your time writing the essays. Furthermore, your essays won’t get lost if your Internet connection breaks down.

The deadline for the application has been extended to November 18th for students currently outside Schengen countries (at 11:59 pm Central European Time). The deadline for student’s in Schengen countries is December 20th.

Note: The difference between deadlines is established due to the time needed to complete the visa process and the COVID-19 situation.

It is not possible to join with a friend just because they are a friend of yours. As stated above, we choose the participants on the basis of their essays, so everybody has the same chances. That is why each of you has to apply individually with different essays. The better they are, the more likely you are to get invited.

Do not copy any texts from the Internet, books, friends or other sources. Mark every quotation and state the source. Applications containing plagiarism will not be taken into consideration for ISWI 2021! Please be sure of this as we will read every essay and check for plagiarism.

After the deadline we begin reading and assessing your applications. This can last for about two months. If we have chosen you to participate in ISWI 2021, we will send you an official invitation letter. (We would appreciate your patience until all of the applications are reviewed and you receive your official invitation.)
After you have received the message saying that you are invited, please plan your journey and apply for a visa, if necessary. Please contact us if you are not able to come, so that we can give other people the chance to visit ISWI 2021.

In case that some circumstances prevent your participation, please contact us as fast as possible.

 Visa & Invitation letter

Yes, you will get an official invitation to ISWI 2021. We will presumably send the invitations at the end of December 2020 or the beginning of January 2021.

The official invitation confirms that you are invited to the 15th International Student Week in Ilmenau. It is signed by the president and the vice president of the ISWI 2021 Organising Committee as well as by the Rector of “Technische Universität Ilmenau”. The ISWI 2019 is officially supported by Technische Universität Ilmenau.
The invitation is important for obtaining a visa to enter Germany (that is if you require one – you can check here). You can also use it as a confirmation for your university that you are officially invited to ISWI 2021, in case you need a document in order to be released from your classes.

Please visit a German embassy or consulate in your country and apply for a visa. Please make sure that the visa is also valid for your travelling days (not only for the days of the conference). At the embassy, you will have to present your official invitation letter (and potentially some other documents the embassy in your country may require. These vary from country to country).
Please inform yourself at the website of the German Federal Foreign Office and the website of the respective embassy before visiting the embassy. It might be helpful to present a document from your university or from another official authority confirming your student status. The German Federal Foreign Office has promised us that the German Embassies will help you as much as they can in getting your visa upon presentation of your official invitation letter. But please be aware that the final decision on issuing visas for Germany is up to the embassy in your home country. Naturally we will do our best to inform the respective embassies and cooperate with them. If you have any problems or questions, please read the FAQ on our website first. You can also contact us via e-mail, phone or fax and we will do our best to help you.

Unfortunately, the visa for ISWI 2021 participants is not free of charge in general. We have tried to establish such an agreement but the Federal Foreign Office has tightened the rules concerning the grant of free visas.
Nevertheless, we would like to inform you about some exceptions. Here you can find a leaflet published by the German Federal Foreign Office. Our advice: When applying for the visa, take this leaflet with you and ask the embassy if they can make an exemption from the visa fee in your case, because you are a student and visiting an international student conference.

Travel & Arrival

In general, going by bus or train might be the most cost effective, environmental friendly and also convenient way to go to Germany – especially when you’re based in Europe. If you have a longer distance to travel you might need to take the plane. The nearest international airport to Ilmenau is Leipzig (LEJ – about 2:30 hours to Ilmenau by train). However, you can also fly to Berlin (SXF, TXL – about 4:00), Munich (MUC – about 5:30), Frankfurt (FRA – about 3:30) or Hamburg (HAM – about 6:00). Berlin Tegel and some other smaller Airports are not directly connected to the German rail network. Shuttle buses will be available to take you to a train station. If are arriving from Europe, you may take the train. You can check for special prices on the German Railways website.

Another alternative would be taking a bus to Erfurt, Nürnberg, Dresden, Berlin or München, etc. There are several different bus lines to European countries, such as:

For travel within Germany, there are several cheap bus services, the so-called ‘Fernbusse’ – i.e. long-distance buses. Tickets are often cheaper than train tickets, especially when you book early. There are many different companies that run long-distance coaches. You can check the busliniensuche website for a connection that fits your travel plans. Tip: For better results, click ‘Expand search range around departure and destination’ under ‘Display further options’.

Frankfurt International Airport (FRA) is a big international airport in Frankfurt. Almost all international flights arrive at FRA. Frankfurt Hahn (HHN) is just a small airport, about 120km to the west of Frankfurt. Some cheap flights with Ryanair arrive there from European countries and Morocco. To get to Frankfurt, you will have to take a bus.

If your flight arrives at Frankfurt, Berlin, München, Leipzig or Hamburg airport, the best way to get to Ilmenau is by train or by long-distance bus (see question 1).

Look for the next German Railways (“Deutsche Bahn”) train station. You can buy a ticket to Ilmenau at German Railways offices (“Reisecenter”) or at any ticket machine. Note: some airlines offer a train ticket within Germany (Rail + Fly). This could be a cheaper way to get your ticket.

There are no direct trains from the aforementioned cities to Ilmenau, and you will at least have to change trains in Erfurt, which is the nearest larger city to Ilmenau. For more information about tickets and schedules, please check out: https://www.bahn.com/en/view/index.shtml.

You can also take a bus from Erfurt to Ilmenau. In this case, you buy the ticket on the bus.

Make sure that you don’t confuse the Ilmenau station, where you’ll get off, with the other two Ilmenau stations, which come before Ilmenau. The correct station is simply called ‘Ilmenau’ and is the final stop. On the 28th of May, there will be someone from the Organising Committee waiting to collect you at the train station. If you decide to take the bus, get off at the Ilmenau bus station “Busbahnhof” (you can ask the driver when you’re not sure if it’s the correct station). The Ilmenau train station and bus station are right next to each other.

Please don’t hesitate to ask the staff at information centres in the airport and/or at the train stations, if you need more information. Also, don’t hesitate to call us if you need help. If you get lost in Ilmenau, try following the signs to ‘Technische Universität Ilmenau’ and asking passengers.

Please check out the website of German Railways. You will find a lot of information about schedules, prices, special offers and more.

German Railways have different special offers. You can buy a “Quer-Durchs-Land-Ticket” and travel with a group of 5 persons. With this option you are not allowed to take the ICE and IC, but you pay just 76 € for the whole group for one day.

On weekends (Saturday & Sunday) you can also take the so called “Happy Weekend Ticket”, which is even less expensive –which currently costs about 44 €  for  1-5 persons.

For your fly back, you can easily buy the train ticket to the airport in advance and find cheaper prices in this way.

Some airlines offer tickets which include the train ticket within Germany (Rail & Fly), which could also be a good option.

We will be expecting you to arrive in Ilmenau on Friday, the 28th of May, (or Saturday the 29th.) The info point and check-in area can be found in the Mensa building on the campus of Technische Universität Ilmenau. On the above days, somebody from the Organising Committee will be waiting at the Ilmenau train station for every train or bus that arrives, to collect you. For the duration of ISWI 2021, you will be able to reach us by phone (+49 3677 – 69 1946) 24 hours a day from Thursday, the 27th of May. If you arrive before Friday, please contact us a few days in advance.

Please inform us of the exact date and time of your arrival. We will try our very best to find a place for you to stay until the beginning of ISWI 2021. However, we cannot guarantee that it will be free of charge, as the accommodation costs are only covered for the duration of the conference.

Usually, it is no problem if you can’t make it on the 28th of May, but you should arrive no later than the 29th of May, because the group work starts on Sunday.

If you can’t find a flight back home on the 6th of June, please be aware that, after the conference, you will have to take care of your food and accommodation on your own. Naturally, we will help you find a place to stay until you fly back home. Please be aware that your flight back home must be before the expiration date of your visa, so please consider this during your planning.

Finance

You will have to pay for your travel and visa expenses. Accommodation during the conference and basic meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) will be provided by us. There is no participation fee for this conference. In addition, you will have free entry to all ISWI 2021 cultural events.

No. There is no participation fee for ISWI 2021. You only have to pay your travelling and visa costs.

That depends on what you would like to buy. Accommodation, meals and festival events are free of charge for you, but you might want to buy some souvenirs or beer, juice and coffee at the student clubs while hanging out with friends. If so, we would like to stress that the standard of living in Germany is high. To give you an idea of the prices: a coffee is about 70 cents, a beer about 2 euros and a soft drink about 1,50 euro. These prices are taken from the student clubs on the campus, where everything is usually much cheaper than in other clubs or in restaurants.

Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to give any financial support for your travel expenses. We are only a student organisation that tries to do its best in organising this conference. Thus, we depend on public funding from the German State and from private sponsors and foundations. It is hard work to get all the money to realise the conference. We hope that you can understand our situation, and that you kindly refrain from asking for such support. However, we can assist you by writing a letter of support if you plan to ask your university or local companies for a scholarship or sponsorship. Please contact us and tell us the details if you would like such support.

You can exchange your money in any bank in Ilmenau (banking hours are from Mo-Fr, 9 am – 4 pm), but, due to the schedule of the festival events, you probably won’t have much time to do this. We would also like to warn you that some banks do not accept some currencies. The US dollar is probably the most advisable and convenient foreign currency to carry and exchange if you do not carry any Euros. Be aware that you won’t get the full value back because banks charge about 5 Euro commission each time you exchange foreign currency, so it would be better to exchange all of the foreign currency you think you’ll need for your stay in just one transaction. We should also warn you that exchange centres in airports and train stations charge a higher commission than regular banks. ATMs (automatic teller machines) are available all over Ilmenau as well. In general, the best option is to withdraw money from a local ATM directly in Euros using a credit card or similar.

If you plan to use traveller’s cheques instead of cash to exchange into Euros, we should warn you that the exchange rate for a traveller’s cheque is lower than that for cash, and that the “commission” system applies to traveller’s cheques too (see preceding question). You can avoid these commissions by using your bank card or credit card to withdraw money (if you withdraw money in Germany, the ATM will give it to you in Euros no matter the account currency). Master Card and Visa are widely accepted in Germany, and you can also use them (and your Euro Cheque bank card, if you have one) to withdraw money from the automatic teller machines 24 hours a day.

The conference

The final selection of your workshop will be made after your arrival in Ilmenau at the check-in, where you will register for the working group you will participate in. We will try to give you your first choice, but due to capacity reasons it is possible that we can only offer you your second or third choice topic. Note: You will only be able to participate in one working group during the conference.

You will participate in only one of the three working groups you selected during the application process (see the preceding question).

You can change your selected workshop during the registration after your arrival in Ilmenau.

You are invited to hold a lecture, give a workshop or start a discussion on a certain topic of your choice within the Workshop Day. In case you’d like to hold a lecture please prepare and bring all the material you need. Please inform us if you need any equipment.
Date: tba – Share Space

Currently we are working on an exciting and varied program.  You can find news about it here.

Your stay in Ilmenau

During the whole course of ISWI 2021 you are insured. The Organising Committee will provide you with free health-, accident-, and third party- insurance as well as legal protection. That fact also will be stated in your official invitation letter.

We have a host program, where Ilmenau students and citizens voluntarily host the participants of our conference so that both sides can directly meet each other. Within the preceding conferences we made good experiences with this. Often, the hosts and the participants become close friends.
So, you will have a host who will welcome you and will try to make your stay in Ilmenau as pleasant as possible. During ISWI 2021, you will live in your host’s house. Every participant will meet his/her host at the check-in.

We will provide an online forum, where the participants and hosts can contact and find each other before the start of the conference. But due to our experience the most participants will find their host at the arrival in Ilmenau, where the Organising Committee will assist every participant in finding a host. So don’t worry if you do not find a host before your travel. We will inform you as soon as the forum is online.

Ilmenau weather can be very capricious. One minute, the sun may be shining and five minutes later, it may start to rain. So when you pack, bring both – clothes for warm and sunny as well as for cold and rainy weather. (If you want to pack light, remember you can always wear clothes in layers when it’s cold.) Bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes, too, if you plan to go hiking in the forests around Ilmenau or participate in the sports event.
The other important things you need, are listed below:

Required:

  • passport (Make sure you have the necessary visa!)
  • copy of all personal documents (passport, visa, …)
  • ticket (flight and return flight)
  • a sleeping bag (if you have one)
  • money for your personal expenses
  • sense of humour and an open mind

Optional:

  • sportswear and shoes for in- and outdoor sport during the sports event. Please make sure that your indoor shoes have a light sole; not a black one.
  • national costume and traditional music (for the International Dinner on Sunday)
  • traditional food of your country (for the International Dinner on Sunday).
  • lecture materials (If you want to give a lecture, be well prepared and if you need any equipment, let us know.)
  • medication you might need
  • comfortable and sturdy walking shoes (if you plan to go hiking on Thursday)
  • musical instrument (if you like to play some own music, especially in the music group)
  • camera (if you want to take photos, especially in the photography group)

Ilmenau is a smaller town (approx. 26,000 inhabitants), so most of the destinations can be easily reached on foot. Furthermore the majority of workshops will take place at the campus of the TU Ilmenau.

Other

Please send us an email to info@iswi.org with your detailed request (What do you need the reference for? What information should the letter contain?). Within a few days we will send you a reference letter.

To contact other participants (e.g. from your country) you can use different ways. If you have a Facebook account, you can join the ISWI-Group on Facebook and look for other participants of ISWI 2021.
The other possibility for contacting people will be the online forum that we will provide in due time. There you can ask questions, contact people (e.g. your future host), talk etc. But please do not discuss the conference’s topics in detail because other participants might not have the chance to take part in this discussion (e.g. due to bad Internet connection).

For data privacy reasons we cannot give you the contact of other participants. But we can give your contact data to the other participants of your country, if you allow us to do so. Then they can contact you. If you want us to give your contact data to the other participants from your country, you can write to info@iswi.org.

We try our best to answer all your requests as soon as possible. But since we are all volunteers and organise the conference in our free time after our studies, it could take a few days up to a week until we are able to answer your request. We try our best to answer urgent questions immediately. Thank you for your understanding. Please don’t send your email more than once! It doesn’t make us answer faster.