30 years of ISWI: A week full of friendship and global understanding

On the occasion of the anniversary of the International Student Conference, ISWI founding fathers Kay Gastinger and Thomas Neubert visited TU Ilmenau. With their initiative to host the first ISWI in 1993, they have enriched the university and the lives of numerous students.

TU Ilmenau/Eleonora Hamburg
Students from nearly 70 countries attended the student conference.

When Kay Gastinger and Thomas Neubert set off for Norway in 1992, they had no idea at the time that their stay would have a lasting impact on TU Ilmenau. The two students attend the International Student Festival in Trondheim. They experience an exciting week, exchange ideas about global problems and make friends with students from all over the world. At the end of the conference, the festival director tells all participants, "Go home and organize your own festival."

"No sooner said than done," decide Kay and Thomas, nicknamed "Der Lange" in his student days. With a lot of optimism, support from the then rector Prof. Eberhart Köhler and against all odds, they organize the first International Students Week in Ilmenau (ISWI) in 1993 together with about 20 other students of the TU Ilmenau. "Become friends, unite the world" was the motto of the ISWI at that time.

Intercultural understanding

Today, as 30 years ago, the ISWI stands for intercultural understanding. Every two years, the organizing association Initiative Solidarische Welt Ilmenau (ISWI e.V.) brings students together and offers them a platform for exchange. Under the motto "Impact of Knowledge: With great knowledge comes great responsibility!" this year, nearly 200 students from 70 countries discussed how they can use their knowledge for the benefit of the community.

"We are a conference by students for students," says Niklas Loos from the ISWI board, highlighting the special nature of International Students' Week. Students and student associations work together to provide a special experience for students like Adi Arisyahputra from Indonesia. Adi is studying Chemical Engineering at IULI University in Jakarta, a partner university of TU Ilmenau, and made his first trip to Germany for ISWI. Once he arrived in Ilmenau, the 19-year-old met students from America and Africa for the first time.

I was positively surprised by the cultural diversity. For me, the ISWI was a unique life experience, because here I realized how global our world actually is. Experiencing this internationality for myself and getting to talk to people from different nations was a positive experience for me that I will remember with pleasure.

Friendship across borders

Friendships across language and national borders, more understanding for other perspectives and ideas and solutions on how to improve the world - this and much more is created at ISWI. Niklas Loos looks back on a successful student conference and is grateful for the initiative of the ISWI founding fathers to have brought the conference to Ilmenau.

They have not only changed TU Ilmenau, but also the lives of numerous ISWI participants over the past 30 years for the better.

"ISWI is alive," Kay Gastinger and Thomas Neubert noted during their visit to the student week. In the TU Ilmenau Audimax, they welcomed students from about 70 countries at the end of the conference and encouraged them to initiate changes in their surroundings themselves: "No matter where we come from - we always have more in common than separates us," said Thomas Neubert. And so he and Kay Gastinger, who now lives in Trondheim, encouraged all students: "Go home and organize your own festival! The world needs more ISWI!"

Impressions of the ISWI 2023