The 74th IAESTE Annual Conference - A unique conference in the history of IAESTE

The Annual Conference is our largest yearly event where around 200 people from some 80 countries gather in one location for an intense week of exchanging internships, managing the association, and of course, having fun. This has been happening every year since 1949!

When the pandemic made it certain that we would be unable to hold an in-person event for the first time ever, instead of cancelling it or postponing it to some unknown time in the future, we decided to embrace the new possibilities of holding it entirely online. It quickly became clear that this was going to be no easy undertaking, especially as it was decided early on to use this unique opportunity to invite many more people to attend than ever before.

So, with much planning and the efforts of an amazing team of people, the 74th Annual Conference took place from the 22nd to the 28th of January 2021. Over 700 people registered to attend the conference, including for the first time, employers, university representatives, volunteers, students, and many more people from over 80 countries worldwide. For the very first time, we also managed to fully implement a green, paper-free conference, so many trees have been saved! Additionally, although we have missed meeting each other a lot, knowing that we reduced our carbon footprint helped us to get over these feelings.

A small team, made up of some of the Austrian organising committee, the President of IAESTE A.s.b.l., Thomas Faltner, Head of Operations, Olga Legacka, conference chair, Katerina Esnerova, and Board Member Mark Feichtinger were able to be together at the conference hotel in Vienna, where the conference was originally meant to happen, (each COVID tested before, during and after!) to manage the online proceedings.

This AC in numbers:
7 DAYS
🔊 41 SPEAKERS 
87 COUNTRY BOOTHS
747 ATTENDEES
67 POSTS on Social Wall
1000+ COMMENTS on chat
13 workshops
🧑‍🤝‍🧑 RANDOM NETWORKING: 768 Meetings
    IAESTE Teams: 245 Random Meetings
    UNIVERSITIES Networking: 523 Random Meetings
🤝 1275 CONFIRMED 1:1 Meetings 🤯

The week kicked off with the meet & greet where participants were welcomed to the conference and had the chance to get to know each other in smaller groups in ‘breakout rooms’. This was followed by a week of intense Exchange sessions meetings between countries, a total of more than 2000 meetings took place!  

We provided workshops to inspire and train our members to develop the necessary skills to face new challenges and we are happy to have opened the AC to hundreds of volunteers who were full of motivation and engaged to continue spreading the IAESTE mission worldwide!

The platform we used to host our biggest ever event allowed us to host three keynote speakers, Dr Bart Kolodziejczyk, who spoke about global renewable energy developments and his IAESTE journey, Katja Schechtner, who spoke about data and tech in relation to global cities, and Marcus Orlovsky who spoke about opportunities post-COVID. Each shared with us amazing experiences and spoke about the new reality we are living in and how we can develop our association by keeping a strong connection with the opportunities emerging during the current times. For the very first time, some of these events were streamed on Facebook and open to everyone wishing to participate and we were able to reach people beyond IAESTE’s professional borders. 

As well as the keynotes, we had several interesting panel discussions: Employers - Reimagining international internships post COVID-19, Universities - Reimaging internationalisation post-COVID-19 with representatives from Universidad San Francisco de Quito USFQ, Lodz University of Technology, the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, and Queen's University, Belfast and a webinar by IAESTE Switzerland with Dr Wolfgang Kickmaier titled IAESTE through Employers Eyes: ZHAW School of Engineering & IAESTE: A fruitful cooperation. All the panels and webinars were very well received and we thank all those that were involved and who attended. 

We managed to keep our traditional events such as the International Evening and Gala Awards, but they took place from the comfort and safety of our own homes, but nonetheless, we loved meeting with our friends from different corners of the world and management to keep some of the spirit of our in-person events. 

Last, but not least, we were very happy to congratulate those people honoured with the James Newby Medal:
- Prof. Bernard Baeyens - former President IAESTE A.s.b.l.
- Mr Sayed Kaseb - IAESTE Egypt
- Mr Gábor Balatincz - IAESTE Hungary
- Ms Karoline Folgerø Dale - IAESTE Norway
- Ms Sabine Lenz - IAESTE Switzerland
- Ms Gaby Hilpertshauser - IAESTE Switzerland

They were recognised for embracing the values of our association (commitment, diversity, friendship, growth and trust) and received a medal in honour of the founder of IAESTE. They have made a great contribution to our association and are a source of inspiration for all of us.

Despite the difficulties we faced, including time zones, technology, learning new ways of working, we managed over the course of the week to do our important work and build our motivation and desire to not just come back from the effects of COVID but to come back stronger than ever and continue our mission to provide life-changing experiences to the students of the world.

A massive thank you has to be given to all those that organised and participated in the conference. It was a huge undertaking and in the end, we believe a very successful one. We have learned so much that we will take with us post-COVID that will lead to improved annual conferences in the future.

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