Student Voices: My International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) Experience

by Kamana Poudel

Sustainable Forest Management

I had the privilege of representing the OSU chapter of the International Forestry Students’ Association (IFSA) at the 15-day International Forestry Students’ Symposium (IFSS) held in Germany. IFSS is an annual gathering organized by IFSA, bringing together forestry students from all over the world. This year we had more than 100 students from 37 countries. Traveling to Germany for the IFSS was an adventure filled with learning, cultural immersion, and unforgettable experiences. As I embarked on this journey from the US, I gained valuable insights into German forest management, witnessed the beauty of Saxon mountains and colorful buildings and streets, and forged lasting friendships with people from around the world. Join me as I recount the highlights of my 15-day trip, from my initial arrival in Berlin to the enriching experience throughout Germany. 

After an eight-hour flight from New York, I landed in Berlin, Germany’s vibrant capital. The language barrier became immediately apparent, making it challenging to navigate the city’s intricate train routes and stations. I hopped on a local train headed to Eberswalde, our initial destination for a two-day stay. Eberswalde along with other captivating cities on our itinerary, including Dresden, Freiberg, Bonn, and Göttingen, welcomed us with historical architecture, charming stone paved streets, and lively music giving us a glimpse into Germany’s rich culture. The city’s touristy vibe and cultural touch was truly enchanting, being able to visit those places was a true delight. 

​​During our stay we delved into the realm of German forests and their management systems. This involved attending lectures delivered by professors, participating in panel discussion, and  attending posture presentation sessions. In addition, we embarked on several excursions, such as visits to the botanical garden, exploration of innovative forestry practices in Bavarian National Park, and learning about mixed species forestry and alternative tree species. In addition, we had an interesting world forestry café session with five national and international organizations, where we discussed many things: the position of youth in policy making, how youth can become integral parts of policy making, the current challenges, and how we can prepare youth for the future to make sustainable forestry and environmental decisions.

One of the most memorable aspects of the symposium was the cultural night. Participants from different countries came together to share their traditions, songs, dances, and , of course, delicious food and drink. It was a celebration of global unity and diversity that IFSA carries. 

German cuisine was a delightful surprise. Following my advisor’s recommendation, I tried the traditional “Kaffee und Kuchen” (coffee and cake) where coffee and cake is served as a meal. It was very delightful over a great conversation with my friends from all around the world. We also savored an abundance of bread and cheese, which was a welcome change at first. However, my Asian roots eventually led me to crave rice and curry. Amidst our academic pursuits, we found time for fun and bonding. We developed a passion for ping pong and card games during the event.

The most remarkable aspect of the symposium was the opportunity to forge friendship with people from diverse backgrounds and share knowledge in forest related topics. I connected with fellow students from all over the world, sharing stories and experiences. Nights were filled with fun and laughter including an unforgettable pub crawl in Gottingen. 

My journey to Germany for the IFSS was an enriching experience that blended academic knowledge with cultural immersion. I returned home with a wealth of new insights into forestry and forest management in Germany, unforgettable memories of ping pong matches, the taste of local cuisine, and the joy of making lifelong friends from across the globe. The trip was a testament to the power of international collaboration and the importance of understanding diverse perspectives in forestry and beyond. 

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