EU4EU Host Organization experience during Covid: IDM – Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe


Roma, 26 February 2021 Sebastian Schäffer is the managing director of IDM, the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe. “We are actually quite an old Organization, we were founded in 1953”, he says. “Nowadays, we deal with our neighboring countries and try to foster understanding in our target area”.

According to Sebastian, all of their work is based on three pillars: organization of events (discussions, seminars, workshops, summer schools, etc.), publications (newsletter, a magazine published three times a year and a scientific journal), and fostering European academic youth through various formats and scholarships, “with which we try to connect young researchers from our target region”, he says.

IDM has been a part of the EU4EU Program for several years now, and the main criteria they look for in their trainees is that they must “have an interest in our region and in what we do”, he says. “It helps if you have German language skills, for example, but it is not a necessity”, he adds. “If you have experience with social media, fantastic” says Sebastian, “anyway there have been cases where we had trainees with no prior experience but with a general interest in the region, and we have reached an agreement immediately”.

At the beginning of March 2020, when the pandemic hit Vienna, Sebastian confessed that they were not prepared as an institution for remote work. “We began working from home, writing policy papers and we started a lifestream series, created an information campaign, and as of today, we are ready to completely function remotely”, he explains. About the new Covid measures, Sebastian says that everyone has the option to work from home and they try to have as few people as possible in the office at all times. “Despite this, we try to give the trainees the opportunity to come to the office, because we understand that it’s not a good experience to spend your traineeship inside your room” he says.

Despite the period of crisis due to the coronavirus and it’s setbacks, IDM has hired one of their trainees. Emma Hontebeyrie started her internship through EU4EU Program and contributed to the organization by helping them produce their podcast. “She didn’t have a lot of prior knowledge about the region, but she was really interested”, explains Sebastian. “Coincidently, we planned on starting a podcast series, and she had been producing a podcast at her university”. At the end of the traineeship, she decided to stay and finish her studies in Vienna. Currently she is still working on IDM’s podcast series.

Regarding the Program Sebastian affirms that “the EU4EU platform undoubtedly represents a great opportunity, because you can get people from many fields of study”. “It’s necessary to get out of our bubble and have people with other backgrounds and coming from other countries!”. About that, Sebastian mentioned the example of Babrik Kushwaha, a Nepali student from the University of Lille: “It was great to have him here with us because he brought a fresh and different vision on our region and on the things that we do day by day”.