Forge your own path Discover the world in your way!

Frequently asked questions - FAQ

You still have questions or you are seeking for specific information? The following answers to frequently asked questions provide support and a first orientation on everything worth knowing about zis and your journey.

About zis

  • Why does zis make this offer?

    zis wants to enable young people to prove themselves outside school standards and to autonomously shape their own projects. zis is first and foremost an experiential learning concept. Intercultural education plays a part just as the desire to make young people more autonomous. On the other hand zis scholarships have enabled many young people to travel who could not have afforded it otherwise.

  • What does zis get out of sending me on a journey?

    zis gets no material benefit out of this. However there is one more young person that has gotten more self-reliant with our help and has contributed to the understanding among nations.

  • What does "equal chances" mean?

    Educational background of the parents and personal or parents' migration history are still influential factors for the school career in Germany. Young people from lower-income families, non-academic homes, as well as young people with migration history are often confronted with structural obstacles and discriminations in the educational system. As a consequence, access to education is often denied to them. zis wants to work against that.

  • How is zis financed?

    zis is currently financed exclusively by donations. Besides sponsors like the Schule Schloss Salem or the Neuimayer-Stiftung a large part of expenditures is covered by donations by the friends of zis.

  • How can I support the foundation as a former grant holder or as an interested reader?

    The zis Stiftung für Studienreisen is glad about both donations and promotion of the idea.

    As an alumni you can become part of the alumni group "zak". In general, Zak supports the zis Studienstiftung. For instance, they produce a podcast ("Reisefunk - Der Abenteuer Podcast"), help organizing alumni meetings and the prepartion workshop in may ("Maitreffen") and much more!

    If you are interested in supporting zis financially, you can do this with a onetime donation or a regular membership in the "Freundeskreis" (friends of zis). As a sponsor you will receive the yearly reports, short reports as well as further informations about what is happening at zis.

    If you want to further promote zis, you can tell about zis. To this end the zis office has brochures and posters that you can request. Press releases on our (german) homepage may serve as an incentive to write an article for a newspaper or a magazine.

  • Is there yet more material on zis?

    Yes! Besides the zis books "Reiseziel Erfahrung" and "Jugendliche entdecken fremde Kulturen" there is additional material, like our annual report and information leaflets. 

Scholarship- and travel conditions

  • What are the scholarship and travel conditions?

    Our offer:

    • A scholarship of 700 Euro
    • Intensive mentoring 
    • A letter of recommendation for the journey
    • A network of motivated, interesting young people
    • The preparation workshop in May ("Maitreffen") at Salem Monastery and Palace ("Schloss Salem")

    Your challenges:

    • You are working on a topic of your choice 
    • You travel alone and for at least 4 weeks abroad
    • You're not traveling by plane
    • You keep a travel diary and write a project report
    • You don't spend more money than you get from zis
    • You submit your diary, report and list of expenses three months after your return

    The conditions:

    • You are at least 16 and at most 20 years old at the start of the journey
    • You convince us with your application of your project and your motivation 
    • You will develop a well thought-out travel concept during the preparation
    • You apply by 15 February of the respective year

    Additional terms:

    • We do not finance conference trips or similar! 
    • If you are not from Germany you either have to travel to a German speaking country or you have to have a subject related to Germany in order to submit a successful application for a zis scholarship.
  • Why do I have to travel alone?

    Travelling in groups may be more entertaining. But if you travel alone, you can separate from your familiar surroundings more easily, are more open-minded for contacts and can plunge deeper into peculiarities and problems of the host country. And as many zis-travellers report: ‘travelling alone’ does not mean ‘being lonely’.

  • Can I travel for more than four weeks?

    Of course! You may travel as long as your time and money permit. And as long as your topic allows!

  • In which period of time should my travel take place?

    In principle, you can choose your own travel period. The best time to travel is after the May meeting -  which usually takes place in mid-May - and until September. Later journeys are possible, but should be justified.

  • Why am I not allowed to fly to my destination?

    Someone who approaches his destination slowly, can prepare for what expects him/her there. A flight is often too fast for that. Part of a zis project is also to become aware of the distances between home and host country. Travelling by land or sea is better suited for that.

  • I have a disability or a medical condition. How can I make a zis-journey?

    People with disabilities or medical conditions can face special challenges when traveling. We think it is important to provide equal opportunities in this sense and are happy to consider together with you how a trip is possible for you. In order to counteract structural disadvantages, we are open to deviate from our general conditions in individual cases. For example, travel with assistance, breaks in between or special travel stations for medical care can be made possible. It is best if you mention this in your application or contact our office. 

  • Do I have to write a project report in any case?

    Instead of a 20-page project report, you can choose a different format for the documentation of your research results in consultation with your mentor. The report should be designed to be scientifically informative or artistically inspiring and should reflect your travel topic in an interesting and understandable way. The format can be chosen freely, e.g. short film, documentary film, website, podcast, radio feature, theatre play, music piece, performance, own Wikipedia article, article in professional journal, etc. In case of an artistic or craft topic we suggest the format workpiece. This could be drawings, photographs or other artistic work or something like a "journeyman's piece" (craft/artistic work). If you are interested in creating an alternative documentation or a work piece, inform us about this in your application and briefly explain how you would like to realize your topic in the chosen format (structure, scope, etc.). Your mentor will then discuss the further formal criteria with you and decide with you on the implementation. Both a work piece and an alternative documentation must be accompanied by a short report of at least 5 pages (at least 2000 words) in which you explain and reflect on both content and implementation.

  • Why is the budget so tight?

    Someone who travels with little money gets in contact with locals more easily since he/she sometimes has to ask for favours. One cannot afford the arrogance many tourists show if one only has little money. And: getting on with a tight budget is a skill that will be of value over and over again.

  • Is it not unfair that there is the same amount of money for expensive and cheap destinations?

    zis wants to provide equal opportunities to all its grant holders. Nobody is forced to, of all things, go to expensive London, as exciting topics can also be investigated elsewhere. Apart from that, the jury certainly pays attention to how the money is spent. If you squander in a cheap country you can expect to draw criticism.

  • May I take my own money along?

    Travel expenses including trips, lodging and food may only be met with the travel grant money. While on the journey you may earn extra money or work for lodging and food if necessary. Travelling with little money requires careful planning, but also flexibility and creativity.

    Of course we won't forbid anyone to take “savings for a rainy day” with him/her in case something goes really wrong. In recent years nobody needed that, though.

  • Has anybody ever had to pay back the scholarship?

    Yes and no. If the travel conditions are not fulfilled, a scholarship has to be refunded fully or partially. However nobody has to pay back who fulfilled the formal obligations but in hindsight was not up to his topic and journey despite showing willingness.

  • Can I get a travel grant for a journey within the scope of my university studies from zis?

    Unfortunately, not. Since there are many alternative programs that specifically support research projects, zis will not give travel grants for travel projects that are related to the course of study or a term paper, bachelor or master thesis.

Choice of topic

  • Are there topics that are never accepted?

    "zis journeys should lead to people, not to rocks and books". If you keep that in mind when selecting your topic, you are on a promising track.

    Difficult topics where journeys often fail are "On the trail of ..." as well as journeys to places where there is inherently a strong sense of a common bond of those present (e.g. Taizé, Way of St. Jacob etc.). The appeal/attraction is usually so strong there that grant holders are not able to take the role of an independent observer any more.

  • Does a zis journey have to be adventurous?

    Absolutely not! The main goal of a successful zis journey for the grant holder is to explore new horizons. Whether they buy their train tickets beforehand or look for long-distance buses on site, whether they find accomodation with strangers or camp on an official camp site does not matter for the assessment/appraisal. The experienced mentors are quite capable of assessing in the preparatory stage how much uncertainty can be expected of someone.

  • How sophisticated does my topic have to be?

    There is no correlation between the apparent sophistication of a topic and the quality of the project. Very simple topics can be made into great journeys. Doing something as exotic as possible is not the point. You should select a topic that you are really interested in.

  • How do I find ideas for my topic?

    If you don't have a spontaneous idea, ask friends, parents, relatives, teachers. Go to a library and browse magazines like "National Geographic". Watch the news attentively, go through your book shelves. Consider all your hobbies and interests and look for links to your country of destination. Let the zis yearly reports and example topics inspire but not deter you, since there may well have been a zis journey with your topic, before.

  • What if there was a zis journey with my topic, before?

    It could be that you decide on a topic and then realize that there has been a zis journey with the same topic before. That does not matter! zis journeys are individual/distinct: they depend on the respective approach, the local conditions and especially the personality of the traveler, so the results will always be unique. You can thus apply without hesitation with a topic that has been the topic of zis journey before.


  • Why do I have to register to submit my application?

    You can only apply for a zis scholarship online. You have to create a user account first. By registering you give us the permission to save your personal and application data. If you are a minor, your parents must consent to the storage of the data on your behalf. Further information on this and data protection can be found in the data protection declaration.

  • Why can I not log in?

    Have you registered, yet?

    Did you enter a correct username and password? If you cannot remember your password, you may click on “forgot password?”.

  • How detailed does my application have to be?

    There should be ideas for all the points listed under "travel concept": topic, travel + route, accommodation, research possibilities, financial plan ... . The more tangible, the better. However, if you are pressed for time before the application deadline and thus cannot completely elaborate all points in your application, you should not refrain from applying.

  • What do I have to hand in for the application?

    You can find the full list under "application".

  • In what order do I have to fill in the application and can I also save the current state and continue later?

    In the first step we ask you for some personal data. You also consent to our saving your data and using it for your application. All following steps can be completed in any order. Compulsory fields are marked with an asterisk *. You enter your travel concept in the corresponding text editor. You can save the current state at any time and continue your application later.

    We strongly recommend that you ask someone for a letter of recommendation already at the beginning of your application. Then they can write it while you are writing your application.

  • Why can I enter two addresses?

    The first address should always be the one where you can be reached during the application and mentoring phase. You should always keep it up to date during this period.

    We would also like to contact you occasionally after your journey, e.g. to invite you to an anniversary meeting. In these cases it is helpful if you give your parents’ address as an alternative address. This way we may still reach alumni, even if they have moved several times after having changed employment.

  • I want to travel in a different year from the one given. What do I have to do?

    If your envisaged travel period is in the summer of next year, we would ask you to get back to us in the next application round. Many things may happen in your in the meantime.

    If you want to travel at the beginning of next year, make it very clear in your travel concept that your year of travel is different from the one given in “journey data”.

  • The text field for the travel concept is very small. How can I read my text more easily?

    You can increase the size of the text field by pulling it with your mouse from the lower right corner.

  • I have problems, inserting an image into my travel concept?

    To add an image in the text editor, please place it directly by copy/paste or drag and drop to the place in the text where you want to have it. Then you can change its properties (e.g. size) by selecting the image and clicking the image icon in the menu bar of the text editor.

  • When does my application have to arrive in Spetzgart?

    Applications for the respective year need to be handed in via the online form by February 15th. If you are a minor, the application is only complete if you have also uploaded the consent form signed by a parent back into the application portal. The zis team will draw up a short list of who will be supported by a mentor until mid-May.

  • Can I view and change my application after submission?

    Changes after submission are not possible. But your application is only a first step in the preparation of your journey. If you are accepted into mentoring, there will be many changes in your planning anyhow.

    You can view the application you sent in at any time when you log in. 

  • What happens after I have sent in the application?

    You can find a short summary how things go on from here in the information on the online application.

  • When will I get a response from zis, whether I am accepted?

    The team usually convenes in the first half of March, on that occasion the applicants are distributed among the team members. We try to inform you as soon as possible, but then again you already get a detailed response in our first letter. Since every mentor attends/looks after several applicants and can only do so on his leisure time, the answer may take a little while.

    If you have not heard from zis until the beginning of April, you can contact the zis bureau.

  • How can I delete my application?

    If you are not interested anymore in applying for a zis scholarship, you can request to delete you application. Please contact our webteam. If you are interested to apply in the following year, we will keep your user account.

  • How can I delete my login/account for the zis website?

    We delete all user accounts which are inactive for 25 month.

    You can also delete your account yourself at any time. To do this, go to Users > User account > "Delete your user account". You will then be taken to a page where you can choose what happens to the application newsletter and whether you would like to subscribe to the newsletter "Reisepost" instead.

Approval of the travel grant

  • Why is there no immediate positive answer on an application?

    Only very few projects are so advanced at the time of application that they can be turned into a successful zis project. Since we want to give the applicants a chance to use their time until departure for further preparations, we do not call off immediately. If your commitment is right and nothing unforeseen comes in between, you can usually start on a journey.

  • Until when do the preparations have to be finished?

    As a rule, the preparations should have progressed sufficiently up until four weeks before the planned departure date so we can give a covenant or where appropriate a rejection if nothing is there until then). After that there is still enough time to deal with all formalities. Aside from that it would be unfair towards the applicants if they only found out shortly before departure whether they may really travel or not. Of course there may still be detailed planning after that, but the essential travel framework should exist by then.

  • How are dealings between grant-holder and zis governed?

    When the preparation of a zis journey has progressed to the point that the mentor considers it meaningful and safe, he/she will give his approval to the travel grant. To that end a contract is entered between zis - represented by the mentor - and the travel grant holder. It clearly addresses what zis expects of its grant holders. The contract is supplemented by the leaflet "information on the zis scholarship" that explains the contractual clauses and is meant to help all grant holders. Every grant holder receives a copy along with the contract.

  • Why can zis terminate the scholarship contract up until the last minute?

    Even shortly before departure the situation of danger in the host country could change dramatically. Should a journey appear too dangerous after a approval has been made, zis needs to have the possibility to cancel a project. The same goes for the grant holder, of course.

  • What about the small print?

    The travel grant contract and the information sheet "information on the zis travel grant" define the framework quite clearly. When assessing a study, the mentor will also consider how the applicant took up suggestions by the mentor. If someone defies a clear instruction without having a legitimate reason for that, he/she violates the zis rules.


  • How dangerous is a zis journey?

    Someone travelling alone bears a special responsibility for himself/herself. This is just what zis wants to actively foster when young people are out and about unaccompanied. So far the experiences are encouraging - after more than 1500 journeys we have only heard of few cases where something happened to the grant holders. Those were mostly incidents that can happen to any traveler, mostly theft.

  • What is zis doing for my safety?

    If during the application and preparation phase there are clues/cues the applicant does not have the necessary reliability and prudence, zis, in its own interest, will not approve a journey. In case of an official travel warning for the destination zis will ask you to change plans. Individual concerns about safety issues can be discussed with the mentor. During the journey, feedback to the zis bureau or the mentor is possible at any time – by this way a quick advice is possible. Furthermore, all grant holders are given a letter of recommendation by zis that informs on the intent and purpose of this journey. You will also receive a "safetycard" with important phone numbers in case of emergency.

  • Are there countries / topics that are prohibited with zis?

    zis does not support travelling to countries at war or to areas of conflict. In case of doubt the travel alerts and travel advisories by the Foreign Office are consulted. Topics that give reason to expect that grant holders get into criminal milieux (e.g. drugs, organised immigration crime, armed resistance groups) are also not approved. The decision to, also at short notice, cancel a journey for safety reasons is with the mentor or the team, respectively, and is final and incontestable.

  • How can I convince my parents who are sceptical of a zis journey?

    Many parents understandably have concerns when their child goes on such a long journey all by him/herself for such a long time for the first time. A conversation with the mentor or the zis bureau can answer many questions beforehand. If the parents do not consent to an application since they are worried, zis can also put them in touch with former grant holders who can tell them about their generally positive experiences.

  • Do I - since there is so little money from zis - have to hitchhike?

    No, zis only awards the travel grant if the project is clearly possible without hitchhiking. For this, the budget needs to be thoroughly planned, potential rides need to be arranged in advance from home - for example via a reputable ride sharing service. zis cannot forbid anyone to also travel by hitchhiking, but it can ensure that this will not be necessary for a successful journey.

  • What if I get ill along the way?

    zis strongly urges all grant holders to take out a private foreign health insurance and traveller's accident insurance that is obtainable for a low cost at banks, for example. This ensures that an illness on the journey does not turn into a financial risk. Someone who gets seriously ill of course goes back home and will not have to expect "punishment" from zis for that.

  • Does zis find out about bad experiences that scholars have made on their way?

    This is hard to tell. We ask all our grant holders to also make difficulties a subject of discussion. If it turns out that a certain region or a certain kind of travelling is increasingly problematic, this will be heeded when awarding travel grants. For example we do not advise girls to ask shipping companies for a ride any more, although there were mostly positive experiences with that.

  • Is zis liable if something happens along the way?

    No. A zis journey, like any other journey, is undertaken at one's own risk. This can be minimized considerably by good preparation and previously made contacts. You should also think twice before taking items of high tangible value.

On zis-journey

  • Do I also have to include all personal items in the diary?

    Nobody needs to bare out their soul in the zis diary. However the diary must make apparent how experiences along the way affected the grant holder. This includes emotions. We fully accept though that there are rather emotional as well as rather rational people and will not base our judgement on that.

  • Can I write my diary as a blog?

    No. The personal diary serves as an inward examination of experiences, a blog is a represantation of experiences to an ever-present audience. We also advise against writing both at the same time. Not only are focus and language typically different, also mentally not letting go of friends at home interferes with getting involved with the new surroundings. And last not least you should decide whether you want to spend your valuable time with people locally rather than in an internet café.

  • May I take my laptop along in order to write my study and diary along the way?

    In general taking a laptop means extra luggage and involves the risk of being stolen. Of course it is tempting to be able to directly type the diary, but a rough notebook can be "whipped out" much faster to take down spontaneous thoughts. Furthermore, an editorial revision of the diary after the journey is often advantageous. We advise against writing and formulating the report during the journey. Reflecting the topic from a distance and with an overall view on the material collected offers the chance to have a deep involvement with the topic that one should not miss.

  • What about couchsurfing etc.?

    zis is critical of accomodation contacts based on couchsurfing or hospitality club. This is not due to the concept of these forums but due to their concept being only partially compatible with a zis journey. In the last few years zis travellers sometimes have been taken in  strongly by their couchsurfing hosts, so it became harder for them to plunge into their study topic and to build their own network in the host country. That is why they often enjoyed their journey less than zis scholars who could stay over at people who were directly involved with their topic. If couchsurfing is employed purposefully, for example in order to look for these contacts, it can be helpful. This needs to be coordinated with the mentor on a case-by-case basis during the planning stage.

  • Am I covered by an insurance on my way?

    No. zis urgently recommends a foreign health insurance and traveller's accident insurance that is obtainable for a low cost at banks, for example.

  • Can I undertake a zis project at the beginning or the end of a year abroad?

    zis accepts journeys starting at the place of residence abroad if the foreign country is the centre of the grant holder's life at the time of the journey. Journeys to Siberia or autonomous regions originating from peace service in Moscow, for example are conceivable, also journeys within South America starting from the exchange location or a journey to Namibia from an exchange in South Africa.

    However, the zis journey may not be an intermediate stop. It has to start and end at the same place. (So not: departing from the host family in the U.S., then zis journey in Guatemala, immediately afterwards a project in Costa Rica).

  • Can my parents take me along in their car if they travel e.g. to Scandinavia at the same time?

    No. A zis journey needs to (also financially) start at your own front door and end there. Organizing a cheap way there and back yourself is one of the challenges with zis. If you need not worry about that, you will be have a substantial advantage over others. This is why we expect all grant holders to organize this topic themselves.

  • Am I allowed to visit friends on my journey?

    A zis journey is meant as trying something completely new - that is why it has to be taken alone. If you meet your friends along the way that may distract you from your independent travel project. This is why we recommend avoiding these encounters.

  • May I go an holiday with friends in my host country after finishing my zis research?

    No, our rules do not allow that. A zis journey takes you from frontdoor to frontdoor, between departure and return there may only be the zis project. The journey with our scholarship is meant as a self-contained activity, that adheres to zis conditions from the first until the last minute. Travelling alone and getting along with the scholarship money are part of that. In the course of a zis journey it is of course possible (and often necessary) to take a day of rest.

After the journey

  • What do I have to hand in with zis after the journey?

    After the journey, a diary, research study and bill of cost have to be handed in. The diary should be kept like a “normal” diary and contain information on your daily experiences as well as your feelings during your journey. It is meant to express the personal and direct travel experiences. It is supposed to document the journey, so that the jury is able to understand the course of the journey. Instead of writing down details of each day minute by minute, it should rather give a vivid description of impressions and experiences of the journey. The research study needs to comprise at least 8000 words (the equivalent of around 20 printed pages). In addition, self-made photos or drawings are very welcome. A map showing the travel route is also a nice supplement to the study or diary.

  • How long have I got until I have to hand in?

    Diary, research study and bill of cost have to be sent to the zis office three months after returning from the journey (date of postmark). zis is very strict in this regard in order to have equal opportunities.

  • My computer has crashed! Can I get an extension for my due date?

    We don't accept computer problems or data loss as an excuse for handing in late. Sufficient backup is taken for granted nowadays. For those who still don’t know how to handle that, here are the most important hints:

    Data backup should always happen on at least two physically and spacially separate media. Saving on the harddisk only would not protect against a computer crash. And if the USB stick or CD-ROM are in the notebook case when it is stolen, they won't be of any help. This is why at least two, or rather three work states should be available as a backup. The oldest version will then be overwritten, respectively. After each backup you should verify whether the saved file can be opened and is intact.

  • How detailed does my bill of cost have to be?

    The bill of cost must make the journey traceable financially. Lump sums are not sufficient for that. If the sums for every day are broken down in lodging, groceries, transport etc. that is fine. Many scholars glue in receipts as well. Don't forget including the foreign exchange rates and calculating the sum total.

  • May I also print digital photographs?

    Whether they were taken with a digital or an analog camera: illustrating photographs are always welcome. With digital photographs however, one is often tempted to print them relatively small along with the text. Neither size nor the often pale or unnaturally-coloured printout are helpful for the reader. Prints made in a lab and printed on photographic paper which are then pasted into the study are still the most beautiful (and lasting) (Careful: glue from a tube does not stick for a long time).

  • Do the diary and the study have to be bound properly?

    With zis, content plays a larger role than appearances, but everything will be sent by regular mail several times and has to survive this well. Furthermore, we archive the hard copies of all documents, therefore, a robust binding of all the documents to be handed in is necessary.


  • How will my study be evaluated?

    Every zis project will be thoroughly read by at least three members of the jury. Independently of each other they form an opinion on your project and what you have made of it. Your mentor, who will also read everything, has a strong position in the following debate, as he/she knows best what happened in the preparation of the journey.

  • When do I get my results?

    The zis-team always convenes at the beginning of March. Afterwards your mentor will inform you about the result. If you have fulfilled the requirements you will receive an official certificate about having successfully taken part in the demanding zis programme. Beyond that, your mentor will summarize the essential arguments from the team meeting in a personal appraisal for you - thus you will receive a well-founded and by all means also a critical feedback.

  • What prizes are awarded for the journeys?

    Every zis journey is a huge personal gain. The prizes that the team awards, should not be overestimated in their importance. Up to four main prizes are awarded, each endowed with 500 EUR. The main prizes are named after personalities that are closely associated with zis. The sum is intended for another educational project of one's own choice or a second zis journey. 

  • What about the "Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes"?

    The Studienstiftung is among the most important sponsors of zis. zis can again and again recommend scholars for the Studienstiftung. The Studienstiftung itself then decides on the admission. Even though this is a great opportunity: if you undertake a zis journey just because of the Studienstiftung, you practically never succeed - neither here nor there. 

Any questions?

Phone: +49 (0)7553 / 919 437
Mobile: +49 (0) 178 / 1980101
Monday - Thursday: 8.30 a.m. - 1.00 p.m. (CET)
Wednesday: 3.00 p.m. - 5.00 p.m. (CET)

The zis-books

A book on zis was published on the 50th and 60th anniversary each. The books are available in German only and can be purchased at the zis office.

> Excerpt "Reiseziel Erfahrung"
> Excerpt "Jugendliche entdecken fremde Kulturen"