OPENING DOORS, OPENING MINDS
IOU Respect - International Exchanges with HI-USA
HI-USA provides opportunities for young people to participate in formal international exchange programs. The number of programs, their locations, focus, etc. vary from year to year, but all are generally designed to provide opportunities for young people from different countries, cultures, religious backgrounds, ethnic heritages, etc., to come together to learn about each other and to sow the seeds of friendship, respect and peace on a personal level.
About the Program
Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, Tunisia, United States
The Experience of a Lifetime
Each year, young people from Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, Tunisia, and the United States gather for Hostelling International’s IOU Respect international exchange program. The two-week program prioritizes dialogue and interactive learning opportunities to bridge cultural divides and increase understanding and respect in its participants. Through a series of engaging, fun, and challenging workshops and time spent exploring the program’s host city together, participants build friendships while learning to approach the world and its people with open minds.
Videos from Past Exchanges
- IOU Respect 2012, USA: Chicago
- IOU Respect 2009, France: Annecy (French language version)
- IOU Respect 2009, France: Annecy (English language version)
- IOU Respect 2006, USA: New York City
About Hostelling International
Hostelling International is a worldwide not-for-profit organization that provides 35 million overnight stays a year through more than 4,000 hostels in over 80 countries. In HI hostels, travelers are able to encounter people of different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences. HI hostels are a rich resource for learning and for building a better, more peaceful world. The hostelling associations of Egypt (EYHA), France (FUAJ), Germany (DJH), Lebanon (LYHF), Tunisia (ATATJ), and the USA (HI-USA) partner to ensure a quality, meaningful, enjoyable IOU Respect program experience for each year’s participants. These six sister associations take turns hosting the program.
Goals for IOU Respect
Hostelling International fosters intercultural understanding and open-mindedness through shared accommodation, educational programs, and community engagement. IOU Respect offers participants an intensive cross-cultural learning experience. The goals of this Western-Arab dialogue are to:
- Increase knowledge about other cultures
- Develop intercultural communication skills
- Foster attitudes that promote mutual understanding
- Encourage action for constructive intercultural exchange beyond the life of the program
History of the program
Shortly after 9/11, 2001, representatives of the Canadian, German, and American Hostelling International associations recognized a clear need to exercise HI’s mission of building peace through bringing people together in order to close the gap between the cultures of youth from Western countries and predominantly Muslim countries. The best way to accomplish this, they decided, was through a cross-cultural international exchange program which eventually came to be called IOU Respect.
This initiative was consistent with a worldwide campaign supported by HI, entitled "Youth Hostelling for Peace and International Understanding". The belief that hostelling has a contribution to make toward building a better world represents the motto of the campaign. In launching the effort, HI president Harish Saxena stated that: "Youth hostels feel that they too must find a response to the dramatic, violent conflicts that tear cultures and nations apart. Our responsibility is to make our own contribution to intercultural dialogue, and to educate for peace." IOU Respect has become one of the most impactful ways that HI meets this goal.
Who is eligible to participate?
Anyone between the ages of 18-23, has not participated in a prior Hostelling International exchange program, is fluent in English, is a citizen of Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, Tunisia, or the USA and is not currently employed by HI is eligible to participate. The selection process is a competitive one; candidates will complete a written application with references. Top candidates will receive phone interviews before final selections are made.
Participants for this program will be selected by each Hostelling International National Association based on their demonstrated motivation to support and live the principles of intercultural education, respect, tolerance and understanding that are at the foundation for building a culture of peace.
In order to maximize the outcomes of the exchange, selected participants will be expected to complete some preparatory work before departing for the U.S. They will also participate in one or more orientation/training sessions in their home countries (in person or via teleconference) prior to the exchange.
IOU Respect 2013
This year's IOU Respect program will be hosted by the German Hostelling Association. The program begins on August 16 and ends on August 30, 2013. The majority of the program will take place in Berlin and Dessau.
On-the-ground costs including local transportation, accommodation, meals, and site visit entrance fees, will be covered by Hostelling International. Each participant will be responsible for his/her transportation to Berlin. Scholarships may be available depending on your country’s hostelling association.
Download and complete the application and reference form. Return completed documents to the appropriate representative of your country, listed below. Deadline for both documents is May 15, 2013.
Contact: Dr. Mamdouh Mandour, IOU Respect Coordinator EYHA
Address: 1 El-Ibrahimy St. – Garden City – Cairo-Egypt
Fax: + 202.279.503.29
Contact: Julie Coignard, IOU Respect Coordinator FUAJ
Address: 27, rue Pajol – 75018 Paris – France
Phone: (+33) (0) 1-44-89-87-46 Fax: (+33) (0) 1-44-89-87-49
Contact: Gunnar Gruettner, IOU Respect Coordinator DJH
Address: Deutsches Jugendherbergswerk, Leonardo-da-Vinci-Weg 1, D-32756 Detmold
Phone: +49 5231 9936-81 Fax: +49 5231 9936-66
Contact: Matmati Mohamed Ali, IOU Respect Coordinator ATATJ
Address: 8 Rue d'Alger BP 320 Tunis 1015 Tunisie
Phone: +21626210612 / +21671353277 Fax: +21671352172
Contact: Megan Johnson, IOU Respect Coordinator HI-USA
Address: 24 E Congress Parkway, Chicago, IL 60605
Contact: Karine Zoghby, IOU Respect Coordinator LYHF
Address: Beirut- Hamra - Mustapha Kamel street- Center Ameen - 5th flr, P.O.Box: 14-5539
Tel-fax: +961 1 750676
Email LYHF: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ms. Zoghby's email: email@example.com
For more information about Hostelling International's IOU Respect program, please contact Megan Johnson, IOU Respect Program Coordinator at HI-USA. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or 312-583-2221..
Meet 2012's American Participants
Alexandra Ponton, North Carolina, USA
While travelling with a friend in Avignone France, we made the acquaintance of a Tunisian student, who offered to give us a tour of the city. We accepted and followed Islem through the city as he shared stories about his life in Tunisia and mentioned how displeased he was with politics in Tunisia. Unfortunately, I couldn’t partake in the conversation because I didn’t even know where Tunisia was on a map. When I returned to the U.S., I decided to do my undergrad research on Tunisian linguistics and politics.
A few weeks before graduation, my college roommate forwarded me an email about a program that I might be interested in. She had received an email from HI promoting the IOU Respect program. When she saw the word Tunisia, she automatically clicked send. I read through the program and decided to apply. Just as my chance encounter with Islem could not have prepared me for the Tunisian learning adventure that I would embark on, neither did the chance application prepare me for what was to be one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.
Through the IOU Respect program I got to engage in intellectual, fun, and respectful dialogue with the participants from the varying countries (including Tunisia) about topics as taboo as religion, politics, stereotypes, etc. This does not mean that there weren’t moments of tension and uneasiness; rather it means that we were all willing to engage and embrace these moments. The motif for IOU Respect 2012 was “open-mindedness.” Despite moments of unease, everyone maintained a state of open-mindedness. Along with outings to Millennium Park, the Willis Tower, and the Navy Pier it seemed as if the active focus on open-mindedness became less and less relevant, that is to say we realized that despite different religious, cultural, and political backgrounds we are all very similar and have the potential to connect. IOU Respect was a very rich experience, not only because of the fabulous people I met, but because of the intentionality behind developing active global citizens with open minds.
Logan Meinzer, Ohio, USA
I first found out about IOU Respect at my university. With the academic year coming to a close, I sent out my application thrilled by the idea of being one of four Americans representing the U.S. in July. When I received my acceptance email, I was excited to be a part of the 2012 exchange in Chicago but I really didn’t know what to expect. Never did I imagine that this program and its participants would have such a positive impact on me.
Over the course of the two weeks we spent in Chicago, it was evident that the program was a success. IOU Respect was supposed to be an educational intercultural exchange, but it became much more than that. We, the participants, were not only speaking to each other, we were learning and sharing with one another. We were not just spending time together, but we were building friendships. Not once did I feel as though divisions were made within the group. The IOU Respect Program was a phenomenal way for us to foster a common identity as people before our nationality, background, or religion. As Camille, a French participant, said during a reflection of IOU Respect, he felt like a world citizen more than a Frenchman. I believe all of us left Chicago feeling the same way. I learned so much more from this program than I would have ever anticipated. To me, IOU Respect was a unique and priceless experience that will stick with me forever.
Hanna Higginson, Utah, USA
When I found out that I was accepted into Hostelling International's IOU Respect Program, I could not believe it. I was about to learn about different cultures in a face-to-face setting. I was excited and nervous wondering how we would come together as a group - what would divide us, what would unite us? As soon as everyone walked into the same room, it was easy to tell that we were all excited and nervous. We could not wait to get to know each other, to learn about each other in the upcoming dialogue sessions, and it all began as we explored Chicago together.
We had so much fun, but we also dug into serious issues where disagreement and differing opinions reigned. However, we were able to leave it in the discussion room and rejoin together as a group united because our humanity is stronger than our ethnicities. I learned that having an open-heart and being willing to disagree does not mean anyone is compromising on their beliefs.
Before the program I knew that different countries and cultures have a responsibility to learn about each other, but I did not realize the positive impact it could have on their relationships until I experienced it in Chicago. Through having friendships with individuals from Germany, Egypt, France, and Tunisia, I realized that even though our differences are huge, we can overcome prejudices and understand and embrace our differences peacefully. I am so grateful to have been a part of such a unique and important summit between these 5 countries. I am confident that the lessons and relationships I discovered will stay with me forever.
Dmetri Hayes, Michigan, USA
The world is a big place, but sometimes it is easy to forget that. On a day to day basis most people do similar things, interact with the same friends and eat the same foods. The world shrinks to a sliver, a piece of limited personal experience. Thankfully, IOU Respect helped collect some of those slivers and, in fact, built a window to see the world in a different way.
The biggest shock I had during the program was how similar everyone was. IOU Respect was an aggregate of American, French, German, Tunisian and Egyptian people, yet I kept on thinking that they were too, well, normal. I think it has something to do with the way Americans think, but I always assumed there would be a massive cultural shock when I met these foreign peers. Instead, they became my friends.
I did not know what IOU Respect meant until after the program. It forged connections between distant cultures that would not have existed otherwise. I decided the best part of the program was it emphasized the common humanity we all share. Every event we did, whether it be the dialogue sessions, the visit to the social service agency, or just spending time together, showed me how important every person is. The members of IOU Respect may have become my friends, but I know that even that window is too small. Even IOU Respect is just a piece of the world, and there are so many other countries and things to do. The world is here and it is full of people and possibilities.