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IOU Respect Program Details and FAQs

U.S. participants: learn what to expect before, during, and after IOU Respect!

Application Requirements

Four (4) participants will be selected to represent HI USA as part of the U.S. National Team. These participants will work together before, during, and after the program.

U.S. Participants must be:

  • 18-26 years old
  • Fluent in English
  • U.S. Citizens with a current passport (with at least 6 months remaining at the time of the program)

Applicants will be selected based on their ability to demonstrate a genuine interest and investment in cultural exchange and mutual understanding. In addition, applicants should demonstrate an ability to work in a group setting.

Employees of HI USA and people who have previously participated in a Hostelling International exchange program are not eligible. Participants from other IOU Respect partner associations must contact their national association for information about participating.

Applications for IOU Respect 2024 are now closed. All applicants will be notified of their status by May 30, 2024.

Program Details

IOU Respect will take place August 3-15, 2024 in Germany.

Participants are able to arrive as early as August 1, but are responsible for their own meals prior to the program.

If participants want to extend their stay, or visit another country after the program, they must make their own travel arrangements.

The program will take place in Germany at the following locations

Start: Berlin, HI Ostkreuz

Move to: Warnemunde, HI

End: Berlin, HI Wannsee

Participants will stay in shared dormitory-style rooms during the program. Transportation during the program will be provided by the hosting hostelling association. Participants will need to arrange transportation to and from Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER).

Once the program begins, all program costs (accommodations, meals, and travel during the program) are covered by the hosting hostelling association. Participants are responsible for the cost of snacks, souvenirs, and free-time activities.

Participants must coordinate their travel to and from the program with their National Association.

U.S. participants: participants must pay for transportation to/from the program location. This includes a round-trip flight and train/bus/taxi fare to the hosting hostel. U.S. Participants will receive a program stipend from HI USA to assist with those costs.

Non-U.S. participants: each partner association has its own fee structure with regard to transportation to and from the program. If you are not a U.S. participant, please contact the coordinator for your National Association listed on the contacts page.

To offset the cost of transportation to and from the program location, U.S. participants will receive a $1000 travel stipend from HI USA. The stipend will be released in two payments:

  • $750 pre-travel after submission of required documentation
  • $250 post-travel after completion of program requirements

Program Requirements

Participants will submit official documentation for the program (including HI USA program contract, IOU Program Contract, information regarding international health insurance, waiver of liability, and digital communication agreement, photo, and bio)


  • Participants will utilize the official IOU Respect participant site for information about the program.
  • Participants will utilize Whatsapp for team communication.
  • Participants are required to post on social media as part of their participation (before, during, and after the program)

Participants will engage in a series of program planning meetings with their Team Leader (a former IOU Respect participant who will be present for the duration of the program).  Attendance at these meetings is a requirement for pre-travel funds. The meetings will cover program policies and logistics, information about the participating countries, and travel information. These meetings will also be used to prepare for group presentations during the program.

The 2-week program includes the following elements:

  • 7 dialogue sessions – these 4-hour sessions will include teambuilding, group work, discussions, and opportunities to share, learn, and reflect on cultural differences and similarities within the group.
  • Culture night – a change to work with your team to share the culture of the United States with the other participants.
  • Country Exhibition Night – a chance to work with your team to share facts about the United States and do a deep dive into what works, and what needs to improve, in U.S. culture.
  • Sightseeing excursions and social outings to foster unstructured communication and opportunities to learn about the location and each other
  • Volunteer service to promote active citizenship
  • Free time to explore the area with your new friends!
  • Closing ceremony to share what you have learned and to celebrate the journey!

Participants are expected to post on social media during the program.

  • Join the IOU Respect Alumni Facebook Group
  • Submit a program evaluation to share your experiences of the program and ideas for future programs
  • Post on social media about the program’s impact
  • Create a plan for staying in touch, sharing the lessons learned in IOU Respect within your local community, and collaborating on best practices for promoting intercultural understanding and peace.
  • Through assessments and check-ins with participants after the exchange, leaders will evaluate the success of the exchange and support the participants’ ongoing efforts to promote travel as a means to achieve intercultural understanding and peace.


IOU Respect accepts four (4) applicants from each participating country, for a total of 24 participants. In addition to the four applicants, there are six (6) Team Leaders – one from each country.

The program is led by the Host Country Coordinator/Project Manager and the Program Facilitator.

Dialogue session topics include:

  • Introspection and Identity
  • Discrimination, Privilege, Stereotyping
  • Religion and Ethics
  • Human Rights (including Gender Equality)
  • Active Citizenship (Ambassador Building, Civil Society/Youth Movement, Post-IOU Plans)
  • Open Space – (additional topics at the discretion of the facilitator and participants)
  • Evaluation and Personal Reflection

In addition to the Dialogue Sessions, the program also includes: free time for sightseeing, time for prayer/spirituality, outdoor sports/games, culture night, country exhibition, and volunteering and/or field visits.

The IOU Respect Leadership team includes:

  • Facilitator:
    Responsible for leading dialogue sessions and ensuring a safe atmosphere for participants to share their thoughts, opinions, questions and feelings.

  • Host Country Project Manager:
    Responsible for organizing transportation, supplies, outings, food, accommodation and other program logistics.

  • Team Leaders or “Teamers”:
    Each participating country will have one Teamer. Teamers are former IOU Respect participants and are responsible for the overall support of the program including logistics, emotional support and general supervision and leadership.

  • Program Coordinators:
    Each partner hostelling association has a National IOU Respect Coordinator – a dedicated staff person or volunteer responsible for IOU Respect. Only the host country coordinator is present for the program. However, the other national coordinators will communicate regularly with the Team Leaders to support the program and the participants of their country. If you are not a U.S. participant, please contact the coordinator for your National Association listed on the contacts page.

Yes, if you are permitted to do so based on your national association and/or travel documents. Please note that any additional overnights will be at market rate. You will be responsible for making your own arrangements for transportation and accommodation, at your own expense.

You will be provided with a packing list upon acceptance to the program, but all participants must have a valid passport from their home country at the time of departure. The passport must not expire within the next 6 months after the program date.

Program History

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.” The program has been going strong in its current format since 2006.