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IOU Respect Program Information and FAQs

Learn what to expect before, during, and after IOU Respect!

Program Requirements

Participants must be:

  • 18-26 years old
  • Fluent in English
  • Citizens of the United States, Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, or Tunisia with a current passport at the time of the program.

Employees of HI USA and people who have previously participated in a Hostelling International exchange program are not eligible

Once the program begins, all program costs are covered by the hosting hostelling association except for snacks, souvenirs, and free-time activities/transportation.

Each partner country 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 country listed on the contacts page .

For 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.
Upon successful completion of the program, U.S. participants will receive a $500 travel stipend from Hostelling International USA.

Program Details

  • IOU Respect will take place August 4-18 at HI Chicago Hostel in Chicago, IL, USA
  • Application Deadline is February 15, 2022

The application period for IOU Respect 2022 is now closed. Please subscribe to our “Programs & Events” mailing list to be alerted when applications for the next IOU Respect program open.

  • Participants will submit official documentation for the program
    (including program contract, healthcare form, proof of vaccine, 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 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).
    The meetings will cover program policies and logistics, information about the participating countries, and travel information

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.

  • Sightseeing excursions and social outings will foster unstructured communication and opportunities to learn about the location and each other.

  • Volunteer service to promote active citizenship

  • Closing ceremony to share what you have learned and to celebrate the journey!

  • Shared accommodations at a HI USA hostel to promote interaction among the participants

  • Join the IOU Respect Alumni Facebook Group

  • Submit a program evaluation to share their experiences of the program and ideas for future programs

  • Create a plan for staying in touch, sharing the lessons learned in IOU Respect within their 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.


The IOU Respect accepts four (4) applicants from each participating country, for a total of 24 participants. While we are only able to accept a handful of participants per country, we encourage anyone who meets the criteria and is truly interested in this work to apply. A demonstrated personal interest and investment in cultural exchange and understanding is the most important qualification we look for in applicants.

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, volunteering and/or field visits, creative project work, and a home visit (if possible).

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 dedicated staff person or volunteer responsible for IOU Respect who will communicate regularly with the Team Leaders to support the program and the participants of their country.

US participants will be expected to arrange their own transportation to/from the host hostel. This includes purchasing a flight that arrives in the host city in time for the opening of the program and a return flight after the program is complete. Teamers will provide participants with directions to the host hostel.

International Participants should follow the guidelines of their National Association. The team leaders and the coordinator will assist with directions to the hostel.

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.

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.