FAQ | IOU Respect – International Exchanges

IOU Respect

Program Details & Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect before, during, and after the program?
What are the dialogue session topics?
What sort of leadership is in place for this program?
How do I get to the program site?
Can I arrive early or stay after the program to travel on my own?
What should I bring?
Is there a way I can connect with program alumni and others who are interested in IOU Respect?
What is the history of IOU Respect?
What is Hostelling International?


What can I expect before, during, and after the program?
Participants from each country will engage in a series of preparatory meetings in person or via conference call in order to:

  • Create a plan for completing program preparations, including conducting interviews and preparing presentations;
  • Plan for a cultural night including food and activities from their home country;
  • Learn about cultural norms from each participating country;
  • Learn about program logistics.



  • Participants will share information about their home countries with the group.
  • Regular dialogue sessions will serve to educate participants about participating countries, cultures, people, religions, stereotypes, and more. Participants are encouraged to continue discussing dialogue session topics during free/down time.
  • Sightseeing excursions and social outings will foster unstructured communication and opportunities to learn about the host city.
  • Shared accommodation at a Hostelling International hostel will promote interaction among participants.



  • Participants will create a plan for staying in touch, sharing the lessons learned in IOU Respect within their local community, and using best practices for promoting intercultural understanding and peace.
  • Through assessments and multiple 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 way to promote intercultural understanding and peace.


What are the dialogue session topics?
Dialogue session topics include:

  • Introspection and Identity
  • Discrimination, Privilege, Stereotyping
  • Religion and Ethics
  • Human Rights (including Gender Equality)
  • Active Citizenship
  • Additional topics at the discretion of the facilitator and participants


What sort of leadership is in place for this program?
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 country's 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 from their country.


How do I get to the program site?
American 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. Team Leaders will provide participants with directions to the host hostel.

Can I arrive early or stay after the program to travel on my own?
Yes, but you are responsible for making your own arrangements for transportation and accommodation, at your own expense.

What should I bring?
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.

Is there a way I can connect with program alumni and others who are interested in IOU Respect?
Yes! Like us on Facebook.

What is the history of IOU Respect?
Shortly after 9/11, 2001, representatives of the Canadian, German, and American Hostelling International associations recognized a clear need to bridge the gap between the cultures of youth from Western countries and those from 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 Intercultural Understanding". The name of this campaign reflects HI’s belief that hostelling can help build a better world by bringing people of all different backgrounds together. In launching the effort, HI's then-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.

What is Hostelling International USA (HI USA)?
Visit our About Us page to learn more about our organization.