I came into IOU Respect with a genuine curiosity about the other countries that were involved. And I got that experience by immersing myself with nearly thirty different strangers as we toured and participated in the events that made up IOU Respect. However, in the end, IOU Respect was more than just about cultural understanding, it was also about personal development. The program had its ups and downs but every experience was beneficial. It helped me see how little of a bubble I have lived in for the past couple decades of my life. Throughout the two weeks, I was able to see the differences in beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that make each country participating so unique. I was also able to look deeper into who I was with greater clarity and improve on myself moving forward.
With the dialogue sessions, we were able to hear each person’s personal beliefs and opinions about the issues that make up our world. To me, it illuminated how complex the world is and how each of the societies we live in make up who we are as individuals. At the same time, the program gave us the time before, during, and after the dialogue sessions to bridge the gaps that separated each one of us. The program helped me reassess who I am in this world and come one step closer to finding out more about myself in my own identity quest. I am forever indebted to those that allowed me to be part of this great experience and I would participate again if I could!
Jennifer R. - Boston, MA
“Boshret Kheir,” a trendy Egyptian song became the unofficial anthem of the IOU Respect 2016 cohort. The meaning of this song derives not only from the vividly pleasant memories that I have of my fellow participants and listening to it while sitting on the grass of the Ismailia hostel or dancing to it while cruising on a boat in the Ismailia waters, but also from its intended meaning. The song talks about the gathering of people from various communities who have overcome a lot. It urges people to unite because together, we are stronger and suggests we remain hopeful, and speak out to make the world a better place. This is exactly what IOU did. It united people from all over the world. It challenged us to think differently and to exchange both similarities and differences. Most importantly, it showed us that despite our differences, love conquers all. So long as our hearts were open to learning and accepting one another, we could become life long friends and we did.
IOU taught me that no matter how confident I am in my convictions, that I should listen to others and acknowledge their perspectives. I learned to judge less and love more. In doing so, I have truly learned the power and beauty of human solidarity. I believe that it is because of this that I have walked away with a new family, one that I fully intend to reunite with in the near future. Thank you members and team leaders of IOU Respect 2016 and those who made our meeting possible. I am infinitely grateful for the amazing individuals I have met and wisdom they have brought to my life.
Garrett S. - Boulder, CO
I have always believed that it is not the location you have but the people that are there with you that make a memory unforgettable. While Egypt was an amazing and strange world to me, I will vividly reminisce about most of the friends I made and our time spent together.
IOU Respect is a unique and incredible platform for youth collaboration, personal development, and international networking and communication. IOU challenged me to articulate my beliefs and values, respect and discover beauty in each other’s differences, learn from the “other” perspective, and mold and strengthen my individuality.
It is truly astonishing to me that there is an organization willing to give of their time and resources to bring youth from six countries together in one place for the pursuit of education, awareness and growth. There is no institution or program like Hostelling International and IOU Respect. While the difference they make may only be primarily within 31 individuals, the reach of each individual exponentially increases the range of the whole. Through small endeavors, large change is possible. I am a proud alum and member of the IOU Respect family!
Leilani S. - Washington, D.C.
I don't know how IOU Respect did it. The program gathered strangers from different corners of the globe, made us live with each other for two weeks and we left with soul-mates, extended family, life long friends and memories we would not trade for the world. Each country brought new perspectives to the table that made me question myself, digging right down to the core of who I am. The program taught me not to take the opportunities that I have as an American for granted and also forced me to understand that there are people who live in circumstances not ideal to me, but who would not want to live any other way.
Although the program was so much fun, there is no denying that IOU was a challenge. I was exhausted mentally, physically, and sometimes emotionally to keep my mind open, to jump from one activity to another, and to explain the whys of my beliefs. Everyone came to the realization that this world has serious issues that cannot be solved overnight, but IOU was definitely a catalyst for change and peace. Gaining the knowledge of the other cultures during the exchange will change your life and show you what a world full of understanding could be.