Travel Grants

Hostelling International USA (HI USA) presents an annual Travel Grant in the amount of $1,000 in the greater Los Angeles area to an individual who is just beginning his or her travel experiences in life. It is the goal of HI USA to encourage and promote the pursuit of world exploration and experiential learning (i.e. learning from direct life experiences) through this grant. The applicant's abilities to learn from his or her unique real-world experiences, and to share these experiences with HI-USA members upon returning from the trip, play a large part in the selection process.


For further questions, please email, or call 310-393-9913 x3104.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Demisse HabteselasieDemisse Habteselasie, the 2014 HI-Travel Grant recipient, returned at the end of June from a two month European experience, where he had the opportunity to explore various cultures and intern with a member of Parliament in London. During his stay, Demisse kept a blog. Upon his return, he created a photo journal to further share the impact of his study abroad adventure. The following is a short excerpt from his journal.

Europe offers different flavors of cities. There’s no question that Rome is different from Stockholm. There’s no question that London is different from Florence. That’s the beauty of the world. Some of the greatest cities in the world contain so much culture and history. The culture takes vastly different forms. It can appear in paintings, music and/or food. I’ve embraced the experience. I’ve learned so many things. This trip has allowed me to really become “global”. That word is often thrown around and I feel that I’ve finally gotten a grasp on what it truly means. Since this trip, I’ve read more. I intend on taking additional language classes. It’s experiences like being in a rowdy protest that gets me riled up. The passion and flavor of the streets are incomparable to anything I’ve experienced in the United States. The people are well educated and curious for knowledge (students of Aristotle, Socrates or Plato). It was rejuvenating being in that atmosphere. The history in the paintings and the stories told through the arts reemphasized that there is a world outside of the States and I now have the travel bug – I never want to stop! You can check out the rest of Demisse’s photo journal here.

Past Travel Grant Recipient Projects

Alexis Fogel, 2013 Travel Grant recipient

Alexis FogelFollowing an eye opening experience where she participated in a Birthright program to Israel, Alexis Fogel chose to return to Tel Aviv from April to August of 2013 for a dual internship. Alexis, a graduate of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), worked with two organizations in areas of cross-cultural after school programming and community development for the Ethiopian refugee population. Working with refugee and the Ethiopian-Israeli communities, Alexis experienced firsthand the social components that contribute to the experience these groups have in Israeli society. Read more about Alexis’s internship and travel experiences through her photo journal, or on her blog.

Jenna Tico of Chino, 2012 Travel Grant recipient

Jenna TicoJenna Tico, a graduate from Scripps College, took off last September for what was supposed to be a two month teaching and cultural experience. Seven months later, she returned to Los Angeles. Jenna finished her original plans of teaching English in Bali and learning about sustainable living in Thailand at the end of October. During her initial stay, she was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to extend her adventure and become a nanny in Bali. Read about Jenna’s transformational journey through her photo journal, or in her blog at

Bryan Bujarski of Cypress, 2011 Travel Grant recipient

Bryan BujarskiA student at California State University of Long Beach, Bryan began his adventures in South America in July, 2011 to continue his education in Latin American Studies and Spanish at the University of Belgrano. Following a three-week backpacking trip through Chile and Argentina, Bryan spent the next four months in Buenos Aires, Argentina, as a student and scholar. Upon his completion of the program, he continued traveling into Chile, Uruguay, Bolivia, and Peru. As an aspiring firefighter, one of Bryan’s main goals was to meet various emergency response professionals in South America and experience their life and work. Bryan realized that his adventure was "not just a trip to get away from reality," but that it expanded his reality. Read more about Bryan’s incredible experiences through his photo journal or on his blog.

Stephanie Sherwood of Long Beach, 2010 Travel Grant recipient

Stephanie SherwoodStephanie Sherwood -- a student from Cal State Long Beach and the 2010 HI Travel Grant recipient -- departed for Guangzhou, China in August 2010 to study for ten months at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. Like many young travelers studying abroad, Stephanie experienced the "impact of absorbing another culture" for the first time. "Living like a Chinese university student helped me understand what aspects of my life are inherently American," she said. As a student of oil painting, Stephanie was able to express her life in China through her art. Following her return home, she shared this expression through an exhibit of her work, titled From Los Angeles to China, at HI-Santa Monica. To see more of Stephanie’s art and read her experiences, please visit

Jessica Lah of Brea, 2009 Travel Grant recipient

Jessica LahAfter spending a year of exchange at the Academy of Fine Arts in Guangzhou, China, Jessica Lah was inspired to travel to the site of the catastrophic 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake in Sichuan province. While there, she investigated the process of demolition and reconstruction of the roads, cities, and communities, along with the positive and negative effects of the healing stages of recovery. Jessica collected hundreds of notes, drawings, watercolors, and photographs during her days in Wenchuan. Upon her return, she composed paintings based on her investigative material. The painting process became a way to organize her thoughts and make connections between her visual accounts, personal interactions with people, and outside research. As the painting came into clarity, so did her understanding of her experience in Wenchuan. To see some of Jessica's photos and paintings, and to read more of her story in her own words, click here.

Samuel Byker of Los Angeles, 2008 Travel Grant recipient

Samuel BykerSam is a nineteen year old Economics and History double-major at Brown University. With six of his classmates, Sam traveled four weeks in the Indian states of West Bengal and Assam. Their goal was to collect footage for a documentary about a newly created non-governmental organization, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), that pioneered the Lighting a Billion Lives (LaBL) initiative. Sam and his team immersed themselves in towns and remote villages, illuminating the impact that artificial light has on communities and individuals. Sam stated in his application that "LaBL provides a comprehensive approach to sustainable development, satisfying a fundamental need for electricity while also stimulating entrepreneurial activity. Its innovative model is replicable throughout India -and beyond- but the organization remains in the early stages of growth." This project will boost TERI's international presence. See Sam's photo journal colorfully depicting his trip and commentary explaining what he witnessed. In the 2008-2009 school year, Sam and his classmates will create media for LaBL, such as videos, podcasts and slideshows. Additionally, a shorter documentary will be presented at the Clinton Global Initiative Summit. After university, Sam wishes to pursue a public service career.

Sarah Holden of Claremont, 2007 Travel Grant recipient

Sarah is a graduate from Scripps College with a major in Studio Art and a minor in Religious Studies. Sarah planned a European trip, focusing her time mainly in Italy. She viewed this trip as an opportunity to enrich her understanding of what she pursued in college "in person rather than on a page." Throughout Italy she stayed in convents and monasteries that operated also as hostels. With her sketch book in hand, Sarah recorded images for future reference in her art-making. After her three month journey Sarah submitted this essay and two-dimensional mixed media art examples, documenting the lives of the Italian nuns she met and the various sacred spaces she traveled to along the way.

Kimberly Bautista of Pasadena, 2006 Travel Grant recipient

Kimberly was a student at Pitzer College with a double-major in Media Studies and Spanish. She participated in a Study Abroad Program in Ecuador, and planned an independent study project where she interviewed Colombians living in Ecuador to see how they had assimilated to Ecuadorian culture and society. Kimberly used her travel grant money to visit Colombia. She was able to compare the cultural challenges of those she interviewed for her documentary, on Colombian identity, to her own struggles of being a person "struggling to be accepted as Colombian and gringa (North American) at the same time." Kimberly stated in her application that she "would love to receive a grant to travel from Ecuador to Colombia to explore the theme of a displaced people, 'mis compatriotas,' more deeply." Footage she shot in Colombia served as the material she used for her senior theses.

Kim Kurcab of Irvine, 2005 Travel Grant recipient

Kim is a graduate from UC Irvine with a career objective to work in ecological restoration and conservation. She joined the Global Volunteer Network to work on an environmental community service project in New Zealand. This was the perfect trip to compliment her years of university education and give her fieldwork experience in a volunteer capacity. Her volunteer program was based in Wellington and the southern part of the North Island. Kim helped in a variety of projects from wildlife surveys, native species restoration to areas that have been invaded by exotic alien species and national park environmental maintenance. In addition, Kim worked with a team of volunteers from all over the world, learning about indigenous and immigrant people from the area. Upon the return from her two month trip, Kim created a detailed photo journal of her experiences in New Zealand.

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