Student and youth travelers take note. Your presence and your promise are being appreciated at the highest levels of our government. And HI-USA is part of the conversation.
Yesterday the First Lady’s staff invited an HI-USA colleague and me to talk with them about cross cultural exchange and our hostel network and programs. They wanted to know more about who we are and how we do it. For the 400,000 travelers who stayed with HI-USA last year and the 38 million who stayed at HI hostels worldwide, that’s something to celebrate.
Our invitation was prompted by First Lady Michelle Obama’s championing of study abroad, notably during her recent trip to China. In a late March CNN interview, she made an engaging case for study abroad as an important part of a well-rounded education and career success. (She also shared staying in a hostel while studying in France).
100,000 Strong in the Americas is an initiative to expand study abroad opportunities with Central and South America. There’s also a companion initiative for China. Here’s part of its vision statement:
“In today’s interconnected, technology-driven world, quality education alone is not enough. We need to be more internationally-aware and cross-culturally adept. We need a generation of leaders who can reach across borders. For this, students need a broad base of skills and experiences, including exposure to other countries and cultures. That is the vision of 100,000 Strong in the Americas”. (From U.S. State Department web site)
Of course, that description also could have come from HI-USA’s own website! The intent of 100,000 Strong marries HI-USA’s aims for promoting global youth travel. Study abroad and HI-USA hostels fit so well together because we serve largely the same audience in a complementary way:
- In the US, we give Americans who volunteer or stay at our hostels exposure to other cultures. With more than 60 percent of our guests coming from overseas, American 20-somethings can get a taste of other cultures while at home, inspiring them to travel or study abroad.
- For foreign students who are studying in the United States, using our hostels is an appealing way to travel our country and to experience the people and places here.
- For American young people taking a first trip overseas, it can be an introduction to later choosing to study there. The global HI hostel network is a fun, affordable way for Americans to travel abroad — whether on studies or on vacation.
When you are meeting in the First Lady’s office, it is easy to be enthusiastic about an idea. But the potential for this partnership resonates even more strongly a day later.
What’s next? We will be working with Administration officials to see what role we can best play. And of course, we’ll keep our hostel travel community updated and engaged with opportunities that come available. My blog will help keep you posted.
P.S. And to answer the final question seemingly on everyone’s mind: Did we meet Michelle Obama? Of course, if we did, there would be an eye-catching photo at the top of this blog post. Perhaps next time!