Want to travel the world and make an impact? Hostelling International USA (HI USA) wants to help. The nonprofit organization, which runs more than 50 hostels in the United States, is awarding more than 100 Explore the World Travel Scholarships of $2,000 each to people 18 to 30 who want to learn and make a difference outside of the United States.

“You don’t have to be a student, but your abroad plans need to either involve an educational or service learning component,” said Netanya Trimboli, director of public relations and communications at HI USA. “A lot of our recipients are volunteering at a school or helping out with a medical facility. Some are getting college credit, some aren’t. It’s across the board, but the idea is you’re going out to better the world, while also getting those transformative benefits [of travel], yourself.”

The organization launched the Explore the World Travel Scholarship in 2016 to help make travel accessible to all. Last year, more than 1,700 people applied for the scholarship, and 98 received it. This year, 104 scholarships are available to people who meet a number of regional and financial qualifications. For starters, they must live in one of the 13 metropolitan areas where HI USA has a hostel presence (Los Angeles; San Diego; San Francisco; Minneapolis/St. Paul; the Washington and Baltimore areas; New York City; Chicago; Portland, Ore.; New Orleans; Austin; Houston; Boston; and Richmond). In addition, they must be U.S. residents or permanent citizens and demonstrate financial need, either as a current or former Pell Grant recipient or with a 2017 income that doesn’t exceed 300 percent of the 2017 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines. The proposed destination must be outside of the United States, and travel must take place between May 15, 2018 and August 31, 2019. The deadline to apply is March 2.

The online application asks questions about past travel experience, motivations for traveling abroad, how you would use your experience to inspire others, how it will enrich your life and how you will incorporate education and/or service into your travels. “Their aspirations are what’s important — how they want to use this travel scholarship to see the world, to better the world,” Trimboli said. “We want people that have a plan. Something that they’ve always wanted to do and just didn’t think it would be possible.”

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Past recipients have traveled to Amman, Jordan, for an intensive course in Arabic; worked with refugee children in Epirus, Greece; studied and blogged about captive breeding of pandas while interning with a wildlife organization in Sichuan Province, China; and conducted research to learn about the immigrant experience of non-Spanish-speaking indigenous peoples who settled in Mexico City.

The mission of HI USA is to encourage travel as a way to break down barriers and better understand one another across cultures. Just as its U.S. hostels host travelers from more than 100 countries, Trimboli said that the goal of the Explore the World Travel Scholarship is to encourage people from the United States to explore beyond their borders and grow through travel.

“As much as we want to welcome the international community to the U.S., we also want to empower Americans to go out and see the world,” she said. “We really believe that everyone should have the benefits of the transformative power of travel, without cost getting in the way.”

Silver is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twitter: @K8Silver.

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