Studying Abroad in Ecuador: A Natural Choice

by Kris Holloway

Want to mountain bike in the Andes, take a dip in natural hot springs, and zipline through a lush cloud forest all in the same day? Then head to Ecuador for study abroad! For environmental scienceSpanish languagewildlife studies, or international business, more and more students are choosing to study abroad in Ecuador, a friendly affordable country with amazing natural resources.

Outdoor biking in Ecuador
Awesome outdoor fun awaits you in Ecuador. Photo by Kris Holloway

Natural Beauty

Its small size (about as large as the state of Nevada) means it’s easy to get around. Its diversity of wildlife is astounding: Ecuador makes up only 1.6 percent of South America in land size, but boasts more than 50 percent of the continent’s bird species. A large section of the Amazon jungle and the famous Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador. Studying abroad in Ecuador makes sense for anyone fascinated with wild, abundant nature.

Quito

Ecuador’s capital, Quito, is nestled in the Andes under the watch of the towering volcano Pichincha. Its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is easily walkable. The city has numerous buses (25 cents per ride) and taxis ($3 for a trip across town). Not-to-miss attractions for students who decide to study abroad in Quito include:

  • The Basilica - where the rickety wooden stairs up the clock tower are still open to visitors
  • Plaza Independencia - a beautiful central square that symbolizes the country’s independence from Spanish conquerors
  • The museum of Oswaldo Guaysamin - the famed painter and social justice champion
  • La Mitad del Mundo - the monument on the Equator a few miles north of Quito
  • The Teleferico - a cable car ride up the Pinchincha volcano high above the city

Language & Culture

Spanish is the language of the land, but many Ecuadorians speak English, and many indigenous languages are spoken in the countryside. Studying abroad in Ecuador is a great opportunity for students to learn Spanish and practice speaking with native speakers. Ecuador’s currency is the U.S. dollar, making currency conversion a no-brainer for Americans studying in Ecuador. The country’s cuisine has flavors for every palate: fresh fruit drinks and abundant salads, beef and chicken dishes, spiced plantains, and beans and rice. For the adventurous, there’s guinea pig and fried grubs.

Study Abroad Programs

Most study abroad programs in Ecuador utilize the Ecuadorian universities for direct enrollment opportunities. The Universidad San Francisco de Quito enrolls many U.S. and international students, and is the first private liberal arts university in the Andean region. Universidad San Francisco de Quito’s beautiful campus houses a world-class library, wireless access, modern classrooms, a variety of restaurants, and sports fields;  Soccer is a national passion! Courses in human rights, politics and tropical marine biology are particularly popular.

Alternative Learning Opportunities. If interning or volunteering abroad in Ecuador is of interest, there are positions in Quito itself, in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s big southern city, or in small towns in the Andes or in the Amazon. Volunteer projects in Ecuador are as abundant as the wildlife. Volunteers can work in conservation projects in the rain forest, marketing for local businesses, curation in museums, medical placements in rural health clinics, teaching English in elementary schools, sustainable architecture and building projects, and much more. Ecuador’s affordable economy makes it a smart destination for anyone working, living, or studying abroad on a budget.

The wildlife, diversity of study and service learning options, and friendly people of Ecuador await!