Ecuador, officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. Ecuador is also home to a great variety of species, many of them endemic. This species diversity makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Ecuadorian government has made huge investments in education and infrastructure throughout the nation, which have improved the lives of the poor.
Ecuador occupies a cozy, exotic corner of South America. Nestled on the west coast of South America with Colombia to the north, Peru to the east and south, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean to the west, the nation has long been one of the more remote regions of South America.
Native Quechua and other native tribes still inhabit rural areas in Ecuador, distinguishing Ecuador as a colorfully diverse nation. Ecuador boasts incredible biodiversity as well as ethnic diversity; the diversity of wildlife in Ecuador’s jungles—and in the Galapagos islands off the coast—have earned it a ranking as one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries.
Most Ecuadorians speak Spanish, though smaller percentages also speak Quechua, Shuar, or one of 11 other languages. The capitol of Ecuador is Quito, which was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1970 in recognition of its impeccably preserved Spanish architecture and city planning.
Quito is considered one of the least-altered examples of an inland Spanish colonial city. One of the city’s hallmarks is its distinctly European flavor, from its Gothic cathedrals to its old stone houses and shops.
Because Ecuador is relatively small—about the size of Colorado—and compact, nestled in the corner of South America on the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find that warm, tropical weather predominates in the coastal areas. Further inland, in the Andes, the weather is much more temperate and relatively dry. On the eastern side of the Andes, the Amazon rain basin climate is similar to that of other rainforest regions.
Because it is situated on the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in its daylight hours during different times of the year; whether it’s summer or winter, the sun both rises and sets at approximately 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. respectively.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Ecuador is surprisingly low. Even in the cities, it’s relatively easy to find apartments or flats to rent for around $100/month. Food in the markets is cheap and easily accessible, and even utilities, water, and phone bills are inexpensive.
Ecuadorians use the US dollar as their official currency, along with Ecuadorian octavo coins, so you don’t have to worry about exchange rates fluctuating.
While citizens of Ecuador are generally covered by the public health system, reasonably-priced health insurance is available for college students studying in Ecuador. Take the time to compare international student insurance before you go.
Study in Ecuador
Ecuadorian Higher Educaton
College students in Ecuador face an enrollment process far different from typical Western education patterns. Public universities in Ecuador are tuition-free, but enrollment is based on an aptitude test; in order to qualify to attend the higher-ranking schools, students must score high on the standardized test they take before they graduate from secondary school.
About 80% of Ecuadorian college students attend public universities; only about 20% attend private schools. The two largest universities in Ecuador, taking up about 50% of the country’s total enrollment of students, are the Central University of Ecuador and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito.
The Central University, established in 1826, is one of the oldest universities in Latin America and enrolls about 10,000 students each year. Universidad San Francisco is young in comparison, just founded in 1988, and enrolls about 5,500 students each year. Both are liberal arts universities offering degrees in a wide variety of subject areas.
Studying abroad in Ecuador puts you into contact with students from all over the world and a mezcla (mix) of cultures you won’t find anywhere else. Both students and teachers here are friendly and willing to help, from the moment they greet you with a warm smile and hug to study sessions to gatherings of friends out exploring Quito or hiking in the Andes mountains.
Ecuador is a fantastic place to study the Spanish language and culture, but if you’re interested in biology, conservationism, marine life, architecture, or fine arts, chances are good you’ll be able to find a niche that’s just right for you in a study abroad program here.
Because Ecuador is one of the less-popular countries for study abroad in Latin America, you’ll find that it’s an even better choice than some of the more popular options. Tuition and study programs in Ecuador tend to be less expensive than in other Latin American countries, which makes it an attractive option. But you’ll also find that Ecuadorian college areas aren’t overrun by as many tourists and foreigners, so your experience will be more authentic and you’ll get to interact with locals more than you might in other locations.
Obtaining a visa to study in Ecuador usually isn’t too much of a hassle, especially for U.S. citizens. Depending on the duration of your term of study, you may need a student visa or just a tourist visa for your stay. To apply for your visa, you’ll need to present your passport, a return ticket, and possibly proof of financial solvency—like a copy of your latest bank statement. The fee for the visa is waived for students from the U.S., Spain, Germany, Colombia, and Paraguay.
Private Spanish language lessons are available from $5-10 per hour. If you’re going to Ecuador to learn the language, take advantage of this resource.
Quito and Cuenca are considered the best places to study in Ecuador. Both have a wide variety of language schools to choose from.
While studying in Ecuador, if your study abroad program doesn’t include it, see if you can arrange housing with a local family. A homestay will let you experience Ecuadorian culture on a much deeper level—and make close connections with locals while you’re there!
If you’re looking for a warm, intimate study abroad experience with a bit of exotic culture and incredible diversity thrown in, Ecuador makes a fantastic choice. Take the time to do your research before you go and find the program that’s right for you, then jump in. You won’t regret it.
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