What subject should I study abroad in Ecuador?

While many people have heard of Quito, the capital of Ecuador, and know it is the place to discover the Middle of the World, this historic metropolis has so much to offer students ready to delve deeper into their studies with authentic local experiences. Set at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, upon arrival, Quito surprises the senses with its breathtaking scenery of snow peaked Andes mountains, surrounding volcanoes (both active and inactive), and year-long spring temperatures. The city offers much more than meets the eye though; it is a vast playground for curious international students interested in history, culture, gastronomy (hello foodies!) art, nature, and wildlife. 

students in Quito, Ecuador
Between magical skies and new lifelong friends, there’s much to love when studying in Quito.

From Latin American studies majors, who will enjoy taking a step back in time while strolling the well-preserved streets of the first city to be named a World Heritage Cultural Site by UNESCO in 1978, to wildlife management majors and nature lovers, who will have the opportunity to explore a mega-diverse capital city rich in flora and fauna, Quito’s numerous treasures keep students enlightened for any length of time. For students who want to straddle the equator someday, consider one of the following top areas of study for students who study abroad in Ecuador:

Best subjects for study abroad in Ecuador

Figuring out what to focus your academics / class time on first is one of our favorite studying abroad in Ecuador tips. Once you know what you want to learn about, you can use this information to inform your decisions and filter program options (and hopefully find the right one for you). Read on!

1. Spanish

There may be more than 20 countries that speak Spanish in the world, but studying Spanish in Quito allows students to learn Ecuadorian Spanish— one of the clearest and easiest to understand and ideal for beginners to easily master the language. Educators in Ecuador that form part of AECEE are all very prepared to teach international students and take part in ongoing development courses to stay up to date on the latest in language education. These schools follow the strict guidelines of the Cervantes Institute of Spain, the foremost authority on the Spanish language.

One of the most important parts of learning a new language is to use it in practical settings and to apply what is learned in class in real-life situations. When students study Spanish in Ecuador they have the opportunity to practice the language outside of class and in social situations, like while ordering meals at restaurants or asking for directions on Quito’s Trolebus – and Quito’s Metro in a few years once it is completed. By actively participating in the culture and everyday life of the city, students immerse in Spanish while studying in Quito, allowing them to not only learn the language quickly, but it in way that will stay with them for life.

girl posing with old architecture in quito, ecuador
Because your weekends should be spent exploring the new AND the old.

2. Latin American Studies

Did you know that Quito is one of the oldest cities in Latin America? Founded in 1534, Quito is a melting pot of Spanish colonial history and various indigenous cultures— perfect for Latin American studies majors who want to study abroad in Ecuador. The city’s history can be seen in its famed, well-restored Historic Center where convents, churches, and domes that have stood the test of time. For history majors, in particular, visiting the San Francisco Brewery, the first brewery in South America founded by Franciscan monks back in 1566, can take them back to appreciate the lengthy history of the city while enjoying satisfying brews of one of Quito’s oldest products.

Another important site, not only for Latin American history, but world history, is visiting the Mitad del Mundo monument, which outlines the exact location of the equator (from which the city gets its name) and commemorates the Franco-Spanish Geodesic Mission, an 18th century expedition whose purpose was to measure the roundness of the Earth by measuring the length of a degree of latitude at the Equator.

student working with spanish teacher in quito
Find a local tutor or teacher to learn one-on-one and really up your Spanish game.

Aside from these two areas, Quito offers more than 50 museums and cultural attractions that showcase the history of the country, from the ancient Incas to more contemporary times. Just in the historic district, students can find museums, churches, convents, theaters, and cultural centers, including Palace of Carondelet, home to the office of Ecuador’s president; The Cathedral, one of the most ancient temples in South America where the mausoleum of Field Marshal Sucre is found; Centro Cultural Metropolitano, a historic building that currently serves as a library, exhibition center, and restaurant; Church of la Compañia de Jesus, an emblematic temple from the heyday of the Baroque period with an impressive interior completely covered in gold leaf; and of course, San Francisco, a plaza, church, and convent that occupies more than three hectares. San Francisco is the largest religious building in the city and a place where students can admire the sculpture of the winged virgin of Quito, a piece by Bernardo Legarda.

3. Historic Preservation Programs

If there was ever a Latin American city perfect for historic preservation programs, Quito would be it. Due to the high-quality of its well preserved historic center, Quito was declared a World Heritage site in 1978 and was the first city to be honored with the title. Students will be able to delve deeper into how the city has been able to achieve this celebrated accolade by exploring its 130 monumental buildings, 5,000 heritage buildings, 17 stunning plazas, and 53 diverse museums. 

Another not to miss site that students can visit during their time off is El Panecillo, a tall hill that allows for spectacular views of Quito, and where the “Virgin of Quito” stands 148 feet tall. Inaugurated in 1976, this statue is considered a representation of the turning point of the Quito School of Art (one of the most renowned of the Americas) because it shows a virgin in movement – a high contrast to more traditional static Madonnas. 

students posing at the 0 latitude line in Ecuador
There’s a reason the word Ecuador and Equator sound so similar.

4. Zoology & Wildlife Sciences

Wildlife management majors will be happy to find that Quito is a dream destination for biologists and nature enthusiasts because of its mega-diverse landscapes. Home to over 1,600 species of birds, which represents 17 percent of the total amount that can be found across the globe, and the most hummingbirds in a country with over 130 species, Quito has numerous enclaves to explore both in the city and nearby surrounding areas.

Fun Fact: Did you know Quito is home to both the smallest and largest flying bird species in the world? While studying in Quito you can see both the hummingbird (smallest) and the Andean Condor (largest). 

Students can visit numerous protected areas in Quito, such as the Bellavista Cloud Forest, located in the Valley of Tandayapa just 45 minutes away from the city. This Cloud Forest was actually designated the first Important Area for Birds in South America by BirdLife International in 1997. Travelers can also find much flora and fauna right in the heart of Quito, at the South Metropolitan Park, also known as the lung of the city.

Other places worth visiting to study the rich nature of this destination include El Mindo, a bird sanctuary and cloud forest located just two hours north of the city, or El Pahuma, an orchid reserve located one hour away and home to 270 species of orchids and 500 species of birds. For those who combine a love for wildlife and history, consider taking a trip to the Pachijal Natural Area, located in the northwest of the City, which spans over 15,000 hectares and focuses on biodiversity conservation, and also features an extraordinary amount of archaeological remains of the ancient Yumbo civilization.

overlook of quito
Get used to amazing views that will sweep you off your feet.

Another natural spectacle of Quito is the Spectacled Bear (also known as the Andean Bear), the only surviving species of bear native to South America and classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUNC) because of habitat loss. Quito is slowly making its mark as an up and coming eco-friendly destination with a great focus on animal conservation. In fact, the destination will host the 25th annual International Conference on Bear Research and Management in November 2017, welcoming more than 300 scientists, biologists, and bear experts.

Next steps to study abroad in Ecuador

Don’t pack your sunblock and bug spray juuuust yet. There are a few items on your study abroad to do list you should check off first.

  • Decide where to go. Figuring out where to study abroad in Ecuador isn’t easy. The gorgeous highlands? Somewhere in kick-ass Quito? Don’t let the howler monkeys hold you back—choose a place that’s right for you.
  • Your major courses or something more fun and experiential? You don’t only have to take classes that pertain to your major back home (though it never hurts to knock out some credits towards graduation). Look at your course options and decide what combination of required classes and just-for-fun-or-because-you-want-to-learn-it classes are out there. We outlined a few common causes that students really love above—which will YOU choose?
  • Choose from the best study abroad programs in Ecuador. Pay attention to past participants’ reviews, program/university reputation, location, and your ease of getting credits. Some schools or providers may even provide contact info for student ambassadors or past international students if you want the REAL dirt. Here’s our guide to choosing between study abroad programs
  • Plan your finances.  Sort out funding before you go to afford daily essentials and splurge in travel (in addition to program costs and airfare). Do your research to have an idea of how much your study abroad program will cost. Check out scholarships for study abroad in Ecuador too!
  • Talk to your home university. Getting all your ducks in a row is largely dependent on what your home university requires. Talk to a study abroad advisor or the equivalent at your university to see what choices are available to you. 

You’re ready to sign up for Ecuador study abroad programs

If you choose to study abroad in Quito, you should be prepared to encounter a large urban city with a variety of cultures. Quito’s vitality and blend of the old and new is one of the most unique aspects of the city and what it makes it an attractive place to study abroad in Ecuador.

At universities in Ecuador, classes tend to be intensive with the purpose of immersing students in the Spanish language and the culture of the city. Additionally, many study abroad programs in Quito combine studying with more touristy activities, allowing students to see all of Quito and make the most out of their trip.

Plan your semester of study abroad in Quito with some time for added excursions around the country, but also remember that there is so much more to see in Quito then your university campus too.

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