You've decided to learn Spanish abroad! There’s an entire world of Spanish speaking countries just waiting for you to explore. On the top of your list should be multi-cultural, multi-climate Ecuador.
Ecuador has an abundance of natural beauty and a laid-back atmosphere everywhere you go. Few other countries can boast such diverse scenery. People rarely move faster than a shuffle, and in comparison to the United States, everything is incredibly inexpensive. One can explore the Amazon Rainforest and the Galapagos Islands, both 7 Wonders of Nature finalists, while in Ecuador.
- Population: 15,223,680
- 95% Roman Catholic
- Official language: Spanish; Indigenous Language: Quechua
- Fun Fact: Ecuador has had 21 constitutions since the formation of the Republic of Ecuador in 1830.
- Popular destinations: Montanita, Mitad Del Mundo, Loja, Galapagos Islands, Mindo, Banos, Quito, Cuenca, Guayaquil
- Idiomatic phrase: Me ves la carra de gringo? Literally translates to “Do I have the face of a gringo?” but means “Are you trying to rip me off?”
As for learning Spanish, there’s no better place than Ecuador. Accents generally are not thick, fast, nor difficult to understand for a beginner Spanish-speaker. Ecuadorians are also extremely polite, so you will learn Spanish with many please’s, thank you’s and sorry’s.
Depending on your college’s study abroad options, there may be a direct exchange between your college and a university in Ecuador. This is always the easiest option because classes, living options and trips are already planned, but if your school does not have its own program, there are plenty to be found!
Pontifica Universida Catolica de Ecuador in Quito, Ecuador is easily accessible by public transportation with a well-maintained campus and has a solid Spanish learning program for international students.
After an initial placement test, individuals are set in various levels of classes to best suit their learning level. A class cycle lasts eight weeks and generally consist of about 15 students from all over the world.
Aventuras Languages hosts several Spanish learning programs throughout Ecuador that can be tailored for the individual student. Schools are located in Quito, the Amazon jungle, Guayaquil, Cuenca and the Galapagos Islands. Classes can be taken for weeks or months from teachers who have a minimum 10 years experience teaching Spanish as a second language. Students can stay in an apartment, nearby youth hostels or with a host family.
Cultural events and weekend trips are organized to bolster knowledge of Ecuadorian culture and to get to know other students in the program. If you desire, you can add volunteering to your Spanish learning trip with programs in environmental conservation, community service, human rights, music and more.
If you are looking to become a part of an Ecuadorian community, look no further than Fundacion Cimas del Ecuador. Cimas interns integrate into an Andean community and broaden their global perspective by working with Ecuadorian organizations.
Other programs delve into local development where students investigate methods to enhance the living conditions of Ecuador’s vulnerable populations. Ecology programs explore the varied regions of Ecuador from coastal beaches to the Amazon Rainforest to the Andes Mountains.
In addition, health studies examine the difference between indigenous and Western health systems. During these programs you live with a host family to improve Spanish language skills and further your immersion into the culture.
Classes while traveling
With Ecuador Spanish Schools you learn Spanish while exploring the breathtaking and lush Ecuador. During the month long program, students partake in 80 hours of Spanish group lessons, live with a host family, learn to dance the salsa and take cooking lessons featuring Ecuadorian cuisine.
Students spend a week in each location: Quito, Cuenca, Montañita and Manta. By moving from mountains to beaches and staying with host families in different cities, participants obtain a broader sense of what Ecuador offers. If whale watching, hot springs, paragliding, and surfing while learning Spanish sounds like your kind of trip, apply!
If your program lasts longer than 90 days, foreigners will need to obtain a Student Visa. You will need a passport valid for six months beyond your travel dates, colored passport photos, a recent background check, certificate of admissions to your learning establishment, and a certificate of financial solvency.
While this may seem like a lot, your program will help you obtain your visa. Also, feel free to contact your nearest Ecuadorian embassy in the United States if you have questions.
Ecuador is an affordable country to visit that uses the United States dollar. Expect to pay about $3 USD a meal at a smaller restaurant, $1 USD for a beer and $0.50 USD for a bottle of water. Buses are an easy and inexpensive means of transportation. Trips within cities like Quito and Guayaquil cost $0.25 USD, and trips between distant cities on average cost $5 to $10 USD.
It's risky to advise on taxi prices with the constant change, but currently the average start rate is $1 USD and $1 USD per kilometer. Only take taxis marked with a registration number, a “taxi” placard and license plates for safety.
Be prepared to pay for almost everything in cash as only larger stores and restaurant chains take credit cards. Smaller towns like Mindo and Montanita are less expensive with hostels ranging from $3 to $5 USD a night.
If you’re looking to offset some of the costs of studying abroad, consider applying for these scholarships.