Quito is the capital city in Ecuador. Founded in 1535, Quito was the first city ever to be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is recognized by National Geographic Traveler magazine as one of the top 20 destinations to visit in the world for 2013! Set high in the Andes Mountains, Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world in terms of altitude. But it is Quito's rich colonial history and its ties to the orient that makes it an interesting city culturally.

Early in the 15th century, several tribes lived in what is now present-day Quito. Among them were the Quitus, from whom Quito derives its name. Quito is divided into an "old" section and a "new" section based on its colonial ties to Spain and to the indigenous groups of Ecuador. This allows visitors to experience both the wonders of the colonial past and the promise of a future rich in government and commerce.

Students wishing to take courses that focus on Spanish language, history, culture, or environmental studies might choose to study abroad in Quito. Its prime geographic location, history to the Inca tribes, food and nightlife make this a popular location for students to study abroad.

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Culture and Immersion

Ecuador's unique colonial history means that studying abroad in Quito will give you a unique cultural experience unlike anything you have ever dreamed of. With towering cathedrals, market places, many of the original structures here are more and 500 years old and are still largely intact. Consider visiting the Metropolitan Cathedral or Basilica del Voto Nacional situated on Independence Plaza where you can also see a number of the government buildings, or have a walk around the Quito Botanical Gardens. Also don't miss the church of La Compañía is a stunning display of Jesuit wealth, as nearly the entire inside of the church is plated in gold.

Like many South American cultures, the people in Quito have a very close bond with each other and with the region. Family is extremely important and living with a family is a particularly great way to get acquainted with the local culture and way of life. Many students find this such an enriching and rewarding experience that they keep in touch for their host families for years after spending just a few short months with them.

Affordability

Study abroad programs vary in cost depending on which school or company you go through but generally range from $10,000 to $15,000. Ask your university whether scholarships you receive for each semester can be used towards your study abroad expenses. Also, some schools will offer scholarships for study abroad students check to see what is offered by your host university as well. It is important to see what is included in your program. Many programs will offer orientations, social adjustment programs, and excursions so be sure to see what yours is offering.

Living in Quito is relatively inexpensive as long as you are not picky about buying brand names in terms of clothing, food, and other products. Local fruits and vegetables are very inexpensive and a there are various markets around the city where you can do shopping.

For travel around the city, taxis are relatively cheap more recommended for travel around the city, especially at night. Check with your university or study abroad program for recommendations about local buses in your area but generally taxis are safer.

Culture Shock and Support System

Traveling to a new place always requires some form of cultural adjustment. Food in Ecuador might be a little different than what you are used to in America (expect to find guinea pig on the menu!) and families always eat together. It is also customary in Ecuador to greet people with a kiss on the cheek so don't be alarmed if this happens often. The main thing to get used to will probably be the closeness of the culture but you will experience a little less of this in the capital city of Quito than in some of the smaller towns.

Participating in an activity that you enjoyed at home such as volunteer work or joining a sports team might help make you feel a little less like a stranger in your host city. The most important thing to remember is that things are going to be different and it might seem scary, but remember that is why you wanted to go abroad! Just take a deep breath and enjoy the experience of a lifetime.

Contributed by Jessica Scarfuto

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