SIT Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation

Video and Photos

An awesome day-time moth seen in the Amazon
Beautiful view from a hike in one of the cloud forests
A delicious meal at one of the reserves--rice and potatoes are staple foods in Ecuador
A glorious evening in the cloud forest
Sea lions in the Galapagos!
Study in Quito, Ecuador
Study in Quito, Ecuador
Study with SIT in Ecuador
Study with SIT in Ecuador
Ecuadorian host family
Ecuadorian host family

About

Ecuador is home to more than 1,600 species of birds and 10 percent of the world’s known vascular plant species. Students on SIT's Ecuador: Comparative Ecology and Conservation program have the opportunity to interact with community members and local stakeholders who are grappling with conservation strategies within the context of heightened political, economic, and social pressures provide valuable context.

The program base is historic Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Educational excursions take students to the high sierras of the Andes, the epiphyte-rich cloud forest, the rugged snow-line páramo, and the vast rainforest of the Ecuadorian Amazon. A guided, weeklong visit to the extraordinary Galápagos Islands provides access to plant and animal species found nowhere else on earth.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

94%
based on 16 reviews
  • Academics 7.8
  • Support 9.3
  • Fun 9.4
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 8.1
Showing 1 - 15 of 16
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Margaret
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The experience of a lifetime

The professors in this program were incredible. They were so enthusiastic that it was contagious. They are so caring too and love what they do and are good at it! They also tailor things to the group of students they have e.g. spanish intensity and topcis of interest. The excursions were out of this world, places you've only dreamed of going/ have only seen on nature documentaries. Some examples are the galapagos, cloud forest, Yunguilla, Páramo, etc. I can't speak for eeveryone else, but my personal host family was so sweet and I had so much fun with them. Overall this program is rich in experience if that is what you are looking for. Forget sitting in the classroom every day in your typical mundane college experience. This is an experience that will change you, your perspectives, and you will never forget it.

What would you improve about this program?
packing list, non-traditional gender and sexuality considerations
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Grant
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Above-and-beyond experience in Ecuador!

The program absolutely lived up to the expectations of being immersed in Ecuador's amazing biodiversity and complex conservation challenges. I learned so much through the experiential, comparative approach of the program. Furthermore, the opportunity to perform independent real-world field research was invaluable and allowed me to develop practical skills for my future. The Galapagos alone makes this program worth the value, and it is so much more beyond that! Visiting the paramo, cloud forest, Amazon, and other ecosystems gives a comprehensive view of research and conservation methods. The program staff is passionate about what they do and very helpful throughout the course of the program. I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone passionate about ecology, conservation, and Spanish! I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

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Sarah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Opportunity

Throughout this program, I gained confidence in myself, as well as an appreciation for familial bonds and a different perception of life and family structure. I learned about important environmental issues while visiting some of the most beautiful and biodiverse places in the world. I also made amazing friends who share my passions and values, both from Ecuador and the US. The homestay enriched my experience and provided the most opportunities for Spanish practice.
Ecuador is a beautiful country with so much to offer (Galápagos!!) and this program provides an incredibly unique way to visit the different regions. The style of learning can be tiring, because it is rigorous, but it is easily justified by the hikes through the Amazon, the early morning bird watching, or snorkeling and seeing marine life in the Galápagos.

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Satya
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great, immersive experience in science and Spanish!

I absolutely loved the SIT Ecuador program and it was a great fit for me, someone who wantes a field-based program woth a combination of science and Spanish. The strength of this program was its small class size (18 students in my program!) and unique, field-based format. All the students are from the US and our professors (and of course host families) are Ecuadorian. It’s structured such that we live and go to school in Quito and then every other week or so, we are off on week long excursions to different ecosystems all over the country. The last month is dedicated to conducting our independent research projects, where each student does their own research in a field station of their choice. As you can imagine, this allowed us to spend TONS of time outside in the field getting our hands dirty. If hands-on experiential learning (at any given time of the day and night) is your jam, then you’ll love it. The time we spent learning in the field was incredibly formative for me as a budding scientist.

In terms of scientific background, the vast majority of students were Biology or Environmental Science majors with a couple Geology folks. Prior knowledge in earth science isn’t necessary, but I would definitely recommend intro bio and ecology classes, perhaps a botany class if you have the option at your university. However, one of my close friends on the program was an art major and had only taken one science class before. So it is doable, but that's not the norm.

A key point to emphasize is that every facet of this program is structured, so it's hard to find free time for social and extra-curricular opportunities. Within the realm of abroad programs, this one is quite academically rigorous (which I feel is not stressed enough) and because of that, you will have little free time. You have to be willing to put in the work and live outside your comfort zone for a whole semester. But if you embrace it, you'll have a blast and will learn and grow so much.

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Caleb
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best possible study abroad experience

This study abroad program far exceeded anything that I hoped it would be. It had adventure (trekking through the Amazon, snorkeling in the Galapagos, and living in rural home stays, etc.), cultural immersion, language practice, rigorous academics, and independent research. There are times when I was certainly in uncomfortable situations but all of them were important parts of the program and helped make it what it was. The directors and administration are great to work with and you end up feeling like a family, both with them and the other students on the program. The research at the end is a great time for developing your own project, putting it into place, and writing it up into a full scientific paper. Really can't recommend it enough.

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Phoebe
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An unforgettable semester!

This program is an incredible opportunity for students studying ecology or environmental science! I had had great experiences traveling throughout Ecuador, learning about local ecology, and making new friends. The classes, and especially the independent research project, made me more qualified for ecology research positions. Taking classes in Spanish and living with a host family has made me much more confident in Spanish classes at my home university. I loved living with my host family, and I'll never forget all of the local traditions and foods they introduced me to. The program directors and host families are so proud of their country, and it's easy to see why! This was an incredible experience and I would recommend it to anyone interested in ecology and conservation.

What would you improve about this program?
Communication between program directors and students could be improved.
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Nicole
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing Field Study Program in Ecuador

This is a great program for anyone looking to further their Spanish and learn a lot about biology, ecology, geology, and natural sciences while spending lots of time outdoors. The program is very structured and intensive but this is what makes it so rewarding. The academics are interesting, challenging, and supported by real experiences in the field. You will travel to a number of amazing locations including the Galapagos, Amazon, páramo, and cloud forest. While the program itself is heavily oriented towards science and conservation you will also learn about culture through school and through your host families. One of the aspects of this program that makes it so unique is the independent study project. This was also one of the things I was most nervous about, but you will feel prepared and confident with the help of professors and staff. Students use this opportunity to study a topic of interest, practice research techniques, build their resume, gain field experience, do their senior thesis, and have an independent and immersive experience.
Do not expect to have a ton of free time. The days in the city are spent in class and nights spent with your host family. Excursions are spaced about a week apart. This allows you time to reflect on the last trip, prepare for the next, and have time to explore the city.
This is by no means an easy study abroad program academically or culturally. However if you are open-minded and passionate about ecology and conservation this will be an amazing and worthwhile experience. There are many people both in and out of the program that are kind, helpful, and excited to share their culture with you. One things this program really stresses is how to be a conscious and respectful student abroad. Overall, this is amazing experience and you will learn so much personally and academically!

What would you improve about this program?
This program is great for sciences, research, and learning field study techniques. Since it is so intensive academically the cultural immersion is relatively low. Spanish is used often in the classroom and on excursions but there is limited interaction with locals. You definitely can make this a culturally immersive program but this is more of a self-driven part of the experience. There are plenty of people in the city willing to interact and speak Spanish with you (including your host family) so it is possible!
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Alyssa
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome semester full of biodiversity, culture, and new friends to last a lifetime

This is a science-focused program with a significant field-based component, but what makes this program special is that it also gives you the chance to get to know intimately Ecuadorian culture. In addition to swimming among river dolphins in the Amazon and with sea turtles, sharks, and sea lions in the Galapagos, some of my favorite memories include hanging out with my host brother and his friends on the weekends, going with them to the discoteca or a pick-up soccer game. Living with an Ecuadorian family while in Quito was at first a daunting idea to me, but this was one of my absolute favorite aspects about the program. What is at first somewhat of a challenge comes to feel like home, to the point where I felt homesick when I returned to the US. There is no better way to learn the hidden details of a culture that tourists will never see. Not to mention the other great part of this program, which is the month-long independent study project that you conduct in the field in a topic of your interest. I worked with rare magnolia trees in the cloud forest, and this was a truly unique experience to learn and utilize field methods as an independent researcher.

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Zoe
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience!

I learned so much on this program that I would not have learned at my home college, largely because of the focus on experiential learning in the field. We got to travel to a cloud forest and a high-altitude paramo, not to mention deep in the Amazon forest and the Galapagos Islands! Those opportunities themselves make this program worth it because we were able to experience all different parts of Ecuador in a way that simple tourist would never be able to access. My spanish also improved a lot and I gained a lot of confidence with the language. Just be aware this program is a balance between conservation/field biology and Spanish and therefore is not an immersive experience.

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Henry
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best semester I've had.

I'm not a science student, but I had an amazing time on this program. I learned about and visited the páramo (highlands), the cloud forest, the Amazon, and the Galápagos, made 20 incredible friends, learned from wonderful professors, and grew to love my homestay. We got to explore Quito, swim with sharks, rays, fish, eels, turtles, and sea lions in the Galápagos, see a jaguar and a harpy eagle in the Amazon, birdwatch at 5am in the cloud forest, and hike to 17,500 feet on a volcano! What's not to like?

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Ben
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Experienced-Focused Semester in an Incredibly Biodiverse Country

The main things I gained were botanical knowledge, field research experience, and connections with the science community in Ecuador. I did not find the program very academically challenging and a lot of the topics covered were pretty basic ecological/biological concerts. We did a fair amount of birdwatching on the program, which is something I very much enjoy. My favorite experiences were the cloud forest excursion, going out on a boat on an Amazonian lake, and my independent study project that took me to an altitude of 3 miles above sea level. However, my Spanish did not improve much (started and finished as an intermediate speaker) and there wasn't much time for cultural immersion.

What would you improve about this program?
More time for cultural immersion, though this would be difficult to do without cutting into field experiences. I would have also like a more conversation-based Spanish class, as opposed to the workbook/movie based class we had.
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Savannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Experience of a lifetime! This program is awesome

The best aspects of this program were the excursions, the close relationship with the professors, the homestays, and the independent study. We went on 4 major trips throughout the semester--a cloud forest & rural community, the paramo highlands, the Amazon, and the Galapagos--and they were amazing. Our professors travelled with us for all of the excursions and were present every day at class, and they were very helpful and supportive with everything we did. My homestays were all fantastic experiences, especially my main homestay in Quito. My Quito family seemed perfectly chosen for me and I always felt comfortable and happy there. Finally, everyone completed an independent study project for a month toward the end of the semester. This was an excellent opportunity to develop as both a researcher and a person.

What would you improve about this program?
There isn't much at all that I would change about the program. If possible, finding ways to make the students' homestays a little closer or to have more group social activities. But really, there was nothing wrong with the program.
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Julia
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Learn Ecology in Ecuador!

This program is a wonderful experiencing mixing Spanish and science together in order to experience the best of both worlds. The excursions are the best part of the program and you get to travel to the Amazon, the Galapagos, the Paramo, and the Cloud Forest, and learn all about the plants, the birds, and the interactions. Everyday coming home to a host family was such a great experience as they were really open and wanted to help me learn Spanish and experience Ecuador.

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Devika
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The most eye opening experience in my life thus far!

Studying abroad in Ecuador through SIT was the best decision I could have made. I was provided with a unique cultural, language, and academic experience, growing not only as a student but also as a person. My language skills in Spanish improved drastically through continuos practice with local Ecuadorians and through language classes. This program allowed the students to travel throughout most of the country, from the cloud forest, to the volcanic glacier region, to the Galapagos Islands, and to the Amazon jungle. The Independent Study Project (ISP) was also an amazing experience, and I personally felt so rewarded when I left my ISP knowing that I had contributed to the work of an organization. All in all, I would choose this program again if given the option.

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Frankie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Semester in Ecuador

This program let me travel throughout Ecuador to lots of cool places, including the Galapagos, the cloud forest, and a very isolated part of the Amazon. If you like nature, its a great fit. The host families were wonderful. The Independent Study Project at the end of the trip was definitely a highlight. We got to travel by ourselves to work on a natural resourcesrelated research project of our choosing, generally working through local non-profits. For mine, I worked with camera traps of spectacled bears in the cloud forest to understand their patterns. It was part of a larger research project done through the Ecuadorian government and the University of Quito. Getting to put my knowledge to use in that way was wonderful.

What would you improve about this program?
Cost- its expensive but I definitely understand where the money went. There were lots of opportunities to practice Spanish, but because we were with other American students, it wasn't complete immersion.