A truly fulfilling study abroad experience in an amazing country. Challenging and immersive. Do yourself a favor and choose SIT Ecuador!!
Host Country Program Administration:
The staff on hand take care of all the logistics, leaving you to soak up as much of the country and language as you can.
Living arrangements were exactly what I wanted: caring host families who want to include you in everything they do. Seriously, everything. Be prepared to go grocery shopping, go to family weddings, leave in a car without knowing where you are going, etc. That's just how it is in Ecuador. They want to make you a part of the family. It can be exhausting at times, but totally worth it in your language gains and cultural immersion.
Ceviche, maduros, sopas ricas. Everything is fresh. You will try so many incredible fruits and vegetables that you have never had before. If you are vegetarian you will be accommodated.
Social & Cultural Integration:
I felt very integrated into the local culture. Being a foreigner, you will always stand out, but that doesn't mean you can't become part of a community. People in Ecuador are very willing to include you in their plans, especially your host families. Your host family will be your best route to making lots of Ecuadorian friends. If you are worried that you won't be immersed because you won't be in an Ecuadorian university, don't be. I had the same worry going into the program, but I was so glad to have some time each day with the other SIT students. You will spend almost all of your free time with your host family or other Ecuadorian friends anyways.
I did not have any health issues besides some minor "indigestion" (almost unavoidable). Other students on the program received great medical attention for other issues.
Let's be real, living in Ecuador is like living in any other developing country: it's not always safe, but you can always stay safe by taking precautions. Travel in groups, don't go out alone after dark, etc. Taxis are perfectly safe as long as you know what to look for. Your program staff does a tremendous job advising you on how to do this. We had one student robbed, but this student simply got too comfortable and made the mistake of going out alone after dark. Follow the advice of the program leaders and you will be just fine!
I did not spend very much money at all in Ecuador. Your program costs cover all meals and transportation, even those costs incurred on program excursions. Other things that you will want to spend money on (clothes, crafts, going out, nestle galaks) don't cost much by western standards.
Your classes are in Spanish, even though they are taken with the other SIT students. You are placed in individual homestays, so you have no choice but to use Spanish there. On excursions with the other SIT students, you can talk in English but are of course encouraged to always use Spanish!
SIT Ecuador is an incredible experience. The program staff, especially the academic director, Fabian, is so helpful. You will learn so much about the world and about yourself.