EcuaExperience: Pre-Medical and Volunteer Programs

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Help, Learn and Discover is a student-driven volunteer organization that offers four week Pre-medical and Volunteer programs in Ecuador. These programs provide students with three main opportunities: to Help those less fortunate, to Learn first-hand knowledge about the medical field, and to Discover the amazing diversity of Ecuador. In the Help component, students use fundraised money to participate in a specific large-scale volunteer project. For example, in 2012 we built 21 homes for underprivileged families in a rural community called Pallatanga.

Students work alongside local families and are able to see the homes develop while integrating themselves into the community. In the optional Learn component, students shadow leading doctors and health professionals through eight different wards in a hospital setting.

We conclude the program with the Discover component, where students embark on an 11-day tour through the jungles, rainforests, highlands and beaches of Ecuador.

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Most of our students are 18+. However, we have had students under 18 that need their parents to co-sign their contract.


based on 220 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 220

HLD Ecuador

I loved the help, learn, and discover aspects of this program. Helping was the best experience; I really enjoyed how much interaction we got to have with the community. I learned and discovered so much not only during the medical rotations and touring but during volunteering as well. I feel that everything was very well planned out and exceeded my expectations. I have learned so much, from seeing how people make money everyday, how they live, but most importantly seeing how hard they work for what seems like almost nothing but NEVER complaining and always doing the most for others and their families has been the most humbling learning experience.

Yes, I recommend
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Paw Law

Experience of a Lifetime

This trip was one of the most incredible things i have ever done. From the people i met to the experiences we shared and the things i learned, my experience with the HLD far exceeded my expectations. HLD offers such a unique way of experiencing the beauty of Ecuador as it allows you to gain so much more out of it than you can ever imagine.

The LEARN part of the trip, we got to spend a week in Quito shadowing doctors by visiting different departments and actually standing right there inside the operating rooms watching surgeries! To this day i still am in awe of the fact that i got to stand right next to the surgeon while he operated on a patient. It’s an experience unlike any other, especially for aspiring doctors. They were just very helpful in answering questions, the knowledge i learned from them and the experience in Med rotations has definitely given me the motivation and completely solidified my decision in pursuing a career in Medicine.

The HELP portion was definitely the most life changing, as you’re in the community building houses for the local people who cannot afford proper housing themselves. It is sometimes hard, physical work as we scrap the houses so we'd have a smooth surface to paint on but at the end of the day you finished with the most rewarding feeling that we’re actually physically making a difference in other people’s lives. To see the result of our work at the end of the day, and to know that all of our fundraiser money is going directly toward people who truly need it is amazing. We worked alongside the locals and play with the children, we quickly built strong, lasting bonds with them, making it very hard to say goodbye when we had to leave. It feels good knowing that we had a little part in helping them build a future for themselves.

The DISCOVER part of the trip, which was spread throughout the whole month, helped keep us relaxed and sane, as we traveled to some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and got to do some pretty exciting things. From hiking in the jungle to waterfall rappelling to surfing to tubing down a river through the Amazon, the month was packed with so many exciting things that I look back and wonder how we managed to fit all of it into only four weeks. What really made this trip for me was getting to do all these incredible things with some of the best people I’ve ever met. I come into the group not knowing anyone and left with some of the greatest friends.

If you are unsure about whether or not this is the trip for you, just take a leap of faith, it might be the best thing you did for yourself.

Yes, I recommend

An amazing experience

Help Learn and Discover was an amazing experience. I have an inexpressible gratitude for being able to go the trip. If you love traveling, experiencing new landscapes and communities, and making new friends - you can do this all with HL&D and get more out of it than you expect. Jose and Juan, alongside their team of leaders, do an incredible job of organizing every day so that students get to experience their country in the best way possible.

My favorite part was volunteering. I wish it was longer! I went for 18 days and volunteered for 4. Our group did not want to stop working when Olivia called us for lunch. We dug holes and worked inside the houses scraping, sweeping, priming, and painting. It is an eye-opening experience for everyone. The community we worked with was very inspirational. They worked very hard and made us feel welcome every minute. It felt amazing to see our team working there and actually working on the houses and how grateful the community was to have us there.

To be completely transparent, the trip is busy. Like Jose mentioned - if you want to sleep in and drink wine and eat pizza, you have chosen the wrong place to travel. But if you are thinking about going on this trip and seem to love every aspect of what HL&D offers, don't hesitate! It offers so much more to those who will appreciate every moment of it. Ecuador is a beautiful and welcoming country and the program is filled with so much fun! And being with like-minded people just amplifies the whole experience. You enter as strangers but when helping, learning, and discovering in Ecuador together, you leave as friends with such a unique bond its hard to describe!!!

Yes, I recommend
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Being outside of my comfort zone had never felt so amazing!

"HELP, LEARN & DISCOVER", a company name that simply describes an incredible experience. I helped, learned, and discovered in the 28-day Pre-Medical Program,

"Help": Helping began even before the program began, I learnt how to fundraise on my own and as apart of a team in order to build homes for the less fortunate families in Ecuador. There was so much support from the company and it's leaders! As a group, we then were able to see exactly where and what the fundraised money went towards, and physically help build homes for the most generous and deserving families in Pujili.

"Learn": There is an endless list of things I learned on this trip. I was able to watch open surgeries and perform various medical procedures, such as stitching and taking blood! The medical experiences were indescribable. Not only did I learn medical knowledge, I learnt so much about myself and life on these 28 days. I learnt how to be okay with discomfort and change. I learnt how to see things from another perspective, and to always be grateful for where I am and I what I have.

"Discover": going into this program, I knew very little about Ecuador. I was in for a pleasant surprise, we travelled all over Ecuador, experiencing the different biodiversity and climate changes from place to place. It's an absolutely breathtaking place to be, from the great food, the great people to the great culture. There will always be a place in my heart for Ecuador and HLD. I recommend this program to EVERYONE!

Yes, I recommend
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It is going to change your life too!

If you want to live an experience of a lifetime, it's for you. This program is going to bring a lot to your life. An experience refreshing, amazing who is going to take you out of your comfort zone.
Every moment of that trip, i was surrounded by wonderful people who had and are still having an impact in my life.

Starting with our medical rotation in the 28 days pre-MED program, i met some MED school students that were leading the rotation and they taught us a lot about medicine with some class, some demonstration and some practice too by sharing their knowledge with us.

Also, we went to help the Pujili community by giving them a place to live and they welcome us like if we were part of their own family, their unconditional love for us changed my point of view about life.

There were a lot of activities organized for us everyday and each of them was different and exciting. They make me do things I would probably not do with what we called our real life because i can only think about a dream that came true when i'm thinking about this trip.

In some we learned , we helped and we discovered this amazing country. Now it's your turn to live it , tell it and share it so everybody can live this amazing experience

Thanks to all the organisation , in particular Juan and Josee

Yes, I recommend
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Pre-Medical Ecua Experience

This program offered me a trip of a lifetime! I had signed up in hopes of receiving a new experience, especially in relation to the medical field, and I received just that and more. From the first day I arrived, I felt welcome. I met many amazing people and I got an even better experience than what I was expecting. Even within our first week, when visiting the city of Pujili, I felt even more welcomed by the community members there as they greeted us with food and dancing. As we started our tour Ecuador, I had enjoyed every single sight and took every single picture. We got to participate in a wide range of activities that I would never be able to do in my hometown (i.e., horseback riding, water repelling, tubing, etc.). The touring part for me was all worth it! Then on to medical rotations, we had classes on Internal Medicine, abdominal pain etc. I woke up every single morning excited to go learn more about something I hadn't known, and I was even more excited that we could apply it to the patients, acting as if we were actually doctors. I felt like this trip has given me so much experience and insight for what I can use in the future and I definitely recommend this trip to anyone who is interested!

Yes, I recommend
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One of the Most Important Things I Have Done In My Life

This trip is special. From start to finish I felt like I was at home. All of the people I met were extremely welcoming and very supportive.
Starting with the medical portion of the trip for the individuals who are on the pre-med portion. The experience in the ER and OR, as well as learning some fundamental skills was something that I have found of extreme value in bettering my understanding of the realities of medicine, as well as the amazing interactions with local medical students. Every question I had was answered with clarity and in depth, and I felt that when I left the trip that I got as much out of the time as I possibly could have.
Then the volunteer portion of the trip. The community that we worked with was inspirational. Working beside the locals on this trip was an absolutely amazing experience. Their hard work and determination were something that I had never seen before. They shared their families with us and truly made us feel like we were part of their family as well. It was very difficult to say goodbye to these people, and it was so very special to see them in their new homes.
The exploration portion of the trip was incredible as well. You have to see these sights to understand the indescribable beauty of Ecuador. It was very special to travel through the Andes, to the cost, and to the Amazon and do incredible activities along the way. This portion still feels like a dream.
From beginning to end I felt among friends. I am still talking to the people I went on the trip with and I feel so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on this trip.
I would recommend 10/10 to anybody considering this type of trip.

Yes, I recommend

Unforgettable Experience

I traveled to Ecuador with EcuaExperience in the summer of 2015 for the 18-day pre-med program and I am certain that I will never forget my time there. Learning through live surgeries and mentorship from medical students in the medical rotations, coupled with exposure to life in Quito and working with peers to construct houses, provided for an entirely unique experience that left me wishing I had signed up for the 28-day trip by the time I was already heading home.

The highlight of my experience in Ecuador came when we were given the chance to interact with and entertain members of the refugee camp who had lost their homes due to the, then recent, earthquake. I will undoubtedly carry these memories with me for the rest of the foreseeable future.

Overall, I was given the chance to leave comfort zone for the majority of this trip and it has had a substantial impact on my development as an individual. I highly recommend EcuaExperience to anyone who is looking to learn, be challenged, and work towards their personal development.

How can this program be improved?
At this time there is nothing I can think of that would have enhanced my experience in Ecuador.
Yes, I recommend
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Best Month of My Life

This trip was such an amazing and eye-opening experience. The accommodations in Quito were fantastic and the staff were very kind and approachable. Medical rotations were led by Med school students who taught us how to properly diagnose patients, answer any questions we had during the operations and directed many workshops.

Traveling to the building site and working with the community to finish the houses that everyone had been working hard on was so rewarding when they were finally given away to the families. The community had been looking forward to that day for such a long time and I was so honored to be a part of it to help them achieve their goal.

We experienced something new every day and each day was full of activities. One day we're horseback riding in the Andes and the next, we're tubing in the amazon. These are memories I will hold on to for the rest of my life.

Thank you, Juan and Jose for such an amazing experience!

Yes, I recommend
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Time of my life!

In July 2017 I went to Ecuador with Help Learn & Discover. I had a fantastic and memorable experience!

I didn't know what to expect from the medical rotations at first, but they turned out to be super interesting. I participated in the 28-day premed program, so I had two weeks of medical rotations. We had morning sessions from 8am-12pm, followed by lunch, then some days we had afternoon and evening sessions from 3-6pm and 6:30-9:30pm, respectively. In the morning sessions, we shadowed doctors in the ER and OR, gaining insight on interesting patient cases and sitting in on surgeries. The coolest surgery I saw was a cataract removal, viewing the surgeon’s work directly through a microscope lens. In the afternoon sessions, we learned how to do stitches using a cow's heart and studied cases related to abdominal pain. The evening sessions took on more of a lecture/tutorial format. We learned how to do CPR, withdraw blood, and read an ECG. In my second week of rotations, I was able to conduct a full clinical history on ER patients (with the help of the tutor’s translation) and give them a physical exam. Additionally I learned about radiology and sports medicine, which I had not expected to learn going into the trip. One of my favourite fields was emergency medicine, taking great interest in conducting clinical histories and diagnosing patients. I also really enjoyed learning about electrocardiographs and doing stitches.
It can be intimidating going into rotations not knowing what to expect, but it helps to get a good breakfast in each morning (as these are long days) and to bring your notebook, pen, and ironed lab coat to the hospital each day. The tutors are very educated and welcome questions from the students. They are 5th year medical students at the university in Quito, so they were very thorough and patient with us students. I learned so much over these two weeks, and I am very grateful for the tutors' expertise.

The volunteer portion of the trip was also very memorable. Our project was to build 20 homes for the community of Pujilí with the help of 3 HL&D volunteer groups. Over 5 days, we split into smaller groups to work more efficiently on the project. Some days were spent digging holes (to lay the foundation for the cement pouring of the homes), scraping, sweeping, priming, and painting interior and exterior walls of these homes. It was important to wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the heat. We had music playing while we worked, which added a fun element to the teamwork atmosphere. It was really special working on these homes with members of the community. The men and women were so hardworking; they worked from sunrise to sunset, only taking rest on Sundays. Their efforts were truly admirable.
There were a few occasions when we got to spend time with the community away from the work site. The community treated us to a welcome dinner on the first night, where we danced tirelessly with the children. I had never eaten such a hardy homegrown meal before. I also got to practice my Spanish here, learning new words to interact with the kids. After our week of work, we also got to play soccer with the community.
The accommodations while we were in Pujilí were very different from the rest of the trip. Some rooms did not have running water, and the hostel did not have heat. As such, we relied on baby wipes to clean ourselves after a day of work. I wore the same clothes each day, and left them and my runners behind for the community once we were done. In all, working and spending time with the community was so profound- I feel so fortunate to have helped build 12 homes for them and to have experienced their lifestyle. I will never forget starting off our workdays with a team huddle, chanting “H-H-HLD, HLD IN PUJILÍ”, and seeing joy and graciousness in the faces of the community members.

The travel portion of the trip was also incredible. Between exploring waterfalls in Banos and Mindo, hiking through the jungle in Misahualli, horseback riding in Cotopaxi, and shopping at the market in Otavalo, there was truly never a dull moment. With the way our schedule turned out, we had almost a week of beach towns lined up in Manta, Puerto Lopez, and Salinas after a week of hard work in Pujilí, which was a perfect way to relax a bit.
My favourite travel destinations were Banos, Manta, and Mindo. Banos is a town known as the “gateway” to the Amazon. Here we went zip-carting through the Andes Mountains, which was absolutely mesmerizing. We then went to the “swing at the edge of the world”, where we were given a great photo opportunity. We also went hiking up to a waterfall, followed by a relaxing afternoon at the spa where we had an unobstructed view of the Andes.
Manta came after a week of work in Pujilí. This was a beach town on the coast of Ecuador. We went banana boating, paddle boarding, drank coconut juice, and played in the ocean. Our hotel was very comfortable, with great space and hammocks on our balconies. Many people got sunburnt, so it was important to reapply sunscreen frequently there! Nonetheless, it was a perfect two days with all my favourite people.
Mindo was also unforgettable. There were many stray dogs there, but they were all friendly and well behaved. Here we went water rappelling; the waterfalls were 8 m, 20 m, and 40 m in height, in that order. We descended down each waterfall, the water rushing over us with every step we took. It was scary at first, but once you got a handle of the technique, you appreciated how amazing this activity was. Afterward, we went rafting down a river. With 6 people to a raft, I don’t think there was a moment where at least one person wasn’t screaming. Hitting rocks and nearly flipping backwards as we went, the experience was like Splash Mountain at Disneyland, except on a raft and in nature instead, and thus 10 times more exhilarating. It was also a great way to learn that my watch was waterproof.
Bus rides between the travel destinations were typically 2-3 hours, although there were two occasions where we rode for 8 hours. I felt the long rides were to my advantage, as I had the opportunity to catch up on my journal entries. They played movies on every ride, and we discovered an aux cord on the bus, so there were a few dance parties on our commutes.
I also paid extra to go to the Galapagos Islands, which I would definitely recommend. My experience on the islands was unbelievable, and compared to the cost of visiting the islands away from HL&D, we really got a good deal. This portion of the trip came in the first week for me, but it varies between the beginning and end of the trip depending on the month you travel.
There was a small group of 9 people during this week. Olivia was our tour guide on the islands- she was amazing. She had worked as a tour guide on the islands for 2 years previously, so she was very informative about their lifestyle, culture, and all the places we visited. The food there was unreal- we were eating seafood that had been caught and cooked that same day. The wildlife was incredible- there were sea lions and marine iguanas on all the boardwalks and benches, making it very difficult to stay at least 2 m away from all animals. The beaches were beautiful, with the softest sand I had ever touched. Snorkeling was absolutely wicked. One of my favourite days was when we rode out on a boat to two snorkel spots, seeing sea turtles, all kinds of fish, seahorses, sharks, blue-footed boobies, penguins, eagle rays, manta rays, and golden rays- the diversity was insurmountable. We also got to hike Sierra Negra, which is a caldera with the second largest diameter in the world of 10km. The hike was 5 hours in total, and afterward we still had enough energy to play 5 sets of volleyball on the beach, watching the beautiful sunset after our game.
The rooms were very safe. We did not have access to any safes, but I left my belongings in the room without a worry. I would recommend bringing about 300 USD for this portion of the trip to account for food, souvenirs, and additional costs. I also recommend bringing binoculars to the Islands to see the distant wildlife better. Some of the boat rides can be rocky, so I suggest bringing gravol too.

It may seem overwhelming to pack for all kinds of weather- sunny and hot, cloudy and breezy, rainy and humid- but try to pack the necessities, and if you happen to forget something, you have access to malls there where you can buy things. Try to pack light by bringing one of most things i.e. one rain jacket, fleece jacket, hiking/sweat pants, jeans. There are opportunities to do laundry when at Hostel 593 in Quito. I brought a duffel travel backpack with me, and I am so happy I did. For two weeks you bring this travel backpack with you instead of your suitcase (which stays in the hostel in Quito), so ideally everything you want to wear in these 2 weeks of travel should fit into the backpack. I also brought packing cubes, which were a great way to keep my belongings organized despite my bag getting tossed around. Bring a couple bottles of sunscreen. Bug repellent is only necessary in Banos, Misahualli, and Mindo (anywhere with low altitude)- one bottle is sufficient. I recommend bringing a journal to document all your amazing experiences.

I also always felt safe in Ecuador. There was never a time where I was worried for my personal safety or about whether my belongings were safe. The country is beautiful, in part because of its amazing citizens.

The trip was pricey, especially with the CAD to USD exchange. Yet I had the time of my life, and it was certainly money well spent. Juan, Jose, and Olivia are wonderful, doing whatever they could to make us happy. The students were very down-to-earth, and I am so grateful for having travelled with them. This trip was the definition of “work hard, play hard”. We learned so much from the medical rotations, and I gained so much perspective from working in Pujilí. There was never a dull moment when travelling either. Thank you HL&D for a trip to remember!

Yes, I recommend
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Great Experience!!

I did the 18 day pre-med program and I would definitely do it again! The volunteer portion of the trip was amazing. The community we worked with were very welcoming and it warmed my heart to see how happy they were to have us there. During the medical rotations, we were involved in both ER and OR rotations, which I learnt a lot from. The tutors made sure we knew what was going on every second during the rotations, and they were very informative. The afternoon lectures/classes were also very informative. I really enjoyed everything about the trip and would highly recommend to anyone considering. Everyone was so friendly. It is definitely worth the money.

Yes, I recommend
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An unforgettable experience

I went to Ecuador in May as a part of the 18-day pre-med program. Although things didn't start out how I planned with my luggage getting delayed, Jose and the staff at the hostel in Quito were very helpful right off the bat. I was able to get my luggage from the airport the next day just in time for when we left for Pujili.

The 4 days that we spent in Pujili were eye-opening and full of a lot of positivity. On the first day, we visited the homes of the people in the community and witnessed their current living conditions. It was quite amazing to see how resourceful the people were and also to know that we were going to help change their lives. This night was truly unforgettable because we met the community for the first time and they welcomed us with balloons, hugs, and hellos from each and every person. They then served us a hearty meal and we danced the night away with the little kids. It was a night full of warmth and love even though we had just met.

The rest of the days in Pujili consisted of digging holes for the foundations of the houses and we worked together with members of the community to do so. In the afternoons, we would participate in activities with the community including playing soccer, volleyball, and taking the kids to a movie. Despite the language barrier for most of us, we were still able to bond and truly enjoy our time in Pujili.

After Pujili, we went on our "explore" portion of the trip. First we went to Cotopaxi where we rode horses around an active volcano, then we went to The Swing at the End of the World, a waterfall known as the Devil's Cauldron, spent a night and hiked in the Amazon, and finished off spending the night at a 24-hour hot springs. These days were jam-packed with activities, but everything was worth seeing. The scenery in Cotopaxi was breathtaking and the time spent in the Amazon was surreal. You could hear all the bugs at night and I fell asleep to the sound of pouring rain. After two days of medical rotations in Quito, we then headed to Quilotoa lake and Canoa beach to just relax and enjoy the sun. Our last two days were spent back in Quito for another round of medical rotations.

The medical rotations in the ER, internal medicine, and the OR were very informative and fascinating. My group got to witness a rhinoplasty, myomectomy, gall bladder removal, prostate removal, and a TVT surgery. I didn't think that I would be able to see these types of surgeries up close without being in med school, but HLD really made that possible.

Overall, this experience was so worth it. I had thought about doing this type of trip earlier in my degree, but didn't end up doing it until my final year. I'm glad that I finally decided to participate in this type of program, I just wish I didn't hesitate to do it sooner. It was not only a great way to meet new people from across Canada, but it was also an opportunity to get a reality check for how lucky I am to live the way that I do. It was a chance to learn, laugh and give back.

The people I met on this trip were truly wonderful and made the experience that much better. Even though I didn't know anyone, it wasn't too long before everyone got along. Being around Jose, Juan and Ruban was just an atmosphere full of positivity and laughs and I'm so glad that I chose HLD as the organization to go on this trip with. If I have the chance, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. If you're unsure about whether or not this is the trip for you, just take a leap of faith! I literally signed up the night before the deadline and I did not regret it at all.

How can this program be improved?
Because I chose the 18-day program, the schedule for activities was very busy and we were constantly moving. I didn't mind this, but in the 28-day program there was the Quito city tour and more extensive med rotations that we had to cut out. However, I think that the 18-day program was still great and enough time to experience a lot. I also wish that I had learned a little more Spanish before my trip so that I would have been able to converse more easily with the community.
Yes, I recommend

Once in a lifetime, the ultimate amazing experience

I participated in the HLD May 2017 trip under the Bio-med program and it was by far the best month of my entire life!!! I met so many amazing friends and I seriously did not want to go home by the end. The initial idea to do this trip was not immediate as the price had me on edge, especially because it was all in USD which made the conversion to the Canadian dollar rough. HOWEVER, I do NOT regret this trip or the price WHATSOEVER! Believe me when I say you get what you pay for. The amount of things I saw, did, made, smelt, tasted, experienced is almost too many to count and this trip has forever changed my life. So in case you are concerned that it won't be worth your money take it from me - don't let the cost hold you back from what will be the best trip of your life.
As well, if you are concerned about going on this trip by yourself, DON'T BE! Most of the other students going will be just like you and will also be travelling solo. You get to know everyone in no time and believe me you will make life long friends!

With the Bio-med program I got a taste of everything HLD has to offer; Medical Rotations, Volunteering, Travelling, and the Galapagos. I am extremely glad I made the decision to do the Bio-med program because it gave me the option to try out everything!

For the first week I did medical rotations which involved surgical rotations in the OR, radiology, and the ER. You have to dress professionally for this part of the trip and I would suggest professional tanks and/or skirts if you are a girl as Ecuador is hot and the OR and ER are super warm and being it your first week in Ecuador you might feel too warm or lightheaded from the heat in the hospital like I did. The tutors you get during the rotations are med students that are roughly our age and are so smart!! You can ask them any questions they are super approachable and extremely knowledgeable. This first week was also jam packed with tours of Quito in the afternoon and lectures in the evening so I would suggest trying to get a good-nights sleep as you start early every morning (although this might be hard because you are having too much fun hanging out with the other students!). Overall the medical rotations gave you a good taste of what being a doctor would be like and would give you a good sense if this is what you would what to do as a career. If you are serious about going to med-school I would suggest the pre-med program as they did get an extra week of rotations than myself and were taught more.

The next two weeks consisted of exploring and volunteering. At most we would volunteer three days in a row before taking an exploring break, however this was fine because if you were to volunteer any longer than that in a row you would burn yourself out. As part of the May group I participated in starting the houses. To put it generally the May group does the digging, cementing and the floor, the July would do the walls, and the August the finish touches. I personally LOVED being part of the May group because it gave me such pure joy to do the nitty-gritty work and work as hard as I could to provide the houses for the community. The community members themselves work along side you and the Ecuadorian women with babies on their backs lifting twice as much cement as me was just motivation enough to push myself to my limits. If you are worried that you are not strong enough do not worry! Just the fact that you are there, supporting and showing effort means a lot to the community. You can take a water break at any time and go at your own pace. Each year HLD builds in a different location so housing will varying from trip to trip. I stayed in a hostel within the town Pujili that we were building in. The rooms were nothing fancy and there was no hot water but I was not expecting anything luxurious because we were in an impoverished town. Some people in past reviews have complained about a lack of hot water but to me the hostel I stayed at while volunteering was completely practical for the situation. HLD's personal cook was there and prepared the most delicious breakfasts and lunches daily while at the site. My advice would be to bring baby wipes and TONS of sunscreen. The baby wipes will keep you clean during the stay if you don't want to shower (remember it is only for 3 days at a time before you take a break and travel) and don't forget that Ecuador is at the equator - sunscreen is a must! This was my first experience building homes and it warms my heart just reminiscing about the experience. The community is so deserving and welcoming I am so proud to say I was a part of building their new dream homes.

For the traveling portion the quickest way to sum it up was "What an ecuaexperience!". HLD never lets you get bored! I can honestly say I got to see the country Ecuador in its entirety. We visited Cotopaxi (active volcano) and went horse back riding, Banos (edge of the amazon) where we swung at the end of the world and did a traditional Ecuadorian spa, Canoa (the coast) where we went surfing, and Mindo (cloudforest) where we did waterfall repelling and white-water tubing to name a few of my favourite activities. Ecuador is an amazing country with a crazy landscape! We traveled from 4000m in the mountains to sea level at the coast and back multiple times during the trip. This meant breathtaking views as well as varying weather conditions. On my trip the temperature changed from 5 degrees and rainy in Cotopaxi to close to 30 degrees and sunny in Canoa. My advice is to make sure you pack for all kinds of temperature and weather.

My last week was in the Galapagos. Even if you did not choose the Bio-med program I highly recommend you add the Galapagos week onto your trip as it was the most amazing and unique place I have ever been too and will absolutely be worth your money (compared to traveling their on your own vacation, the HLD price is a steal of a deal). We stayed on Island Isabella and Island Santa Cruz and did a lot of hiking, snorkeling and learning! Each tour we did (kayaking, volcano, los tunneles) was occupied by a naturalist guide that knew everything about the flora and fauna of the Galapagos. To get the most out of the "Bio" part of the Bio-med program I suggest you take advantage of these guides and ask them all your questions. The animals are not scared of you at all there because of the strict no touching rule which allows for unique up-close interactions that you could never experience elsewhere! The sea lions are as common as dogs in mainland Ecuador and to quote my guide, "there are as many sea turtles as stars in the sky". If you love seafood you must try the seafood in the Galapagos! Extremely fresh (caught a couple hours ago) and you might get to try some interesting fish (such as swordfish which is delicious). My biggest recommendations for the Galapagos would be bring a water shirt - the water can get cold when you are snorkeling for a long period of time and the shirt helps to keep you warm as well as protects your back from getting sun burnt. Secondly if you are at all susceptible to motion sickness - BRING GRAVOL. The ferry rides from one island to the next are about 2 hours long and some of the tours involve traveling on boats. The water is rocky (especially if you go in the later months) and Gravol will be your best friend because you don't want something like motion sickness getting in the way of your fun!

Lastly I was to comment on the lovely HLD leaders and staff: Juan, Jose, and Olivia. Juan is in charge of the medical rotation portion. I only got to see him for a week but he is hilarious and personable and will care for you like family. The pre-med students got to know him more and would have nothing but great things to say. Jose is in charge of the volunteer and traveling portion. Jose is so much fun, he is always making sure that everyone is having the time of their lives. Both of them are such great guys that have an unbelievable love for their country and do an amazing job in getting you to fall in love with it as well. Last but certainly not least is Olivia. Olivia was the Bio-med students personal tour guide during the first week in Quito so we developed a strong relationship with her. You will not meet someone with more happiness than Olivia. She brought a smile to my face and I loved listening to her explain what we were doing and what we were going to be seeing/learning that day. Olivia was also the leader that joined us in the Galapagos. She use to live there so she was the perfect guide as she knew all the best places in town for food, shopping, and night life. I want to take the time to thank all three of them for giving me the ultimate experience and the chance to help, learn, and discover in the beautiful Ecuador!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly have no complaints about the HLD program. There are always things that people can be nit-picky about but overall Juan and Jose have crafted a program that will give students the best combination of learning, helping, and discovering the beauties of Ecuador. My only wish was that I got to volunteer for more than the days provided but at the same time I did not want to miss out on anything else they had planned for us. Therefore, the only improvement would be to offer an program longer than 28 days!
Yes, I recommend

Best month ever!!!

I had so much fun and learned so much over my month spent in Ecuador! My trip was comprised of three components: medical rotations, volunteering and travel!

The medical rotations were very well organized and I learned so much. The tutors were so helpful and challenged students. We were able to shadow physicians and surgeons in a variety of specialties, exposing us to many different aspects of medicine. We also learned practical skills such as stitching, drawing blood and casting to name a few. I would completely

For the volunteering aspect of the trip, we helped in the construction of homes that we had fundraised to complete. This summer 20 homes will be built for the community members. The community was so welcoming and grateful, we worked alongside them at the construction site and their work ethic was truly inspiring. The work was physically tiring but knowing that we were improving the lives of so many made it easy!

For the travel portion, we traveled all over Ecuador to coastal cities and towns such as Mindo and Canoa as well as in the mountains to places such as Cotopaxi, for such a small country Ecuador has an incredibly varying landscape and we got to see it all. In each place we had activities planned, we were always doing something fun! We were able to hike through the Amazon rainforest, go waterfall repelling, horseback riding, surfing and see so many beautiful sights to name a few activities we participated in!

Help, Learn & Discover provides an incredibly unique opportunity, not many companies provide the perfect mix of learning, volunteering and adventuring like they do! I always felt safe and they take very good care of all the students that travel with them. 28 days with HLD was just not enough!

How can this program be improved?
Be prepared for some long travel days (up to 12 hours), I did not mind the long bus rides but it is something to be aware of. Also be prepared to live out of a duffle bag or backpack for about 2 weeks.
Yes, I recommend
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First of I'd like to say, if you are having a hard time trying to decide whether or not you want to go on this trip, definitely GO! This has been the most incredible month of my life, and I promise you will have an amazing time as well!

I first heard about HLD through the SFU2016 Facebook page. I had been looking for a volunteer abroad program to do in the summer and right away I knew this would be the perfect fit for me. I was DEFINITELY right! These past 28 days in Ecuador and the Galapagos with HLD have been absolutely incredible. I did the Biomed program, meaning I first got to do 4 days of medical rotations, followed by activities, volunteer work, a trip to the coast and finally a week in the Galapagos islands. Although the days were jam packed and we were constantly on the move, I wouldn't have changed a thing about how our schedule played out!

The first week was definitely a crazy one. Being part of the biomed group, we had to fit everything the Premed group did in two weeks into one. This meant our days were schedule like this: 4 hours of med rotations (OR, ER and radiology) in the morning, a tourist activity in the afternoon (we visited churches, downtown Quito and the middle of the world) and finally a lecture in the evening (we did abdominal pain, stitches, fractures, headache and drawing blood). All in all this first week was absolutely amazing and was filled with incredible opportunities to see, learn and do things that we would never have the chance to experience in Canada as Pre-med students. Juan and Olivia definitely made sure we would get the most out of this first week. The medical tutors were also very knowledgeable, friendly and welcomed questions at all times.

After the first crazy week, we spent our weekend horseback riding in Cotopaxi, swinging at the end of the world in Banos, hiking in the jungle, and finally relaxing at the hot springs in Papallacta. All of these environments had much different weather patterns (ranging from Cotopaxi being at about 2 degrees, to the jungle being 25 and humid), so definitely pack well and be ready for any kind of weather!

We then travelled to the volunteer site (this year in Pujili) and spent 3 days volunteering with the community to begin building 12 of the 20 houses the HLD 2017 group fundraised for. I was absolutely blown away by the people of the community. They were all very welcoming, grateful and patient with our group. They also had the most admirable work ethic, and I felt very fortunate to be working alongside these individuals knowing how much these houses will help change their lives. As for the work itself, be prepared for a lot of lifting, digging and sifting (if you're part of the May group) so bring clothes that can get dirty and can afterwards be left for the community!

The second weekend was spent at the Coast. Here we had the opportunity to relax, learn to surf and have fun with friends! The UV index in Ecuador is normally 11, so my one biggest recommendation is BRING LOTS OF SUNSCREEN!! Even if you don't normally burn, you will burn if you don't wear sunscreen, trust me.

Finally we returned to Pujili for a few more days at the volunteer site and for a heartfelt goodbye to the community. We then headed to our last stop in the "Discovery" part of the tour in Ecuador: Mindo. Mindo was definitely my favourite place we visited in Ecuador. Here, we not only got to live in mushroom shaped cabins, but we also got to do activities I otherwise would probably never have done in my lifetime: water rappelling and tubing down a fast river.

We then travelled to the Galapagos islands (which is a 2hour flight from Quito) where we spent 1 day on the main island, Santa Cruz, and 4 days on another island: Isabela. In the Galapagos, we had the opportunity to explore the most incredible beaches, kayak, hike a volcano and of course go snorkelling. I have travelled to many beautiful places in the world, but I have never seen a more diverse and incredible ecosystem as the one in the Galapagos. We saw sharks, stingrays, blue footed boobies, penguins, turtles, sea lions, tortoises, marine iguanas, and the most beautifully coloured fish! Everyday we were accompanied by a naturalist guide. Every guide was extremely knowledgeable and friendly. Olivia, our HLD Galapagos guide, was also a great person to have with us in the Galapagos as she had previously lived there. She knew exactly where the top places to eat and the best activities on the islands were, and she insured that we had the most incredible week imaginable!

As a last note, I just wanted to thank Jose, Juan and Olivia once again for everything they provided for us during our stay, and for all of the effort they put in into making sure we got the most out of our 28 day stay. I would also like say that if you're having a hard time trying to decide wether or not you want to add a week in the Galapagos, definitely DO IT. It will hands down be the most incredible experience of your life!

How can this program be improved?
I definitely would not change anything about the itinerary of the trip, however it would have been nice to know how long we'd be gone from Quito. Before arriving, we were told to bring a suitcase and a duffel bag for "overnight stays." Well, the overnight stay was actually 16 days, and seeing as we had to dress for cold weather, hot weather, the beach and the volunteer site, we all found it quite difficult to pack everything necessary into one bag.
Yes, I recommend

About EcuaExperience

Help, Learn and Discover is an innovative organization offering educational programs in Ecuador, South America. We strive to offer a fulfilling life experience which combines helping those less fortunate with learning about a specific academic area...