EcuaExperience: Pre-Medical and Volunteer Programs

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About

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.

Questions & Answers

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

Reviews

97%
based on 226 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 166 - 180 of 226
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Julie
10/10

Best month of my life

As I was in the Bio-premed group, I got the chance to visit the Galapagos Islands. We had days jam packed with activities and everything was easy to do. The medical rotations were so amazing, I got to see many surgeries, like a cholecystectomy and a tubal ligation. We also had the great experience of preparing a case presentation. The only difficulty that I had was that I needed warmer clothes. The leaders and guides were awesome, supportive and good friends too! Love you HLD!

How can this program be improved?
Because we were going from one place to another a lot I didn't get to experience nightlife as much as I would have liked. More time in Quito please.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Kelsey
10/10

By FAR the best month of my life

Words cannot describe how incredible the HLD program really is. I went into it knowing very little about what it would be like, but quickly fell in love with the country and the people. My group started our journey at the volunteer site, where 21 homes were being built for 21 deserving families. The fact that we worked with members of the community and the families that would soon be living in the homes made the experience so much more meaningful. The children were always running around and the time we spent playing with them was so much fun. After volunteering for a while, we went to several different places in Ecuador.
Almost every single day of the trip we would say to one another that it was our favourite day yet.. only to find out that the next day was just as exciting, if not more exciting. There was never a dull moment. We did everything from repelling down a waterfall, tubing to our hotel in the jungle, swimming in hot springs (which were right outside our chalets) and the list goes on and on. I was in the Pre-Medical program which was so much better than I expected. We were right behind the surgeons watching surgeries and the things we saw were incredible. We also learned how to do stitches and draw blood. The highlight of my trip was probably the inauguration party, where the completed houses were given away to the families. They were so grateful and I was so happy for them. I decided to end my trip off with the Galapagos and it was by far the best decision I ever made (aside from going on the main part of the trip). It was absolutely amazing and the perfect way to end the best month of my entire life. The friends I made on this trip will honestly be lifelong friends. Those who didn't sign up for the Galapagos had the hardest goodbye because by the end of the trip we were like a little family and they weren't coming with us. If I can give you any advice, don't be the one who's going home while your new best friends are going to the Galapagos (or one of the other optional places).. you won't regret spending the extra money I GUARANTEE it. This program is one of a kind and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone!!!

How can this program be improved?
I honestly can't think of a single thing I would change.. and I can be pretty critical
Yes, I recommend this program
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Eva
10/10

A month was all it took for me to fall in love with Ecuaexperience.

Before coming to Ecuador, I never knew how hard it would be to leave this beautiful place. There are so many great things I can say about my experience with Ecuaexperience. I never had to worry because with great company, comes with great pleasure in this beautiful, mind-blowing country. I went on my trip not knowing a single soul and I came back with so many friends all around the world. Many activities were planned very well: waterfall rappels, tubbing down rivers, volunteering in local communities, bonfires next to the beach, bargaining in local markets, relaxing in hot springs, and eating ONLY the best food I have ever had. It was beyond my expectations; the accommodations made me speechless. No words can ever explain how much this trip has changed me personally. This trip has made me realize that my goal of studying medicine is set in stone. After getting exposed to the life in the hospital, it really motivates me to help others in need in the future. While learning about how to help others, it helped me find myself in the process. I am so glad that this program had offered me so much, and I can never be more thankful for the leaders, tutors, and our guides for making this trip a life time experience. A month was enough to fall in love with Ecuador.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Taylor
10/10

I Think Everyone Should Do This!

There are no words I can say to express how amazing this trip was. It was a life changing experience. I learned so much, and not just about medicine (I was in the premed program) but about life, my goals and about myself. I got a whole new perspective abut what I want in life and had a blast in the process.

Help: we work super hard and fundraise as much as possible before we leave on this trip and we get to see where every penny we raised goes. We also get to get our hands dirty when we spend time at the volunteer site building the houses we fundraised for. The best part is meeting the people of the community. Which ever community HLD chooses to help, you can bet on it being a great one. The people are so welcoming and friendly and also so willing to help. Meeting the people who live in Camarones was the best part of my trip and I'll never forget them! I had so much fun playing with the kids and the community organized some special events for us to get to know them. We had two soccer games in which we volunteers played, and two community parties where we all got together danced and had snacks! You know when you're there that you've made a difference in these people's lives and they appreciate it.

Learn: I was in the premed program so I did rotations in the hospitals. I got to see so much in fields such as orthopedics, obstetrics, and geriatrics. I got to see lots of surgeries and interact with the patients. You learn a lot about the different fields of health care and can maybe even start to narrow down which ones you're the most interested in. The tutors HLD arranges to take you around on these rotations are invaluable. You will learn more from them in a day than you do in any class in your undergrad and this knowledge will help you to achieve your goals. They are the coolest people too so you can feel free to ask them any questions and just have a good time when you're with them! I can't thank my tutors enough for the time and effort they put into us.

Discover: HLD will show you all the best of Ecuador! I can't even choose a favorite site because I loved them all, everywhere I went I'd say this is perfect! They plan so many activities ranging from hikes, to waterfall repelling to surfing. One of my favorite parts of the trip was the Amazing Race. I wasn't that excited for it because I wasn't too sure what to expect but it turned out to be so much funner than I'd imagined. The best part about where they take you in Ecuador is that they show you what Ecuador is so you're not in all the touristy areas doing touristy things. You get to know the country and it's people and you will fall in love! I certainly did.

I had no idea what to expect when I signed up for this trip and I got way more than I could've hoped for. The things I got to do and see helped me grow as a person while having the best time of my life. If I could do it all over again (and I probably will) I wouldn't change anything! Except maybe stay longer than 35 days!

Thank you HLD for everything this was the trip of a lifetime!

How can this program be improved?
If I had any criticisms during the trip I cannot remember them now. All I can think of is how much fun I had and how much I miss it already!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Melissa
10/10

HLD experience

This trip was absolutely amazing in every aspect. Everyday we were seeing or learning something new. We got to participate in Med rotations which consisted of very long days, but well worth it. I saw many surgeries which opened my eyes to what the real medical field would be like. Leaders and tour guides were upbeat, fun people who encouraged us to live the trip to the fullest. They will all be lifetime friends for sure. We got to help build houses by putting up walls and other jobs. It was an incredible experience. As we helped build we developed friendships with the locals and the families who would later be living in the houses. One of my favourite memories is when we played soccer with all the locals. The girls actually got to throw on jerseys and play on the communities women's team. We travelled a lot on this trip, allowing us to get a good feel for all of Ecuador and the amazing things it has to offer. And of course, we also got to party and enjoy the beach. This trip was the perfect balance of learning, seeing, and doing. A few of the activities you may look forward to on this trip are: hiking, waterfall rappelling, surfing, paragliding, and much more. I definitely recommend this trip to everyone.
One last thing... As someone who has been to other countries with other organizations, I can honestly say HLD is a great one. It is extremely well organized, safe and aims to give you the best experience possible.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing, I would make the Med rotation days more spread out so that the days were not quite as long.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Monica
10/10

An Incredible Experience

This trip to Ecuador was definitely one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done. From the people I met to the experiences we shared to how many things I actually learned, my experience with Help, Learn, Discover far exceeded what I ever thought it would be like coming into this trip. The unique part about HLD is how they offer such a multifaceted 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 activities are really well planned and you don’t have to worry about the accommodations and food, which leaves you free to enjoy it to the fullest without having to stress over those little, yet incredibly important details.

For the Learn part of the trip you get to spend a week in Quito shadowing doctors by visiting different wards and watching surgeries while actually standing right there inside the operating rooms! It’s an experience unlike any other, especially for aspiring doctors. The Help portion was definitely my favorite part, as you’re in the village building houses for the local people who cannot afford proper housing themselves. It is sometimes hard, physical work as we did things like mixing concrete with only shovels, digging for the foundation of the house, etc. but I finished each day 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 fundraised money is going directly toward people who truly need it is amazing. And because we work 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. But the Discover part of the trip, which is scattered throughout the whole month, quickly helped take our minds off of missing the village too much, as we travelled to some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen and got to do some pretty exciting things. From Amazon hikes to waterfall rappelling to surfing to tubing down a river through the rainforest for a couple hours, this month was utterly packed with so many exciting things that I look back and wonder how we managed to fit all of it into only four weeks. But 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. You come into the group meeting so many new strangers, but you leave with some of the greatest friends.

I would also definitely recommend going on one of the extra weeks if possible. I went to Peru after finishing the month in Ecuador and I was really skeptical of how this next week could even meet the level of the rest of the trip, but once again, Peru far surpassed all expectations. It was different from Ecuador as there was a lot more sightseeing, but doing things such as spending time in the beautiful city of Cusco, watching the sunrise at Machu Picchu, and going paragliding off the cliffs of Lima on the Pacific coast were the perfect conclusion to what I already knew was one of the best months of my life.

How can this program be improved?
Though it might be hard to accommodate because of the already busy schedule, I would love more time at the volunteer site.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jessica
10/10

Experience of a Lifetime (July 2013)

The experiences that I gained from this trip are honestly something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. From the moment I landed in Ecuador and through the duration of the trip, there was not a single moment that I felt unsafe or was worried about anything. I was quite surprised to see how involved and supportive the HLD staff were, they always made sure our needs were taken care of and that we were having a great time. The leaders were also amazing and defiantly made my trip that much better.

The "Help" portion of the trip was amazing. We got to see first hand where and on what our fundraised money was being spent which was very satisfying. It's hard to describe how, but having to physically dig trenches and mix concrete with shovels undoubtedly added to the satisfaction to the work we were doing and the impact it had on me. It puts into perspective the things we take for granted back home. But it is an incredible feeling knowing that we are able to impact a families life for the better and give them hope for there children's future.

The "Learn" portion was just as amazing. We were given the opportunity to see and experience so much that would not be possible in Canada. To this day I cannot believe I was able to stand next to a surgeon and watch them operate on a patient, the experiences from med rotations were unreal for me!
The tutors were also very helpful and taught us so much.They were very helpful in answering our questions and providing us with a realistic overview of medical school. The experiences I gained from the med rotations has defiantly given me the motivation to pursue my goals of becoming a doctor.

Finally the "Discover" portion of the trip was the most surprising for me. I was defiantly challenged to step out of my comfort zone but its totally worth it. Each day was always different whether it was hiking through the rainforest, tubing through the amazon river, repelling down a waterfall, surfing etc. All the travelling and long bus rides are totally worth it. Throughout the entire trip I had no sense of time which was nice and added to the experience, its not often that we live for the moment without worrying what comes next.

Its crazy how many different people you meet that share the same interests and goals as you, it was truly an amazing experience meeting these people and forming new friendships!
Ecuaexperience has truly created a once in a lifetime adventure.I would recommend this trip to anyone in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?
I wouldn't change a thing!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sonal
10/10

A truly life changing and eye opening experience e

Ecuaexperience is a once in a lifetime oppertunity for all students. Being a student it is difficult to fit in time to travel in our busy schedules. HLD offers the perfect chance for students to fit travelling, volunteer experience, medical experience, and extraordinary activities into 28 days! For me this was perfect as taking more than one month of school is not practical. This program embodies so much. The first time I went was in August of 2012 and I did the Bio-Med program, which I would say is the best for its value. I had the most amazing time, especially as this program includes a trip to the Galápagos Islands which by itself is a once in a lifetime oppertunity. The week you spend in these islands is beyond amazing as you get the chance to travel from island to island experiencing t he uniqueness each has to offer, volcanoes, giant tortoises, spectacular marine life... What is good about going to such a place with HLD is that you are taken to locations which would be difficult and not to mention much more expensive if one were to plan a trip on their own. Also, a lot of the locations are not very touristy therefore you may not come across them while looking online. The learn part of this trip includes medical rotations which are again a very rare and beyond amazing oppertunity especially if you are interested or considering a career in medicine. You are able to explore the private and public sectors of health care and step into the role of doctor by shadowing some of Ecuador's top doctors and surgeons. This experience solidified my love for becoming a health care professional and increased my motivation to do so. Watching surgeons operate during rotations in the O.R was especially unreal as I witnessed an open knee surgery and a facial reconstruction while standing right next to plastic surgeons, trauma surgeons and neurosurgeons. The help part of this program became the most close to my heart especially the second time I went on this trip as I did the volunteer program this time. We volunteered for almost 2 weeks and the amount of time we spent interacting with the families and young children of the village made it very hard to say goodbye. I learned so much from the amazing people of Camarones and miss them alot. One thing I really appreciate about this program is that all the money you fundraise you take down to Ecuador and you buy the materials so you know where 100% of your donations are going. And personally knowing the families who are working alongside with you makes it that much more heartfelt and real. It makes you see that you really are making a huge difference. The last part of this trip which I would like to discuss is the travel and activities part. There is a lot of travelling and every minute is worth it for all the things you get to see, Ecuador is filled with unreal sights; mountains, volcanoes, the coast line, the middle of the world, and much more. You get to experience all of Ecuador's diversity! I would highly recommend travelling with this organization it is most definitely an amazing opportunity. You make lifelong connections with amazing people, the staff is aweosme, and you witness things which you would never even imagine.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Nytsuen
10/10

Amazing Experience

July 2013 concluded my second summer with HLD. I can't seem to stop myself from going back because there are so many aspects of this trip that keep drawing me in.

I love how HLD provides opportunities to travel and to volunteer in a small remote community at the same time. They take you 4000m above sea level to Papallacta where the natural hot springs are and then bring you back to the coast to surf and enjoy the company of surfers and paragliders in Canoa. As a traveller, you must be prepared to do things that are out of your comfort zone. It's hard for most people but when you've accomplished what you've done it's an amazing experience. HLD makes this trip an experience you never want to forget.

My favourite part of this trip is the volunteer site. Being part of the smaller volunteer group both summers I was able to interact (mostly through sign and body language) with the actual villagers who were receiving these homes. Even with a language barrier they were very welcoming and quickly shared their kids and fruits with us! As rewarding as it was, being there was also very eye-opening. Monthly rent in Camarones is around $20USD. To imagine how easily I can spend $20 for a meal back home just puts everything into perspective. I've made life long connections in Pallatanga and Camarones and I wouldn't trade that for anything.

I find that aside from the itinerary and the programs planned the people you travel with are also an important part of the trip. Since HLD offers volunteer and pre-med programs, I find that the students who come are all very enthusiastic, hardworking and passionate. My travel buddies have become my best of friends because our goals and passions align.I am so thankful to have gone on this trip twice and I definitely recommend this to everyone interested in travelling and volunteering abroad!

How can this program be improved?
Make the volunteer week longer because I love it that much!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Ecuador5
8/10

Well-rounded experience

Overall HLD provides a great experience, in a positive environment, where volunteers are able to make a difference. There are many well planned, and fun activities, that really help to enhance group bonding. However, transportation can be very lengthy on a few occasions, more than what most people can handle for a day. Better planning would allow to reduce transportation times and cost, while also allowing for more time to enjoy all of the destinations in Ecuador.
It may also be necessary to have more guides, at times they could seem over-tired and lacking enthusiasm.

How can this program be improved?
More time at the volunteer site!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Tom
10/10

An amazingly versatile and unique experience

The month that I spent in Ecuador with HLD was undoubtedly one of, if not the best, months that I will spend in my lifetime. The three aspects of my (BioMed) trip were all equally amazing in their own aspect but so different from each other that it is impossible to choose a favourite.

The majority of the month, spent touring Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, was exciting, challenging, entertaining and extremely interesting. From waterfalls, to rainforests, snorkelling, and stunning beaches, there truly must be something for everyone on this trip. The Discover aspect of this trip is truly a unique way to see and explore a beautiful South American country in a way that would be impossible by yourself.

The Help portion of the trip, spent building houses in the rural village of Camarones was almost inexplicably amazing. From the satisfaction of knowing you are making a huge difference in peoples lives, to playing soccer against the local community and joking around with the local kids, it is impossible to not leave this portion of the trip with a huge grin on your face.

The Learn aspect of the trip, spent in Quito hospitals experiencing and learning about the medical profession may have just changed my life. I went into the trip not sure if I wanted to be a doctor, but the things I was able to see and the medical tutors I was able to learn from and talk to, have really got me thinking about my future in the field of medicine.

All in all, I would go back to HLD in a second and do it all over without any regrets. This trip really has the ability change your life on an emotional, educational and personal level if you give it a chance. I am grateful for all of the leaders and fellow students who made the trip what it was for me.

How can this program be improved?
I would add a few more days of Volunteer to each of the 3 trips, as the days on the volunteer site fly by like nothing else and everybody found themselves shocked that it was already over.
Yes, I recommend this program
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dav
10/10

Stress-free Adventure

This trip was a great way to see beautiful Ecuador without having to worry about your own accommodation, transportation, food etc. as everything is taken care of by the wonderful bilingual guides. This means that you can really focus on just having fun and enjoying the all the cool places they bring you!

The locations you go are nice and diverse, all exciting and interesting in their own ways. It's crazy how much the scenery can change just in a short drive (i.e. from dry and cold at 3300m in the Andes to hot and humid in the Amazon jungle in a 3-4 hour drive!). Each location is jam-packed with fun activities, and you really make the most of your time there.

Breakfast and lunch are provided at all locations, and all the meals surpassed my expectations greatly - I never left the table hungry, and I'm a guy who eats a ton! Usually the group goes together to a restaurant for dinners which are always really good too, and this way you can choose how much you want to spend depending on how hungry you are. The juices everywhere were unreal!!

The leaders were all super fun and friendly which made the trip all the better. The group was changing every week or so due to the different programs (bio-med, pre-med, volunteer) coming/going, meaning that you always had tons of people to talk to. You meet tons of like-minded people, so it's super easy to make friends.

How can this program be improved?
Though being lead around by guides means less stress, it also inevitably means less freedom to choose your own activities and schedule (though I was perfectly happy doing what was scheduled all the time).

It also means that the group can sometimes move slowly (at dinners etc.) but this just gives you more time to socialize anyway!
Yes, I recommend this program
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ryanna
10/10

Best experience in my life, very life-changing

Help, Learn and Discover has made a huge impact in my life. It has showed me how helping others can be so much fun and you get to learn so much about another country and about yourself.

First off, the volunteer site was the best part of the trip. I cannot explain in words what I felt while I was helping in the community but I'll try. You get to help build homes for a community of poor people who have been struggling in paying rent every month. You get to give shelter for their children and make them feel more comfortable. You also get to connect with the community while building homes since you will be building their houses with them. Even if there is a language barrier between both parties, you will still feel that connection with them and you will for sure make the effort to learn their basic language so you can communicate with them. Body language is key in communicating with them as well. The children in the community are so awesome since they are so playful too. After the whole trip, I want to go back to Camarones (the community we helped) after a few years just to see how the community is doing.

Travelling around Ecuador and seeing the main attractions around the country is amazing. You get to learn about the culture and the way people live in Ecuador. Learning about the history and background stories of the place where you are helping is awesome because you get to feel the wholeness of why you are helping that country. Yes, we do lots of fun things like tubing at the amazon, night jungle hikes and jungle hike, repelling down a waterfall, surfing, hotsprings and lots of other adventurous things but that is just the secondary fun of the whole trip. There were times where I wished I stayed in the community longer because one week is not enough. However, Ecuador is a big country and there are just so many things to explore and learn as well.

In this trip, you have to be ready to go out of your box and explore what there is out there for you. This trip has definitely pushed me to do things I wouldn't think I could have done before. It feels amazing. You get to discover your limits and what you can do. You have to dare yourself to do the things the people in Ecuador think is normal (eg. eating guinea pigs and lemon ants). After accomplishing some of these things, I surely felt amazing about myself that I went through these experiences and have learnt that I can do anything in the world. Also, there are more things in life than what we see everyday here in north america.

In the 5 weeks I was in Ecuador, I have learned so much, discovered things about Ecuador and myself and helped families to have shelter the rest of their lives. In that short time, I have accomplished all these and I can say that it feels amazing. I wish everyone can experience this because it not only open your eyes to a new world but also helps you grow as a person and see things in a different perspective. Given a chance again to go back and help another community, I would do it again in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing that would be to stay in the community longer and help them finish their houses. I would stay 2 months - one month before august and august to give the houses away. I think the feeling of giving the houses away and seeing how the community appreciate what you have done for them would be awesome and unexplainable.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Taylor
10/10

One Amazing Month

The experience that HLD provides on your trip to Ecuador is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You truly get to see and experience things that you can never imagine seeing in Canada. For example in the medical rotations having the chance to see the everyday rotations of doctors in different specializations is tremendously valuable for anyone who is interested in one day pursuing a career in the medical field. The time you spend on the volunteer site also helps put into perspective just how great we have it back home. Lastly, possibly the best part about this trip is the relationships you form with the amazing people you meet on the trip. Both me and my sister have now gone on this trip and I know we would both not hesitate to recommend it to someone else.

How can this program be improved?
There are some places that would be a lot of fun to spend a little more time in ( Canoa )
Yes, I recommend this program
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the
9/10

Amazing experience

Medical rotation around local hospitals, adventure in amazon river and jungle, chilling in hot spring, volunteer for the poor, and waterfall repelling. Amazing experience.
Leaders and crews are awesome people to talk to and be with.

How can this program be improved?
If we can reduce the time of 50 people traveling together, that would be better.
Yes, I recommend this program

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...