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.

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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 220 reviews
  • Impact 9.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.1
  • Value 9.7
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 166 - 180 of 220
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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Alex
10/10

Experience of a life time.

Somehow after reading tons of very positive reviews before going on the trip, the experience managed to exceed my expectations. Saying that this trip is life-changing isn't just giving it another random cheezy description. It truly is life-changing in so many great ways! I left Ecuador with a better perspective on life, on others, and even myself.

The "discover" part of this trip was flawless. There was always something new to experience every day! Even the rainy days were so much fun. We got to hike through the jungle, rappel down a waterfall, tube down rivers, learn to surf, party with great friends, and so much more! It felt like we were always so sad to leave every area we visited because they were so unique and fun. But as soon as we got to the next destination it was just as exciting as the last! We were not given specific itineraries for this trip which at first made me a little skeptical, but I soon learned how special it was to just live in the moment without constantly watching the time! Loved every moment of it.

The "help" portion of the trip was unbelievable. What a great community to be involved with! Not only did we get to see our fundraised money go directly to use and physically help build houses for very deserving families, we had the opportunity to work alongside and form relationships with the families who would be receiving the houses. This is a really important aspect of the volunteer portion and allowed us to get the most out of the short experience. As well as building the houses with the families, we had an organized party and a huge soccer game where we got to just dance and play with the kids and get to know them! So inspiring to see them so happy with so little.

In the "learn" part of the trip we did just that! For the first time in my life I was learning school material just for the sake of learning. The tutors were amazing! They were great at answering any questions we had at any time and were really committed to our group and helping us learn. In spending time with them, we got to learn not only medical procedures and facts but also what it's really like to be in medical school or a practicing doctor. Got to learn and see so many things that I would have never had the opportunity to experience in Canada such as taking someone's blood, practicing stitches, and standing above to head of a patient during a surgery.

I would do this trip again and again if I could! I came back with some new great friends and a whole new perspective that has inspired me to continue to travel. I can't wait to return to the beautiful country of Ecuador one day.

How can this program be improved?
If I could change one thing about this trip it would be to double the time in each location and stay in Ecuador for two months instead of one. I feel like I only got a taste of most places when I could have easily stayed longer to experience each area a bit more.
Yes, I recommend
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Robyn
10/10

HLD May 2013

This experience gave me firsthand experience and opportunities to truly cement what I want to do with my life. During the med rotations, I loved that we got to see what it's like to be a doctor/work in a medical profession. One of my most favourite days was on the surgery rotation where we got to see three different surgeries in 3 hours. Personally, I never was interested in the OR, more so in paediatrics, but after seeing what goes on in there, I am so interested! The knowledge the tutors imparted on us was useful, applicable, and so interesting.

We also got to travel and see the wonders Ecuador has to offer. I loved that we got a behind the scenes look at Ecuador. One of my most favourite adventures was our hike through the rainforest. It was SO beautiful and such an incredible experience. I also loved going to Otavalo and shopping in the market that was there. I loved the med rotations, but this is what made me fall in love with Ecuador. I loved loved loved all the places we got to go see. My favourite location we went to was Canoa. I loved the beachy lifestyle and the hotel we stayed at was so much fun. That part of the trip is something to look forward to!

The volunteer part of the trip was lifechanging. Working with the families that will receive the houses was incredible. The relationships you build with them will stick with you forever. The children were also so wonderful and such delights! It was really humbling to be in a place where they had nothing, yet were so willing to give us what they had and to make us feel special. And that they did it with such joy!

How can this program be improved?
I wish we got more time in certain locations (like Canoa and the volunteer site), but I do realize that there was a lot to see and experience in a short amount of time... maybe the trip should be longer :)
I also wish that there was a little bit more to see in the night med rotations.
Yes, I recommend
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Marcus
10/10

A greater experience than I expected

I loved how the medical portion mimicked what it was like to be in the later years of med school and I thoroughly enjoyed the lessons as well as the rotations. I felt it really gave me a feel for what to expect when I pursue med school and only concreted my thoughts on which fields of medicine I'd want to practice. The tutors were amazing and well picked, they really tied the experience together and made sure it was personal and that we got the most out of everything. The food was good and I liked having the ability to choose what I got to eat for the majority of the trip. The hotels and hostels were unique and only added to the experience, I wouldn't change anything in regards to where we stayed. I especially appreciated the hotel at Canoa and thought it was the perfect way to end the trip.

How can this program be improved?
It would be cool if there was a place the med participants could go to view the content taught online as we went through it considerably fast (understandably) and having access to that could be a great value. My only complaint would be that some of the meals at the volunteer site weren't very healthy and didn't leave me satisfied after the long days of work. It wasn't a huge issue but it would have been nice to have some healthier options.
Yes, I recommend
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Makayla
10/10

Best trip of my life

Ecuaexperiance was truly a lifechanging trip for me. I did the Volunteer portion of the trip and being able to spend 12 days with a community as caring and amazing as that in Camarones was incredible. It made you realize how well off we are and how much you take it for granted. The way that the community welcomed us was heartwarming, they made us dinner, took us dancing, and welcomed us into their families. I think it will be impossible for me to forget about the friendships I made with the people in Camarones.

The whole trip for me was a 10/10. The other people travelling were amazing, we all grew so close so easily it was very hard saying goodbye. The leaders made sure everyone was having a good time all the time and the adventures we had will not be forgotten.

How can this program be improved?
I wouldnt really change anything, maybe offer a different program where you can just go for a volunteer but for a longer amount of time, that would be cool!
Yes, I recommend
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Jimmy
10/10

An Amazing Trip Underestimated (May 2013)

This trip was amazing, I would not be surprised if most people found it to be life-changing. The impact of the Pre-Med program has 100% set my medical career goals into stone. The tutors were friendly and professional, with loads of knowledge to share.

The volunteer portion was amazing as well, from the place we stayed to the community where the houses were being built. Seeing what we take for granted in our everyday lives is VERY eye opening. The experience of actually digging and building the foundations for a future house with the to-be owners was unbelievable. Meeting the community, hearing their stories and attempting to communicate with them is just an unforgettable experience.

Finally, discovering Ecuador and everything it has to offer was my dream come true. I could not have imagined that it would be like this. From being up in the mountains, to down by the ocean. From historical settlements, to jungle barely touched by man, to white sandy beaches. Not to mention how many friends were made on this trip.

I would definitely return to do this trip again in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?
The only thing I would like to change about the trip is maybe a reduction in the price of the trip, as I know many people who would have loved to join if they could afford it. I would also have liked to have been able to go on an extra week. Also, just for the beginning of the trip, the organization could have been better; however, none of these factors affected how much I enjoyed this trip.
Yes, I recommend
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Joanne
10/10

May 2013 - PreMed

This trip was honestly the most incredible experience I have ever had! Every portion - the help, the learn and the discover - were so well thought out and crafted and everything seemed to be planned to perfection. The hospital rotations were phenomenal - they gave me such insight into what it was like in the typical day of a doctor and they were pretty interactive! I have never been so motivated to pursue a career in medicine and it 100% is because of this trip. The travel portion of the trip was awesome!!!! The travel days were spread throughout the entire trip which gave nice variation. Every hotel we stayed at was awesome with super friendly staff and the meals were also incredible! On top of that, the activities they had planned for us were so much fun and really allowed you to experience the culture! I never once felt unsafe on the trip and always had full confidence that our leaders knew what was up! Last but absolutely not least was the volunteer portion. Holy SMOKES. Everything about the village - the location, the people, the weather, the hospitality and the kids - pulled at my heart strings. The work was challenging but by no means difficult and it was so much fun to work alongside the people of the village and your teammates - using as much Spanish as we possibly knew to communicate! And its actually crazy how much you actually could have a conversation with the locals, despite the very little amount of Spanish we knew! They were all so ready and willing to help. Honestly, the most beautiful people I have ever met. It was truly this part of the trip that stole my heart and it belongs no where but in Ecuador!

How can this program be improved?
I would have loved to have been able to spend more time with the community outside of working hours. And also would have liked to have a couple more days at the worksite!
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...