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 136 - 150 of 226
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Anna
10/10

Wake up to something new everyday

Ecuaexperience did an amazing job bringing together multiple disciplines of discovery, volunteer, biology, medicine and fun, without sacrificing anything! You were doing something new and exciting every day and the leaders were super enthusiastic and passionate about what they do.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jane
9/10

Great program but definitely could use a bit of work

This was an incredible experience. I was on the bio-med trip which meant I got four days of med rotations, a week in the Galapagos, but only 2 whole days of volunteering. Honestly, I was ok with that. I've volunteered many other places and my main focus of this trip was for the med rotations. Honestly, I could've used a couple more days for med rotations but what I got was sufficient. The volunteering was fine but I did feel a little awkward when we were getting accolades from the community when I didn't really do much at all. But oh well.

The "Discover" portion was amazing. I did some incredible things in Ecuador. Things I would have never been able to do otherwise.

All of the leaders were awesome, however, I actually really disliked when the owners, Juan and Jose, were with us. For the most part, they're nice, but they seem more concerned with being best friends with the "cool kids" than making sure everyone is happy. They go on and on about how they want everyone's experience to be perfect. They even point out that it's great that we have access to them because if there's something we don't like, we can tell them directly. However, more often than not, when you would go to them with issues, they would reply back with either a defensive or sarcastic remark. I never felt comfortable saying anything because of that. It was very intimidating and disheartening. It's cool to want to be friendly and chill with everyone but try to show a little professionalism as well.

Another thing I disliked was the lack of communication before the trip. I've never ever been on a trip where I wasn't given an itinerary beforehand. I specifically asked for one and was told I would get it once in Ecuador. Ok fine, I guess I'll send the info to my family when I get there. But wait! Wifi was absolute garbage everywhere we went! Also, I had no idea who was going to pick me up from the airport or where I was supposed to go. It was quite scary. Luckily once I was in Ecuador, things were more organized. But it didn't make for an exciting departure at all.

Regardless, it was a very fun trip. They could definitely improve in some areas but I would still highly recommend the trip. I just hope Juan and Jose are actually reading these.

How can this program be improved?
Read above.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Daniel
10/10

One of the coolest experiences

Through my journey I was able to meet great friends, travel around Ecuador and most importantly take part in making a difference to families.

Help - this was my favourite part of the trip. The connection that I made with the locals while helping them build their homes was very special. The work is physically demanding and fun. I do wish the volunteer section was longer since we only stayed for 4-5 days. I understand that making this portion longer would give less time for travelling and everything else. However, I still wanted to help out a bit more.

Learn - throughout the medical rotations, the tutors provided us with detailed knowledge on the subjects. The tutors were great and became our friends. The learn section was significant in that it made me reflect on my career path in medicine and if it would be what I'd want to do for my life. The firsthand experience was a good preview of future medical jobs.

Discover - I really enjoyed travelling around and got to see things that I've never seen before - such as dense rainforests and tundra regions. The hotels were nice while travelling and the parties were always fun.

How can this program be improved?
During the med rotations, everyone was starving since we would always eat dinner around 9 or 10. I would like it better if the breaks between the different rotations were shorter so that dinner would be around 7 or 8.
Yes, I recommend this program
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MDH
10/10

Life-Changing Experience

Help, Learn & Discover was an absolutely unforgettable experience! I took part in the pre-medical program, Galapagos and Machu Picchu extra week programs and each part of my trip was incredible! I learned so much about myself while falling in love with the culture and people of Latin America during my travels throughout Ecuador and Peru.

The Help component of the trip is the closest to my heart. When I left the volunteer site, some of the children were running behind our vehicle waving and blowing kisses back to me and I burst into tears. It was amazing how easily I connected with the children of Pujili without being able to speak Spanish very well. I widened my skill set during fundraising, but more importantly I have learned from the people of Pujili to be grateful and happy.

The Learn component of the program is eventful, informative, and diverse! I was able to watch multiple surgeries, natural and caesarean births, and emergency room entries. I learned the basics of first aid, suturing, and solving a medical case study. I truly believe I have more first hand experience than other students entering medical school in Canada because of the opportunities Help, Learn & Discover allowed me to have.

The Discover component is the part of the program that I believe takes people out of their comfort zone. I was able to snorkel with sea turtles and sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, hike the breath-taking Machu Picchu mountain, waterfall rappel in the cloud rainforest, tube in the Amazon River, and sun bathe on the beach in Canoa. I met so many incredible people from across North America, made lifelong friends, and tried things I would have been too timid to attempt before this trip.

In summary, Help, Learn & Discover is a program for well-rounded individuals who want to not only give back to the world but also have an incredible adventure in a foreign country. This program is the perfect mixture of volunteering, travelling, and learning about the field of medicine. I could never ask for a better experience from a tour company. The leaders, tour guides, and operations directors are all inspiring and amazing people who personally will do whatever it takes to give each and every student an incredible experience. The personal touches such as fireworks on the beach, snacks at the work site, and surprise birthday cakes for students on the trip are just a few examples of the care that these people show for their volunteers. The staff at HLD truly makes you feel like a part of their family. I will forever be grateful for the time I spent with Help, Learn & Discover.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Andrée-Anne
10/10

Bio/Pre-med July 2014

One word, AMAZING! We did so many things during those 4 weeks! Help, Learn and Discover; couldn't be more accurate. What really made this experience unique though is the People. I've made friends for life! This was my best trip so far and it'll be very hard to top that!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Wanda
10/10

Best month of my life

Honestly I don't think I could make the trip any better other than making it a tad bit less expensive. The leaders, activities and experiences were all perfect. Everything was pulled off without a hitch. It was clear that the leaders and organizers cared about each of us personally and wanted us to enjoy ourselves. They went to extremes to make sure we were comfortable and happy. I think I smiled 24 hours a day on this trip. I love HLD so much!

How can this program be improved?
Only the price!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jane
10/10

My Ecuaexperience

This was definitely the most amazing trip I have ever been on. Every single day was so full of so many fun activities that really allowed us to truly experience the beauty of Ecuador. And since everything from the accommodation to food to transportation and everything in between was taken care of for us, we were able to enjoy the trip completely stress free and have a great time.
For the Help component of the trip we were working in a very impoverished village alongside the villagers to build homes for the people who needed them the most. It was such a life-changing experience to get to know them and build a relationship with them and know that the homes that we were working on would go to these people who had become our friends (especially the kids). It was definitely hard work, but by far one of the most rewarding experiences ever as it was surprisingly difficult to say goodbye to the villagers when we were leaving.
The Learn aspect of the trip though is definitely what sets this trip apart from all the others out there. You learn so much over the week as we go through a number of different wards in the hospitals watching surgeries and learning about how it actually is to be a doctor. As an aspiring med student, it was the part that really helped me confirm that this was definitely the career I wanted to pursue in my life. The tutors were all very knowledgable and were great at explaining what it is we were actually watching.
The Discover part was also fantastic as we got to do things like jungle hikes in the Amazon Rainforest, go repelling down a waterfall, paragliding, surfing and so much more.

Every aspect of this trip was unlike anything I've ever done before and it was so amazing to be a part of it. But the glue that held it all together was definitely all the incredible people you meet. All the other participants were so nice and I know I definitely made some friends for life out of this trip, but it was also the staff, the tutors, the leaders and the founders of the company who were so awesome and friendly and approachable throughout the whole trip. They were there to help out if we had any questions or concerns and really worked hard to make this experience amazing for us.

I would definitely recommend it to everyone!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Stéphanie
4/10

Not here to volunteer

Help-
This is NOT at all the main focus of the trip, even though it is the first and the main thing they advertise.
For example: Looking at the schedule on their website, the pre-med program students are supposed to volunteer for 8 full days. However, we actually volunteered a little more than 21 hours GRAND total (spread over 6 days of work instead of 8), which means that we worked around 3 full days of 7 hours. The volunteer program was not a whole lot better (Around 4-5 full days of work). So if you want to join them for the volunteer part, I would definetly recommand you look somewhere else. I believe their problem is that they accept too many students and then they do not want to finish their project before the end of the summer so they make us work less.
Another big disapointment was the lack of relationship formed between the students and the community. Because we worked so little on the volunteer site and because we slept and ate in a "hotel" away from the work site, we did not have the time to build strong relationships, if any true ones at all, with the community we were helping. Therefore, even the celebration at the end of our work was not as heart warming and rewarding as I would have hoped since we barely earned that gratitude.

Learn-
This part was good overall. The rotations were diverse and educational. The tutors were knowledgeable as well, however some of the men were unprofessionnal sometimes (ex: a lot of flirting with the femaie students). Also, the organization around the case studies need a lot of improvement such as more communication between the staff who present the cases and the tutors, as well as being prepared to ask reasonable questions during the presentations. Otherwise, the experience is not at all preasurable nor beneficial. Moreover, the internet and wifi NEED to be fixed at the hostel 593 since it is impossible to be prepared for the case solutions otherwise.

Discover-
THIS is the main focus of their trip. If you're there mainly to "have fun" and do activities, this is a great program for you, even though the price is quite expensive for the quantity and quality of their activities. It is evident to most people that the compagny makes a ton of money off of us. There is also A LOT of partying so if you want to have a serious and life-changing experience, you could return unsatified. On top of all, if you like punctuality and organization, you could be greatly disappointed with this program since there is constant changes to the schedule as well as some things are just skipped. There is also a lack of professionnalism from some individual staff members, intriguingly mostly from the founders.

Bottom line, this program has a lot of potential, but still needs a lot of improvement.

No, I don't recommend this program
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Glynn
10/10

Experience of a lifetime!

This was hands down the most amazing experience of my life. Never have I had so much fun, learned so much, and met so many amazing people. The days are always packed with activities, you´re never bored, and there is so much variety. From tubing down the amazon river to surfing to enjoying a nice afternoon in the spa. The medical program was amazing, the tutors are so friendly and knowledgable, and you learn about so many areas of medicine such as radiology, surgery, pediatrics, and more. The volunteering program of the trip was unbelievable, you work hard and you really see how big of an impact your contribution leads to, especially during the final dinner you have with the community, you truly see how much it means to them. The food was always delicious, and spanned from traditional ecuadorian, to more conventional north american foods. I have many many allergies and they accommodated them very well. Finally, the tour guides and leaders that you meet and spend your time with are without a doubt the most kind, caring, fun, wonderful people I´ve ever met. I hope to come back next year.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Gabby
10/10

Life Changing Experience

Overall this was the most amazing experience of my life. I am leaving a completely changed person. The activities were amazing, the people were unbelievable and the overall experience was life changing.

Starting with the med rotations, the best part was seeing actual surgeries being performed. It was amazing to see everything I have learned in school be put into practice. I also enjoyed going to the ER and learning from the tutors.

Next I also did an extra week to the Galapagos which was SO AMAZING. I highly recommend that if you are considering going you do. I had so much fun doing all the activities and for me the highlight was snorkelling with the animals. I didn´t think it was possible to see so many animals and get so close to them!

The tour around Ecuador was also so much fun! I loved all the places we visited and the activities were amazing! The highlights for me were the hike in Banos, the cable car in Banos, the hike in the jungle and the time spent relaxing in Canoa. For me I love to be active and do activities that involve adrenaline and thats what this trip provided!

Lastly, the volunteer portion was so humbling and powerful. I have never felt so much joy in my life then when I was working with the community and getting to know them. The highlight for me was just being with the people. They were the most grateful and hard working people I have ever met and they truly changed my life.

The downsides to the trip for me included the food, the internet access, and the case studies. The lunches especially were not that healthy and we often ate the same thing. The internet was not always reliable. This was not a problem during the tour because I was so busy with everything else that I didnt need my phone but during the med rotations it was annoying. Lastly, the case study was a little stressful. In the end I learned a lot from it and am glad I did it but it was not very enjoyable at the time. The other difficulty was the time. You really had to go with the flow and be patient because the times they told you were not always correct.

Although there were a few difficulties, I would still say that this is the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life. I would encourage anyone coming on the trip to just go with the flow and you will have a blast!

How can this program be improved?
The food was the only big issue that I had. I would recommend healthier places and to ask the student what they would like before each meal. Also to eat earlier and go to better lunch places. Also I would put less pressure on the case studies and so it as more of a learning experience and make it less intimidating. Lastly, I would do less museums and not advertise that the volunteer portion is one week because we ended up only working for 3 days.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alex
5/10

If it wasn´t for the med portion...

This trip did a really good job of the medical portion of the trip each student we worked with was extremely proffesional and we were given amazing oppurtunities and great experiences. The rest of the trip I was significantly less satisfied with, as opposed to a selfless culture of volunteering it seemed more focused on the volunteers having fun than on actually helping the people. Almost a white saviour complex was developed as opposed to actual relationships with the people. The cost was also rather high for the places we stayed in and what we ate, it seemed rather evident to most people that the company was making alot of money off of us. The staff also seemed a little confused as to when things were happening and never really seemed on top of things, there were constant changes to the schedule and some things were just skipped. The people I met on the trip however were generally pretty kind and awesome. Overall I´d say the trip was alright, but could use significant improvement.

No, I don't recommend this program
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John
8/10

Ecuador volunteering!

This program is super amazing, it´s difficult to pick my favourite part. The people I met were absolutely incredible, the volunteer was super heart warming, and the med rotations were absolutely phenomenol. The problem with this trip is the cost, for $3,700 you get to stay in places that are probably and average of $10 a night, and the meals are also super cheap. If you love to meet amazing people, and you really want to see some amazing things in an Ecuadorian hospital I highly recommend this program. If you want to do this to travel, and even volunteer, then I would definitely recommend a different program. All in all I am super glad I took part in this amazing program, and the people and things are amazing, however this program is not without its faults.

How can this program be improved?
Could be more organized at times, and a budget to see where the money we pay goes would be great too!
Yes, I recommend this program
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ccater
9/10

Pre-Med

This trip was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I got to meet so many interesting people, form the leaders and tour guides, to the other volunteers, to the community members in Camarones. One of my favourite things about the trip was how much we really got to interact with and get to know the families that we were building the houses for. I will never forget the incredible people that we got to help out that week.

The hospital rotations were also such a great experience. The med tutours are awesome and getting to observe surgeries so closely is an opportunity that is very rare to get as an undergrad student. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about having a case study as it was summer and my break from school work. However, it ended up being really interesting and beneficial and I actually really enjoyed doing it.

We also got to travel around and see a lot of Ecuador. My favourite stop would have to be Canoa where we got surfing lessons, spent some time in town, and had The Amazing Race. I was travelling with such an amazing group of people, so everywhere we went was always so much fun.

How can this program be improved?
Before leaving for the trip I really had no idea what to expect. I found we were given fairly little information prior to getting to Ecuador. I wasn't in one of the main cities so I fundraised alone and didn't have any group meetings. I didn't meet anyone from the trip until I was on my way to Ecuador so I felt a little uninformed. Once I got to Ecuador however, I felt like everything was run smoothly and I had no real concerns. It would have been nice to at least have been given some sort of confirmation that someone was going to be at the airport in Ecuador to meet me once I got there.
Yes, I recommend this program
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GabiK
9/10

Absolutely Amazing Experience

This is absolutely a once in a lifetime kind of trip where you not only learn about a new culture and people, but also about yourself. I am a biology nut, so at he beinnin. of my trip I was most looking forward to traveling to the Galapagos and the jungle. And both of these were absolutely amazing. The Galapagos are the most unique place on the earth, where animals are not as scared o humans and the ecosystem is beatifully preserved. From snorkeling with sea turtles to hanging out in gorgeous Tortuga bay, this place is like nothing else. And tubing down a calm river to get to your hotel in the jungle is just really fun. But as much as I loved these places, by the end of the trip my favourite time had been spent building houses in the small village of Camarones. There is nohig like the feeling of helping out another person and the fact that tou are there physically immersed in the community is amazing. You get to work, play and even dance alongside the villagers an feel how much your effort is truly appreciated. This trip not only shows you more of he world and teaches you about yourself, but also builds friendships and connections. Everything from meals and accomodations to the experiences is planned and always good quality. Overall would highly reccomend this trip to anyone looking to broaden their horizons.

How can this program be improved?
My one criticism is that it is a bit disorganized before departure, but once you get to Ecuador everything is sorted out and the trip itself is relaxing and fun.
Yes, I recommend this program
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EChen
10/10

Experience of a Lifetime!

Going on this trip has definitely been one of the most life-changing experiences of my life. Not only did I gain valuable medical education from my week of med rotations (where I got to observe hernia repairs, knee reconstruction surgery, C-sections, live births, hysterectomy, etc), but I was also able to become more well-rounded as an individual. Everything we did during the discover portion of the trip, such as waterfall rappelling, jungle hiking, tubing down rivers, and surfing, taught me something new about myself and helped me learn to appreciate nature so much more. The most amazing part of my experience was the volunteer portion. Not only was it rewarding to be able to provide families in need with sustainability and to have such a positive impact their lives, but it was also heartwarming to be able to share this experience with the families, community, and my HLD family. I could not have asked for a better experience and will always be so grateful for the amazing second family I was able to meet on this trip.

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...