Study Ecuador's development while considering the relationship between power and discourse as the country's multilingual and multiethnic populations strive for social change and sustainability.

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  • Examine the power and politics of dominance and resistance.

    This program combines a political and economic focus with an emphasis on discourse and language as we consider how discussions are shaped. You will explore how Spanish and indigenous languages are used to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships.

  • Live and study in Quito, a city nestled in the Andes more than 9,000 feet above sea level and surrounded by volcanoes.

    Quito has several internationally renowned universities including the Universidad de San Francisco, from which the program draws lecturers and Independent Study Project advisors. Quito is also home to many NGOs, which students are able to visit and with whom students often organize their ISPs.

  • Visit community-based tourism agencies, civil society organizations, artisan collectives, and natural history sites in the spectacular Galápagos Islands.

    Charles Darwin traveled to the Galápagos Islands in the 19th century, and the diversity of species he found there were a major influence in his development of the theory of evolution.

  • Discover the Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most biologically diverse and threatened ecosystems in the world.

    One of Ecuador’s most challenging and controversial issues is how to develop while preserving the natural resources its development has so often depended upon. Ecuador’s constitution posits Nature as a subject with rights, and its many indigenous communities share a worldview that calls for the respect of natural resources and sites. In practice, however, Ecuador’s development relies on extractive industries and tourism – with their resulting environmental risks.

  • Learn basic Quichua and practice it during a village stay in a Quichua-speaking community.

    Quichua was the language of Ecuador before Spanish settlement.

  • click to learn more

    Experience the extreme social, economic and ethnic diversity of Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port.

Critical Global Issue of Study

Development | Economy | Inequality

Development | Economy | Inequality

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Three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Key Topics of Study


Key Topics of Study

  • Power and politics in Ecuador; hegemonic and counter-hegemonic discourses of development
  • How different groups in Ecuador think and talk about issues such as sustainability, restoration, resource-extracting industries, social inclusion, and inter-ethnic relations
  • The impact of development on the environment, and conversations about sustainability and quality of life
  • The relationship between the language(s) of political power and social movements in Ecuador
  • Indigenous languages, politics, interculturalism and plurinationality




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The following syllabi are representative of this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term. The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Languages in Contact: Spanish, Quichua, and Other Languages in Ecuador – syllabus
(LACB3000 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In this seminar, students combine theory and practice to study Ecuador's languages in three different manners. First, from a cultural standpoint, students learn about the encounter between Spanish and Ecuador's indigenous languages and how language and power have interacted and contributed to tensions between domination and resistance. They look closely at Ecuadorian Spanish to ask what makes Ecuador's Spanish Ecuadorian, examining the influence of different populations, time periods, and events on the evolution of the language, considering regional differences as well. Finally, they study Quichua, Ecuador's main indigenous language, examining the politics of bilingual education, questions surrounding intellectual production and translation, and the use of Quichua in different settings. Students also examine the growing concern for other indigenous languages, particularly those in danger of extinction. Finally, all students participate in a workshop of introductory lessons in Quichua to finish out this experience. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English and in Quichua.
Paradigms of Development and Political Discourse in Ecuador – syllabus
(LACB3005 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Discourse and power are related in all nations, but Ecuador has a particularly sophisticated discursive system in place. At the same time, counter-hegemonic discourses are also prevalent. In this broadly defined interdisciplinary seminar, students examine the core political and development themes of the program and inquire specifically into the complex relationships between development, power, and politics in Ecuador. After a review of Ecuadorian history, socio-political movements and development paradigms, students consider the concept of political discourse as an object of study. Through lectures, course readings, site visits, and excursions, students examine several dominant discourses related to development, politics, sustainability, interethnic relations, and other issues in Ecuador. They study resistant discourses to ask how people are voicing alternative ways of knowing and developing. While learning about politics and development in Ecuador, students construct a nuanced understanding of how discourse has been used to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships over time in this nation. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English.
Spanish for the Social Sciences I – syllabus
(SPAN2003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Spanish for the Social Sciences II – syllabus
(SPAN2503 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
Spanish for the Social Sciences III – syllabus
(SPAN3003 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In this course, students refine their Spanish language skills, with a focus on enhancing oral proficiency. The course deepens students' contact with public, private, and community media in Ecuador and includes visits to several relevant sites in Quito, such as the Secretaría Nacional de Comunicación and Fundamedios. Students take an ungraded placement exam to determine the appropriate class placement. The outgoing exam includes both a written and an oral component.
Research Methods and Ethics – syllabus
(ANTH3500 / 3 credits / 45 hours)
In this research methods course designed to prepare students for the Independent Study Project (ISP), students examine the ethical challenges of field research and learn how to prepare a research proposal and how to employ basic ethnographic methods appropriate to a range of themes as well as more specific methods appropriate to the study of politics, language, and discourse. By the end of the course students will have chosen an ISP topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an ISP related to the program themes. The course is conducted in Spanish with occasional sessions in English.
Independent Study Project – syllabus
(ISPR3000 / 4 credits / 120 hours)
Conducted in Quito or in another approved location in Ecuador appropriate to the project, the Independent Study Project offers students the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of their choice within the program's broad concerns with power, politics, language, and development. The project integrates learning from the various components of the program and culminates in a final presentation and formal research paper. Sample topic areas include: linguistic landscape of Quito; political perspectives on endangered languages; sustainability and restoration in indigenous communities; the discourse of development in Ecuador; bilingual intercultural education; social communication, micropolitics, and activism.




Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

  • Quichua-speaking communities: Put your new languages skills into practice during a village stay in Quichua-speaking communities. 
  • Intag cloud forestIntag Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most biologically diverse but threatened ecosystems in the world. This visit is complemented by a later excursion to an Amazonian community.
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port. You will explore a city with extreme social inequity and ethnic diversity, including large Chinese and Lebanese communities. Discussions will be include cultural identity and difference, local urban imaginaries, development, and regionalism. 
  • The Galápagos Islands to explore the impact of sustainability and tourism and the ways in which a place is constructed through dramatically varying discourses. See the Charles Darwin Research Station, National Park Headquarters, tourism agencies, the USFQ campus, civil society organizations, artisan collectives, and natural history sites.
Program in a minute-ish

Program in a minute-ish

Faculty and Staff


Faculty and Staff

Fabian Espinosa, MA, Academic Director

Fabian EspinosaFabian studied biology and anthropology at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where he completed his MA. He was communication and information coordinator for the Charles Darwin Research Station on the Galápagos Islands, executive director of and researcher for the Cofán Ethnographic Museum in the Cuyabeno Nature Reserve, and advisor to the president of Ecuador on environmental and indigenous affairs. He has extensive experience as a naturalist guide and cultural interpreter, leading groups in archaeology, indigenous cosmologies, and natural history. He is also associated with the Instituto Cientifico de Culturas Indigenas and the Universidad Intercultural Amawtay Wasi. He co-directed the SIT Ecuador: Development, Politics, and Languages program from 1999 to 2013 and is now sole director of the program.

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Faculty and lecturers typically include:

Diego Quiroga, PhD

Diego holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is vice president of external and student affairs at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and co-director of the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and the Sciences. His interests include medical anthropology, environmental anthropology, and indigenous and Afro-American cultures of Latin America. Diego has served as dean of the graduate school, dean of academic affairs, dean of social sciences, and full-time professor at Universidad San Francisco de Quito, teaching history, Andean anthropology, and medical anthropology. He has conducted extensive research in Ecuador and published in prestigious academic journals.

María Cuvi, MA

María holds an MA in literature from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador. She is a leading Ecuadorian feminist author of pioneering studies in gender in Ecuador and the Andean region. She has extensive experience as a researcher, teacher, and activist. She has taught on gender and development, poverty, ethnicity, social movements, environmental issues, and academic writing at universities including Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Politécnica Salesiana del Ecuador, Instituto Complutense de Estudios Internacionales de Madrid, Universidad de LLeida, Catalunya, Universidad Mayor de San Simón, Cochabamba, Bolivia, and Pitzer College Program in Ecuador.

Sebastián Granda, MA

Sebastián holds an MA in Latin American studies from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, where he is a PhD candidate in Latin American Cultural Studies. He is director of social sciences and human behavior studies at Universidad Politécnica Salesiana del Ecuador, where he teaches sociology of education and bilingual intercultural education. Sebastián is also research director and teacher at the Pitzer College Program in Ecuador. He specializes in indigenous rights, intercultural education, citizenship, and migration.

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The homestays allowed me to fully immerse myself in the culture and daily life by becoming a part of my families’ lives...

The homestays allowed me to fully immerse myself in the culture and daily life by becoming a part of my families’ lives and connecting on a personal level. My homestay families wanted to help me learn and we would talk for hours. I gained a perception of Ecuadorian life I would never have learned from lectures or articles.

Kerry Leigh-Anne Johnson, University of Vermont

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The homestay is an integral part of the SIT experience. During your homestay, you’ll become a member of a local family, sharing meals with them, joining them for special occasions, talking with them in their language, and experiencing the host country through their eyes. Homestay placements are arranged by a local coordinator who carefully screens and approves each family. Students frequently cite the homestay as the highlight of their program. Read more about SIT homestays.


homestayYou will stay for seven weeks with a middle-class family in an urban neighborhood and enjoy Quito’s vibrant cultural life. Founded by Spanish colonizers in the 16th century atop an existing indigenous settlement, Quito’s architecture today is a mix of colonial and contemporary. You will find churches, typical and nouveau gourmet Ecuadorean restaurants, and hip European-type cafés. Host families often take students to concerts, museums, movies, and other sites.

Amazonian Quichua Communities

You will also stay for four to five days in a rural Amazonian Quichua community. This provides a very different perspective on Ecuador and is an opportunity to practice your Quichua language skills and implement fieldwork methodology prior to your ISP.

Other accommodations include hostels, guest houses, or small hotels.


Independent Study Project


Independent Study Project

During the final four weeks of the program, you will complete an independent study project (ISP). The ISP offers you the opportunity to conduct field research on a topic of your choice within the program’s broad concerns with power, politics, language, and development. The ISP may be conducted in Quito or in another approved location in Ecuador appropriate to the project. The program enjoys links with local NGOs, state institutions, and community-based projects and can facilitate contacts.

Sample ISP topics:

  • Linguistic landscape of Quito
  • Discourses of sustainability in the Galápagos
  • Development and impoverishment in migrant communities of Guayaquil
  • Social communication, micropolitics, and activism in the Andes
  • Political perspectives on endangered languages: the Sapara case
  • Bilingual intercultural education in Otavalo

Browse this program’s independent study projects / undergraduate research.


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Career Paths


Career Paths

Positions held by recent alumni of this program include:

  • Environmental and Human Rights Campaigner at Amazon Watch, Oakland, CA
  • Policy Associate at OneAmerica, Seattle, WA
  • Fulbright Scholar at Universidad Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico
  • Foreign Affairs Officer at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC
  • Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Center for Reproductive Rights, New York, NY
  • Fulbright Fellow researching AfroEcuadorian collective rights, Ecuador

Cost and Scholarships


Cost and Scholarships

SIT Study Abroad is committed to making international education accessible to all students. Scholarship awards generally range from $500 to $5,000 for semester programs and $500 to $3,000 for summer programs. This year, SIT will award more than $1.5 million in scholarships and grants to SIT Study Abroad students. 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding for the term during which they are studying with SIT. This award can be applied to any SIT program. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.


Tuition: $16,330

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • History
    • Political discourse
    • Development issues
    • Cultural anthropology and the humanities
    • Evolution of language
  • Research Methods and Ethics course and Human Subjects Review 
  • Intensive language instruction in Spanish
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Guayaquil, the Galápagos, the Intag Cloud Forest Reserve, and the Amazon Basin, including all related travel costs
  • Independent study project (including a stipend for accommodation and food) 
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period

Room & Board: $2,645

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes orientation, time in the program base, on all excursions, during the independent study project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay.
  • All homestays (Quito and an Amazonian community) 
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay.

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare to Program Launch Site

International airline pricing can vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses: $270

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 40

International Phone: Each student must bring a phone with them to their program.

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during the program vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region. See a full list of our alumni contacts. Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.

Contact A Former Student

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Speak With An Admissions Counselor

Speak With An Admissions Counselor


Elizabeth Hasier video

For her ISP, alumna Elizabeth Hasier produced a video on the environmental and social impacts of the shrimp industry in southwestern Ecuador.