Study indigenous concepts of sustainability as it intersects with biological diversity, culture, and quality of life in Ecuador, where climate change is one of the most dramatic manifestations of a dominant civilizational model in crisis.

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  • Study development, power, and language among multilingual and multiethnic groups in one of the most biologically diverse countries in the Americas.

    Discover alternatives to development, a concept often imposed by the global North, and how those alternatives  are grounded in ideology and civil society.

  • 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 Andina Simón Bolívar, from which the program draws lecturers and Independent Study Project advisors. Quito is also home to several NGOs, which you will be able to visit and with whom you may organize your ISP.

  • Visit the spectacular Galápagos Islands, where the diversity of species inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.

    This excursion includes visits to community-based tourism agencies, civil society organizations, and natural history sites.

  • Witness the conflicts and links between development and natural resource preservation in 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 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 — with their resulting environmental and social impacts.

  • Explore how Spanish and indigenous languages are used to instill, reinforce, subvert, and reinvent power relationships as you study both Spanish and Quichua.

    The program combines a political and economic focus with an emphasis on discourse and language as we consider how intercultural and interethnic relations are shaped. You’ll also learn basic Quichua, the native language with the largest number of speakers in the Americas and practice it during visits to Quichua-speaking regions.

  • Learn to identify your own cultural biases.

    Develop the skills to imagine a dramatically different society and way of living, one that respects social relationships and the natural environment.

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)
Spanish for the Social Sciences IV – syllabus
(SPAN3503 / 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.

  • A Quichua-speaking region, where you can put your new languages skills into practice. 
  • Intag cloud forestIntag Cloud Forest Reserve, one of the most biologically diverse but threatened ecosystems in the world. This visit is complemented by an earlier excursion to the Upper Amazonian Basin.
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and main port. You will explore a city with 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, civil society organizations, 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.

Review Fabian's CV

Sofía Tobar, MA, Program Assistant

Sofía has been the program assistant for the program since 2013. She has a master’s degree in development studies and international cooperation from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Her undergraduate degree, from the Catholic University of Quito, is in ecology and tourism. Her professional experience includes working in the Ecuadorian government’s Ministry of Tourism and short-term consultancies for local NGO’s regarding community tourism. She has also worked in various aspects of alternative education for both children and young adults in Ecuador and Costa Rica, including workshops on peace and nonviolence and studies on indigenous community Issues and wildlife rehabilitation.

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.

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.

Intag Communities

You will also stay for four to five days in rural communities located in the Intag Cloud Forest. This provides a very different perspective on Ecuador and is an opportunity to implement fieldwork methodology prior to your Independent Study Project.

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




This information is provided to assist you in identifying possible accessibility barriers and preparing for an accessible educational experience with SIT Study Abroad. You should be aware that while in-country conditions and resources vary by site, every effort is made to work collaboratively with qualified individuals to facilitate disability-related accommodation. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact SIT Disability Services at for additional information related to access abroad and to discuss possible accommodations.


During the coursework phase of the program, you will generally be in class five to six days per week for three to five hours per day. You will have a 30-minute break every two hours. Learning is typically assessed through take-home assignments, in-class assignments, written assignments/exams, oral presentations/exams, individual assignments, group assignments, take-home quizzes/exams, and in-class quizzes/exams. Course readings and in-class materials are typically available in a digital format.

If you have questions about alternate format materials, testing accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.

Program Center

The SIT program office is accessible by a short set of exterior stairs with an accessible door handle and an entrance at least 32 in. (82 cm.) wide. Classrooms are not located on the ground level nor is there an accessible elevator. The program’s study/library, computer space, lounge, restroom, and pathways are accessible with door/hallway widths measuring at least 32 in. (82 cm.). Most of these spaces have accessible door handles. 


The program typically includes excursions to rural communities, nature reserves, research sites, and national parks. You should expect to stand, walk, and hike for long periods of time. A pair of comfortable, rubber-soled, waterproof trekking shoes is recommended. Program excursions may occasionally vary to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities.


The program’s homestay coordinator will be responsible for placing you in your homestays. These placements are made based, first, on health concerns, including any allergies or dietary needs, to the extent possible. Urban homestays offer regular access to Wi-Fi, cellular service, electricity to charge devices, and refrigerators to store medication. The physical accessibility of homestay options is currently limited. If you have questions about homestay accessibility, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.

Dietary Needs

The everyday diet varies by region (for example, more seafood is eaten by the coast) but typically consists of rice, potatoes, fresh fruit, vegetables, and occasionally red meat, chicken, or seafood. Students adhering to a vegan or kosher diet may have significant difficulty eating a balanced diet in Ecuador, as many dairy/egg products are regularly consumed and vegetables are not a staple. Vegetarians should be fine, especially if they can be flexible; be aware that even non-meat dishes may be cooked with lard, beef broth, etc. Also, vegetarians should be aware that “vegetarian” in Latin America is usually assumed to mean avoidance of red meat.

SIT Study Abroad works with students, program staff, homestay families, home colleges and universities, and others to accommodate dietary needs whenever possible. For more information on dietary needs and dietary preferences, please review the Student Support section of the Student Health, Safety, and Support web page.


General routes of travel in Quito have limited accessibility. You will typically travel 20 to 40 minutes between your homestay, classes, and/or placement sites. You may travel by walking, bus, taxi, and/or trolley bus. Lifts and ramps are available at some trolley bus stations. Walking, buses, and airplanes are used for transportation on excursions. Buses used for excursions have room to stand and stretch.


You are advised to bring your own academic technology, including laptops, recording devices, adapters, thumb drives, and assistive technology. Additionally, you are encouraged to bring a GPS and other equipment for your Independent Study Project. The program’s computer space currently has a computer, printer, scanner, and copier. Internet access is good throughout Quito and smaller cities. It is possible to rent time on a computer with high-speed internet access at internet cafés. It is recommended that you insure your electronic property against loss or theft.

If you have questions about assistive technology, note-taking accommodations, or other academic accommodations, you are encouraged to contact the Office of Disability Services as early as possible.

Health Resources

Excellent healthcare facilities and pharmacies are available in major cities in Ecuador, and good private clinics are in many smaller cities and towns. In general, private clinics and hospitals are better than state-owned healthcare facilities. The program staff has information concerning healthcare resources for most any need, including dental, vision, and mental health care. Program staff can also recommend several English-speaking mental health professionals in Quito, but you should be advised that counseling and psychiatric care is not utilized in Latin America in the same way as in the United States. Payment for medical services is covered by your health insurance if the provider is notified prior to or during the medical service.

Admitted students are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns about accessing health services or medication while abroad during the health review process. Read more about the health review process and the summary of benefits for student health insurance.

Requesting Disability-Related Accommodations

To request disability-related accommodations, admitted students should contact the Office of Disability Services. For more information about the accommodation process, documentation guidelines and a link to the accommodation request form, please visit the Office of Disability Services website.

Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact Disability Services at or 802 258-3390 as early as possible for information and support.

Additional Support Resources

MIUSA (Mobility International USA) is a cross-disability organization serving those with cognitive, hearing, learning, mental health, physical, systemic, vision, and other disabilities. It offers numerous resources for persons with disabilities who wish to study abroad and/or engage in international development opportunities.

Abroad with Disabilities (AWD) is a Michigan nonprofit organization founded in 2015 with the goal of promoting the belief that persons with disabilities can and should go abroad. AWD works diligently to empower clients to pursue study, work, volunteer, and/or internship opportunities outside of the United States by creating dialogue, sharing resources, and spreading awareness.

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: $17,323

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: $2,806

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:

Airfare to Program Site

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.

Immunizations: Varies

Books & Supplies: $ 40

International Phone: Each student must bring a smart phone that is able to accept a local SIM card with them to their program, or they must purchase a smart phone locally.

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.

In order to make study abroad more accessible, SIT's partner colleges and universities may charge home school tuition fees for their students participating on an SIT Study Abroad program. If your institution has an agreement with SIT and charges fees different from those assessed by SIT, please contact your study abroad advisor for more details. The SIT published price is the cost to direct enroll in the SIT program. Tuition fees may vary for students based on your home college's or university's billing policies with SIT.

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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.