Pitzer in Ecuador

Volcano above a city
Cotopaxi volcano seen from Quito, Ecuador

Pitzer in Ecuador
The Pitzer in Ecuador program provides a dynamic setting for studying the Ecuadorian economic, political, cultural, and environmental reality. It also provides an avenue for studying other countries in the Andean region. The program is based in Quito, one of the most beautiful cities in South America, and is affiliated with the Academia Latinoamericana de Español and the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), considered the top university in the country. Pitzer students and non-Pitzer undergraduate students are able to participate.

Colorful woven blankets in Ecuadorian street market
Ecuadorian street market vender

Program Information

Throughout the semester, students participate in the program’s core course, complete an independent study project (ISP), take university courses and/or Spanish language and culture classes and live with host families. Through the core course students are exposed to the region via study trips, lectures, and community service. For the independent study project, students will utilize field research methods, such as oral interviews, and other ethnographic techniques that facilitate cultural immersion. Lastly, students at the advanced Spanish level will take 2 regular university classes at USFQ, whereas students at the beginner or intermediate levels will often take 1 course at USFQ and 1 language course at Academia Latinoamericana.

Eligibility and Prerequisites

Students must be in good academic standing and have a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale. Prior Spanish language study and/or coursework is required.

Spring 2020 Students. Photo by Sebastián Granda Merchán

Program Dates

Fall: Early to mid-August to late-December

Spring: Early to mid-January to late May


With a geography that encompasses tropical Pacific beaches, Andean Mountain villages, and Amazonian rainforests, Ecuador provides a dynamic setting for a semester abroad. Students spend most of the semester in Quito (view slideshow). High in the Andes and with a spring-like climate throughout the year, Quito, Ecuador, is one of the most beautiful cities in South America. Quito was founded in the 16th century on the ruins of an Inca city and stands at an altitude of 2,850 m (9350 feet). Despite the 1917 earthquake, the city has the best-preserved, least-altered historic center in Latin America. In 1978, UNESCO designated Quito as a world cultural heritage site, ensuring the preservation of some of the most impressive colonial-era architecture in Latin America.

Quito, Ecuador


  • Academics
    Fall 2020 students. Photo by Sebastián Granda Merchán.


    Below are the courses offered in the program. Students are required to participate fully in all program components and are not allowed to withdraw from individual courses. Students must take all courses for a letter grade. Participating students from Pitzer College will have their grades from the program recorded on their Pitzer transcript and included in their overall GPA. Students from other colleges should check with their study abroad office for information about how grades from a semester abroad are integrated into their transcript.


    Courses Claremont
    Core Course: Ecuador, an Andean Country 1.0 4
    Independent Study Project 1.0 4
    Students at beginning and intermediate levels of Spanish may take intensive Spanish at Academia Latinoamericana de Español and one class at USFQ that is less language intensive (yoga, dance, cooking, art, etc).

    Students with an advanced level of Spanish will take two courses at Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). These courses are taught entirely in Spanish.

    2.0 8
    TOTALS 4.0 16

    Core Course 

    All students will participate in the program’s core course, Ecuador: un país Andino, which integrates all components of the program, including lectures, study trips, involvement in a local community organization and the family stay. It offers an important framework for understanding the social, political, economic, and environmental issues in contemporary Ecuador. Students meet once a week in class and spend additional hours working with local community organizations. Partner organizations include Proyecto Transgenero, Hospital De Niños “Baca Ortiz”, MUCE – Museo Universitario, and Centro Educativo Intercultural Bilingüe Yachay Wasi. The core course is taught in Spanish by the program director, using a sheltered approach that is appropriate for all language levels, and that allows all students to engage fully in the ideas and issues covered in the classroom and the readings. Click here for the sample core class syllabus.

    To gain firsthand experience with issues explored in the core course, students spend at least 6 hours a week participating in a service-learning experience with a local organization. A variety of opportunities are available, ranging from working in a hospital or clinical setting to teaching in a school for indigenous children, to participating in an organization that assists street children and their families. Click here to learn more about the organizations students have worked with in previous semesters.

    Independent Study Project

    All students will complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) which will allow students to take one topic of special interest and explore it in depth. The independent study project for this program will be an ethnographic study culminating in a major paper written in Spanish for students with advanced Spanish proficiency and in English for students with beginning or intermediate Spanish proficiency. Click here to read about ISP structure. Project locations will be limited to areas within Quito.

    Other Coursework

    For Beginner/Intermediate Spanish Levels For Advanced and Heritage Spanish Levels
    Students at beginning and intermediate levels may take one language or culture course at Academia Latinoamericana de Español, a premier language institution in Quito. Click here to learn about the Spanish Language offerings.

    In addition to the course at Academia, students at will take one class that is less language intensive (yoga, dance, cooking, art, etc.) at USFQ.

    Students with advanced Spanish or heritage level proficiency will take two university courses (fully in Spanish) at USFQ. To research course options, visit the USFQ course catalogue here

    The opportunity to take courses alongside Ecuadorian peers is a great way to improve language and understand higher education in South America, specifically within the Ecuadorian context. Click here to learn more about the experience of international students at USFQ.


    USFQ Campus


  • Student Experience
    Galapagos study trip

    Study Trips

    To deepen students’ knowledge about topics discussed in the seminar, students will take day trips to areas of interest within Quito and take part in two longer study trips (view slideshow). The first away trip will be to the Galápagos Islands, which are known worldwide for their flora, fauna, and unique beauty. In the Galápagos, students will be able to appreciate the biodiversity that characterizes Ecuador and learn about some of the practices that are endangering the island as well as efforts by locals and institutions that are working to protect it. The second away study trip will take students to the community of San Clemente, an indigenous Quechua community located in the foothills of Imbabura (to the north of Quito). There, students will interact with the indigenous population of the area and will get to know, firsthand, their way of life and ongoing issues and projects.

    Galapagos study trip
    Hike to San Clemente community

    Host Family Stay

    The heart of the program is the semester-long family stay in Quito. The opportunity to become a part of a family and develop a personal relationship with the individual family members is a distinct privilege. The host family stay is a valuable opportunity that allows students to become involved in Ecuadorian culture and to get to know people of different ages and backgrounds. The program includes two distinct home stays. The first and longest will be in Quito with a professional, middle-class family. The second stay, of a few days, will be with an indigenous family in the community of San Clemente.

    San Clemente host family
    Ecuador host family
  • Meet the Team

    Dr. Sebastián Granda Merchán, is the Director of the Pitzer College program in Ecuador and professor of the seminar Ecuador, an Andean Country. Sebastian has worked for the program for 21 years as director of the program, professor of the seminar, and adviser for the independent study projects. Dr. Merchán has a Doctorate in Latin American Cultural Studies and his field of research is indigenous peoples in Ecuador, with an emphasis on indigenous education processes.

    Viviana Mosquera Ampudia, is the Community Services Coordinator of the program. Viviana has worked for the program for 20 years. She has extensive experience working with social NGOs and foundations. Viviana is an anthropologist and has a Master’s degree in Cultural and Gender Studies. Her field of work is feminist and women’s movements.


  • Next Steps

    Next Steps

    Interested in the Pitzer in Ecuador program? Great! Learn more by attending an information session, scheduling a meeting with a study abroad adviser, and connecting with program alum.

    How to Apply

    Application Steps and Deadlines for Pitzer College Students

    Application for Non-Pitzer Students

    Before You Go

    After students apply and are accepted into the program, they will participate in a pre-departure program orientation before leaving for Ecuador. The orientation provides cultural context, health and safety information, and academic guidelines. At the pre-departure orientation, students will receive details specific to the program including program dates, flight arrangements, immunization documents and safety guidelines.

    Old town Quito

    Students are responsible for researching country specific information and the visa process. All participants will need a valid passport. Check the expiration date. If you do not have a passport valid for six months after your planned return from study abroad, then you will need to renew your passport.

    Typically, students with a U.S. passport will receive a 90-day tourist visa upon arrival, USFQ helps with getting this tourist visa extended. Needed paperwork and additional information about the visa process will be provided during orientations. However, be aware that the visa process can change. Students should stay informed on entry and exit requirements by reading the State Department website and the Ecuadorian Tourism website.