Pitzer in Ecuador

Pitzer in Ecuador

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. In 1978, UNESCO designated Quito as a world cultural heritage site, ensuring the preservation of some of the most impressive architecture in Latin America. With a geography that encompasses tropical Pacific beaches, Andean mountain villages, and Amazonian rainforests, Ecuador provides a dynamic setting for studying the challenges that face a small, developing nation.

Host Institution
Pitzer in Ecuador is affiliated with Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), considered the top university in the country.

Spring 2020 students. Photo by Sebastián Granda Merchán


  • Academics

    Courses and Credits

    ECU101 PZ   Core Course: Ecuador, an Andean Country
    ECU103 PZ   Independent Study Project
    Intensive Spanish  or Content Courses (for Advanced Students)

    Students at beginning, intermediate or advanced-low levels of Spanish will take Intensive Spanish as a second language at Academia Latinoamericana de Español, a premier language institution in Quito with which Pitzer has had a relationship for over 20 years.

    All students will enroll in and take at least one class at Universidad San Francisco de Quito along with regular Ecuadorian students. Lower level Pitzer students will take one class that is less language intensive (yoga, dance, cooking, art, etc) in addition to one class at Academia Latinoamericana.  Students with higher levels of proficiency may take up to two classes at USFQ in any subject of their choice. If taking two courses at USFQ, students would not take a credit course at Academia Latinoamericana, but faculty at Academia Latinoamericana are available for non-credit tutoring assistance for any student on the program who can use extra help with their USFQ coursework.

    There is no language requirement for the program. However, it is recommended that students take one or more semesters of Spanish prior to the program whenever possible.
    Students must be in good academic standing and with a 2.0 or higher GPA on a 4.0 scale.
    Grades for this program will be recorded on a Pitzer College transcript and included in the Pitzer GPA. 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.
    Program Dates
    Fall: Early to mid-August to late-December
    Spring: Early January to late May

    The Core Course – Ecuador, an Andean Country

    ecuador-Kate MuddThe Pitzer core course, Ecuador, an Andean Country, 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 will meet once a week in class and spend additional hours participating in a community organization in Quito to gain firsthand experience with the issues explored in the course. The core course is taught in Spanish by an Ecuadorian university professor. To accommodate students with lower levels of Spanish proficiency, for the first month of the course, the academic director synthesizes the course content in English during the class meetings; this allows all students to engage fully in the ideas and issues covered in the classroom. For Pitzer students, the core course will satisfy Pitzer’s Social Responsibility Praxis (SRX) requirement.

    Examples of Community Service Opportunities

    Independent Study Project

    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. You must select a project that involves field research, and other techniques that facilitate cultural immersion.

    Fall 2020 students. Photo by Sebastián Granda Merchán.

    Intensive Spanish

    Intensive Spanish is offered at the beginner, intermediate and advanced levels through Academia Latinoamericana de Español.

    Content Courses for advanced speakers are also offered through Academia Latinoamericana de Español. For a sample list of possible content courses, visit Academia Program of Studies.

    Students with advanced Spanish skills may have the opportunity to choose regular university courses available at a local university. To research course options, visit  USFQ Course Catalogue. To find a course, after Período, select Primer Semestre and the academic year. Next to Oferta Académica, select ANTIGUA. Next to Sesión, select Presencial Diurno Cumb. To view the prerequisites, click on the red icon to the right of the course name. Next to the red icon, you will see a white icon for the course description.

    All courses on the program must be taken for a letter grade. All grades for this program will be shown on a Pitzer College transcript and calculated into the Pitzer GPA

    Professors in a particular field group or department determine which courses count towards a student’s major or minor, but the credit for study abroad courses is awarded through the Office of Study Abroad.  Students who wish to receive credit towards their major for a particular course should consult their academic advisor for guidelines. Some schools, field groups, or departments may wish to see a syllabus, samples of coursework, texts, or other program materials to make a determination. Check the requirements before you go.

  • Course Descriptions

    Academic Information and Course Descriptions

    Sample –  updated fall 2019

    Academia Program of Studies

    (Taught in Spanish)
    (1 credit)

    Sample Syllabus

    Profesor: Sebastián Granda Merchán
    Community Service Coordinator: Viviana Mosquera
    Lecturers: Viviana Maldonado, María Sol Villagómez and Nicolás Cuvi


    The seminar offers a panoramic view of Ecuador’s economic, political, social, cultural and environmental reality. The seminar focuses its attention on the Ecuadorian reality, but also considers the situation of other countries in the Andean region that share a similar reality. Through different planned activities, the seminar will allow students to understand the principal issues and challenges facing present-day Ecuador, as well as how to reflect and give meaning to their daily lives and experiences.


    1.   Reflect on the cultural immersion process during the semester, and be conscience of the way in which cultural baggage contributes to the fostering and/or obstruction of cultural adaptation.
    2. Understand the issues that Ecuadorians from different social groups and classes have to face day-to-day, and the strategies they put into play in order to come out ahead.
    3. Analyze the way in which racism, gender discrimination, and social inequality manifests in the country; and the various initiatives that different marginalized groups put into action for improving their own conditions.
    4. Gather and consolidate different community players’ points of view, through full participation in host family life, community service and at the university; and through the implementation of qualitative research techniques.
    5. Demonstrate respect and understanding of cultural beliefs and practices even though they may differ from one’s own beliefs and practices.


    The seminar includes the following activities: discussion sessions, community service, study trips and the host family stay.

    a. Discussion Sessions

    These sessions will take place every Monday afternoon from 3:30-5:30pm. The sessions will offer a unique space for deep discussion and analysis of topics and questions that emerge from daily life, community service, host family living and assigned readings. Student participation in the sessions is fundamental. For each session, the students must have read the selected material and prepare a written report in which they analyze and provide an opinion about questions found in the reading. In some sessions, students will be in charge of leading the discussion.

    b. Community Service

    The community service component represents an excellent opportunity to learn about the situation of Ecuador’s most vulnerable groups and the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious organizations that work in favor of these groups. Each student will designate two weekly sessions (of three hours each) for their community service. One of the responsiblities of the community service consists of maintaining a field journal in which students register their experiences and the most important occurences during their weekly visits to the institution, as well as respond to the questions indicated in the Fieldbook. For the final seminar, students must prepare a visual presentation (photographic) of their community service experience. More information about the field journals and the visual presentation can be found in the Fieldbook.

    c. Study Trips

    To deepen student’s knowledge about topics discussed in the seminar, students will take part in two study trips. The first 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 the population and some institutions that are working to protect it. The second 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, first hand, their way of life and on-going issues and projects.

    d. Family Stay

    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.


    Final grading will be calculated in the following way:

    • Final Evaluation                                    20
    • Community Service                              20
    • Field Journal                                        15
    • Reports on Readings                           15
    • Participant Observation                       10
    • In-Depth Interview                               10
    • Presentation on Community Service     5
    • Fictional Story                                        5

    Total                                                            100

    Discussion Topics and Assignments

    Date Topic Assignment
    August 21 – Overview of the seminar: objectives, topics, methodology, and evaluation. -Letter to family (see Fieldbook)

    -My host family and kinship relations (see Fieldbook)

    August 28 -Panoramic view of Ecuador: geography, demographics, economy and politics -Reading: John Creswell, Qualitative inquiry and research design (chapter 4)
    September 4 -Qualitative research and its principal focus -Select and describe the topic for the ISP (in writing)

    -Field Journal 1 (See Fieldbook)

    September 11 -Presentation of research topics

    -Research design plan

    -Design research plan

    – Report on reading: articles from Telesur and BBC

    September 18 -Principal economic, political and social changes in Ecuador since 1950 -Report on reading: Carlos de la Torre and Andrés Ortiz, Populist polarization and the slow death of democracy in Ecuador
    September 25 -The Citizen’s Revolution: goals, contradictions, and conflicts -Field Journal 2 (see Fieldbook)

    Review information about the Galápagos Islands.

    October 2


    -The Galápagos Islands: a historical, environmental and social look.
    October 9 – No class. Trip to the Galápagos Islands -Fictional story based on experience at the Galápagos Islands (see Fieldbook)

    – In-depth interview: Gender discrimination in Quito (see Fieldbook)

    October 16 – Gender discrimination and the women’s movement in Ecuador Report on reading: Concentration of assets and poverty reduction in post-neoliberal Ecuador
    October 23 -Social inequality and poverty in Ecuador -Report on reading: Carmen Martínez: Managing diversity in post-neoliberal Ecuador.
    October 30 -The indigenous movement and the plurinational state -Report on Reading: Rosemarie Terán: Educación, cambio institucional y equidad

    – Field journal 3 (see Fieldbook)

    November 8 -Ecuadorian identity: dispute about its meaning -Prepare for the final evaluation

    -Field Journal 4 (see Fieldbook)

    November 15 -Final evaluation -Prepare visual presentation on community service experience (see Fieldbook)
    November 22 -Visual presentation on community service experience -Prepare ISP oral presentation

    -Prepare ISP draft

    November 29 -ISP Oral presentation

    -Turn in ISP draft

    -Prepare ISP oral presentation

    -Advance on ISP

    December 6 -ISP oral presentation -Prepare final version of ISP
    December 13 -Turn in final ISP

    -Program evaluation


    • Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research. A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
    • Chambis, D. y Schutt R. (2004). Making sense of the social world. Methods of investigation. Thousand Oaks – California, Sage Publications.
    • (26 de noviembre de 2016). Cuánto ha cambiado Ecuador con la Revolución Ciudadana. Telesur. Recuperado de: www.telesurtv.net/
    • Zibell, M. (24 de mayo de 2017). Tras 10 años de gobierno, además de un Ecuador dividido, ¿qué más deja Rafael Correa? BBC. Recuperado de: https://www.bbc.com
    • Larrea, C. y Greene, N. (2018). Concentration of Assets and Poverty Reduction in Post-neoliberal Ecuador. En North, L. y Clark, T. (eds.). Dominant Elites in Latin America, Latin American Political Economy, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-53255-4_4
    • Martinez, C. (2014). Managing diversity in posneoliberal Ecuador. The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology, 19 (1), 103-125.
    • Terán Rosemarie. (2015) Educación, cambio institucional y equidad. Paper universitario de la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. Recuperado de: https://www.uasb.edu.ec/UserFiles/383/File/RosemarieTeran%20[Educacion].pdf
    • Pagnotta, C. (2008). La identidad nacional ecuatoriana entre límites externos e internos, Amérique Latine Histoire et Mémoire. Les Cahiers ALHIM , 16. Recuperado de: https://alhim.revues.org/index3061.html


    During the semester in Ecuador, students will carry out a series of exercises that will allow them to reflect on their own experience in Ecuador, as well as prepare them for the process of collecting information necessary for the development of their Independent Research Project (ISP).

    Exercise 1: Letter to My Family or Friends Back Home

    Students will write a letter to a member of their respective families: father, mother, siblings. The letter should emphasize first impressions of Quito, Quiteños and their way of life, as well as the main experiences of cultural adjustment with the host family, outside the home, etc. The letter must be written in Spanish (except with permission by the professor) and be approximately three pages in length, double-spaced.

    Exercise 2:  My Host Family and Kinship Relations

    Students will construct a map of their family’s kinship relations. The exercise will consider the extended family that includes grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other members of the family. The objective of this exercise is not only for the purpose of understanding the host family structure, but also to learn the names of family affiliations (aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparent, grandchild, cousins, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, etc.).

    Exercise 3: Fictional Story about the Galápagos

    Students will write a story in which they record their impressions and experiences from the trip to the Galápagos Islands. The story should be minimum three-pages in length, double-spaced. This assignment is completely free form and encourages unleashed creativity.

    Exercise 4: Gender Discrimination in Ecuador  

    Students will conduct in-depth interviews with members of their host family and/or their community service institution on the topic of gender discrimination in Quito. Students should follow the steps below:

    1. Design the interview that is going to be used.
    2. Interview two people. It is recommended that students interview people of different ages and gender. To capture the information of the interviewee, students should select the most appropriate mechanism: digital recording or simultaneous transcription.
    3. Write a report (minimum four pages, double-spaced) that includes the most relevant aspects of each interview and notes differences and similarities between perspectives. In the end, students will carry out a comparative exercise between the way gender discrimination is expressed in the United States and Ecuador.

    Exercise 5:  Rural life and Indigenous Culture

    From the San Clemente community stay, describe and analyze an aspect of the way of life and culture of community members: use of medicinal plants, the role of children in agricultural work, gender roles in indigenous families, etc.

    For the above, students will perform a participant observation exercise during their rural experience and time living among indigenous families. The exercise should follow the steps below:

    • Clearly define a topic that will be observed, for example: gender roles in the indigenous community.
    • Design an observation plan.
    • Observe the selected topic area and make notes in the field journal.
    • Write a report (minimum four pages, double-spaced) in which the collected information is presented and an interpretation of the information is discussed.

    Exercise 6: My Community Service Experience

    Students must record in their field journals the most important facts and events that occur during their community service visits. In addition to noting their experiences and daily events, students should record the following in their diaries:

    Diary 1

    • What is the name of the community service institution?
    • What services does the institution offer?
    • What type of people look after the institution?

    Diary 2

    • What activities do you carry out in your community service? (Describe)
    • What difficulties do you encounter in the development of activities in your community service site? (Explain)
    • Do you consider the activities you carry out in your community service to be useful and/or beneficial for the institution and community? In what ways? (Explain)

    Diary 3

    • Have you been able to create relationships with those receiving services from the institution and/or with the employees of the institution? (Explain)
    • Have relationships with people from the institution been positive or negative? (Explain)

    Diary 4

    • What challenges did you find in your community service?
    • How did you confront these challenges in your community service?
    • What did you learn in your community service about the community and the institution with which you collaborated?

    Exercise 7: Reports on Readings

    Students must write a report on each assigned reading. The first part of the report should include a summary of the reading in which the central thesis of the text and main arguments are presented. In the second part of the report, students will analyze and/or comment on one of the text’s themes that interested them.

    Exercise 8: Visual Presentation of the Community Service Experience

    Students must prepare a visual presentation about their community service experience. Presentations can be photographic but also in video. The presentation must focus on three areas: 1. the institution and its principal characteristics: infrastructure, services offered, etc., 2. the people who benefit from the institution: age, social and ethnic group they belong to, problems they encounter, etc., and 3. Experience working in the institution. In this last part, it is important that the students’ presentations state not only what they learned the most, but also the problems they had to sort out daily.


    (1 credit)

    Each student develops a qualitative research project on a specific chosen topic. In the design, development and evaluation of the research, students should put into practice all of the elements discussed in the seminar.

    First, students will prepare a written draft of their ISP to present to their ISP tutor two weeks before the seminar ends. With the comments they receive, students must prepare a final paper and submit a printed version and electronic version. The length of the written version is 30 pages that should be accompanied by the bibliography, photos, drawings, maps and other graphic material that complement the written text. The final version will need to be reviewed by a Spanish speaker to avoid linguistical errors.

    In order to avoid students leaving the ISP to the last moment, they will present a written report of their progress half way through the semester. This report will be graded and calculated in their final ISP grade.

    Research Plan
    The research plan must consider the following elements:

    1. Topic
    2. Research focus: narrative-biographic study, qualitative study, ethnographic, etc.
    3. Justification: Why do I want to research this topic?
    4. Research question(s): What am I going to research?
    5. Objectives: For what reason am I going to research? What am I going to achieve at the end of my research?
    6. Research techniques: What techniques am I going to utilize for the collection of information (interviews, observation, focus groups, other)? In the case where interviews or focus groups are used, it is necessary to be precise about who will be interviewed and who will be part of the focus groups.
    7. Ethical aspects: Which ethical considerations must I keep in mind when doing fieldwork?
    8. Schedule: How am I going to organize my time for the development of my research?
    9. Bibliography: What materials am I going to use? For example: books, articles, journals, newspapers, etc.

     Presentation of Research

    The final version of the research project must contain the following parts

    1. Cover page:
    • Name of the seminar
    • Title of the research project
    • Author
    • Date
    1. Index
    1. Abstract: Written in English and following the specifications of Pitzer College: “Abstracts should include the following: 1) Title of project 2) Type of project (internship, research study, apprenticeship, etc.), 3) Field of study for which the project should receive credit (religious studies, sociology, anthropology, music, women’s studies, etc.) 4) A short summary of the project including the following: Here is what I did (including the key research questions I asked). Here is how I did it (methods). Here is what I learned. Overall, the abstract can be very short as long as all of the above is covered”
    1. Introduction
    1. Chapters and subchapters
    1. Conclusions
    1. Bibliography: All sources used for the research: books, journals, newspapers, interviews, informal conversations, television programs, lectures, etc.
    1. Appendix (optional)

    The ISP must be submitted in printed and digital copy. The printed version must be ring bound.


    The evaluation of the ISP will be calculated in the following way:

    • Research Plan               20
    • Field Work                     30
    • Final Paper                    40
    • Oral Presentation          10

    Total                                     100


    Social Sciences Libraries

    Biblioteca de la Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales (FLACSO)

    Dirección: La Pradera E7-174 y Av. Diego de Almagro

    Biblioteca virtual: www.flacso.org

    Biblioteca de la Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar  (UASB)

    Dirección: Toledo N22-80 (Plaza Brasilia)

    Catálogo electrónico: www.uasb.edu.ec

    Social Science Journals

    • Iconos. Revista de Ciencias Sociales de la Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales
    • Ecuador Debate. Revista de Ciencias Sociales de Centro Andino de Acción Popular

    Ambas revistas pueden ser encontradas en el repositorio digital FLACSO Andes,



    Links for critical thinking resources

  • Study Trips

    To deepen student’s knowledge about topics discussed in the seminar, students will take part in two study trips. The first 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 some institutions that are working to protect it. The second 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, first hand, their way of life and on-going issues and projects.

    EC 03MA15 SG Rural stay bench group

  • Independent Study Projects

    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. You must select a project that involves field research, and other techniques that facilitate cultural immersion. Topic selection may be limited by available resources and local conditions. Project locations will be limited to areas within and nearby Quito.

    Cotopaxi 'Throat of the Moon' in the Kichwa Language. Photo by Henri Leduc Oct 2015
    Cotopaxi ‘Throat of the Moon’ in Kichwa. Photo by Henri Leduc Oct 2015



  • Family Stays


    The heart of the Pitzer Exchange in Ecuador 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 families usually speak little or no English. Though the space and amenities of their homes may seem modest in comparison to similar American homes, many of these middle-class families will have domestic help.