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In the photo: Local partner and Ian Frank, Ecuador '15, documentary filmmaker


Small but mighty, Ecuador knows how to amaze.

Volcanic landscapes, Amazonian rainforests, the Galapagos Islands, and the breathtaking heights of the Andes – Ecuador packs a punch. Don’t underestimate the amount of awesome packed into this small South-American country.

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Within Ecuador’s borders you’ll find four distinct ecological regions and more biodiversity per square mile than any other country on earth. No wonder Darwin’s theory of evolution got its start here.

Ecuador’s population is just as diverse as its environment. You’ll meet people from a mix of indigenous and mestizo ethnic groups, along with smaller numbers coming from African or European descent. In addition to Spanish, you’ll hear conversations in Kichwa and other indigenous languages.

Whether you’re teaching English high up in the Andes, working at a museum in an indigenous community, or helping conservation efforts in the Amazon, Ecua-time is one experience you can count on. Punctuality comes second to relationships and conversation. The Ecuadorian hour can stretch way beyond 60 minutes. Take this time to catch your breath. To open your eyes. Take this time to immerse yourself in the amazingness that is Ecuador.

Video by Fellow Emily Hwang ’13, The New School.

Want to see more? Check out videos by Lillie Mayfield ’14, Montana State University, and Sarah Richmond ’15, Reed College.

Ecuadorian cuisine varies with each of its distinct regions. 

  • Patacones – These twice-fried plantain patties are often served with queso frecso, fresh milk curd cheese.
  • Cuy –  try roasted guinea pig, a delicacy from the Sierra region!
  • Maito de Tilapia – Enjoy this popular dish from the Amazon region where fish is wrapped up in maito leaves and grilled over the fire. It’s usually served with a side of yucca, plantains, or onions with lime.

Learn Spanish through immersion, tutoring, and Rosetta Stone. You may also have the opportunity to learn Kichwa, one of Ecuador’s indigenous languages. Get a head start with these common phrases!

  • Ya mismo vengo! – Spanish for “I’m coming soon!” Usually used when someone is running on Ecua-time and is not coming very soon.
  • Mande –  a response to your name being called or if you need something to be repeated. This word comes from colonial times, when the Spanish ordered Ecuadorians and they had to reply with mande, “command me.” Today it mande is used by everyone regardless of their standing.
  • Pachamama – Kichwa for Mother Earth. Ecuador is the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in their constitution.

Listen to some traditional music from different regions of Ecuador – Marimba music from the coast and folk music from the Andes.


Learn and contribute at an apprenticeship with a local organization.

Get involved in projects that matter to your community and gain exposure and experience in a new field during your gap year in Ecuador. Apprenticeships span a number of sectors including Agriculture, Education, Environmental Conservation, and Social Enterprise.


Get your hands dirty and learn about farming, growing crops, and rearing animals. You could join an agricultural cooperative in the mountains, sell family-grown produce at a regional farmers market, or help train farmers in organic and sustainable farming practices.


Make a difference in the classroom by assisting teachers at local pre-school, elementary, middle, or high schools. You could also play a role teaching afterschool enrichment and sports programs, or English classes for adults going back to school.

Environmental Conservation

Help conserve Ecuador’s incredible biodiversity in threatened environments like the Amazon. You could be working at a rescue shelter for exotic animals, developing hiking trails in national parks, or educating visitors about how natural plants are used by indigenous communities.

Social Enterprise

See first hand how doing business and doing good can intersect and benefit the community. You could apprentice at a fair-trade guayusa tea company, a microfinance organization, or a fair-trade jewelry cooperative run by indigenous women.


There is no better way to understand Ecuador than by experiencing daily life with a host family.

Homestays range from urban to very rural, and families come from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. In all cases, host families are carefully selected and trained by Global Citizen Year. Each Fellow is matched one-to-one with a host family to ensure a truly immersive experience.

“[I’m] amazed at the efficiency and skill of my sisters as they harvest quinoa or knead dough. Amazed at the beauty of the straw hut my family constructed, in only 4 days, for the kitchen. Amazed at how strong mi abuela is.”

More from Ilana Marder-Eppstein ’14, University of British Columbia

“First there’s my family. Or maybe I should say my herd. Technically I only live with two elderly parents again, but those parents have three grown kids all with their own families living next door, across the street, and down the street.”

More from John Spence ’15, Williams College

“I’m learning to lovethe games of tag I play with my siblings for hours in late afternoons and into the evenings after we finish chores on the farm. We sprint through grassy fields and dirt roads, darting past chickens and dogs and piglets.”

More from Ali Ruxin ’15, Northwestern University

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