Students who go abroad with hopes to see many countries and travel as much as they possibly can often study in Europe where traveling is cheap. Of course, where one chooses to study ultimately should be a reflection of their interests and academic goals, but if we are being honest, everyone who goes abroad is hoping to see, learn, and experience new parts of the world. Let me be an advocate for what the underrated country of Ecuador has to offer.
Ecuador is the land of four distinct and diverse landscapes in a country the size of the state of Colorado. There are the famous Galapagos Islands, the Coast, the Sierra/ Andes/ Mountains, and the Amazon. You don’t have to travel far to see anything and everything. They are four regions of diverse climates, animals, food, lifestyles, cultural traditions, and even some languages. The best of all– traveling within the country is cheap! Hostels are typically $10 a night and are honestly nicer than some hotels I have stayed in, and some even include meals! While buses are not always the most fun way to travel, it gives you the opportunity to see even more of the country and the transportation is very cheap, and is available throughout the country! (When you get to the point of retirement, come to Ecuador to get the most bang for your buck!)
Where do you go and what do you do? Well, I am glad you asked! A better question would be, what do you want to do? There is a coast and islands of gorgeous beaches to simply relax and enjoy the sunshine and incredible sea food, or adventures of surfing, snorkeling, and experiencing ocean wildlife. In the mountains there are many hiking, biking, and bus excursions to see the mountains and volcanos that make up breathtaking landscapes. The amazon has its own adventures with distinct wildlife, indigenous communities to learn from, and adventures of hiking, river rafting, and spelunking. Don’t let me forget all the lagoons in the craters of volcanoes, canyoning, waterfalls, and archeological sites! In the big well-known cities of the country such as Quito, Cuenca, and Guayaquil, there is well-preserved and rich historical centers with museums, cathedrals, and architecture. There are the cute coffee shops, chocolate tours, and great eats that will give you meals to fill your belly for just $3!
As we all know, there are pros and cons to everything and one of the cons to being in South America is that flights/ travel to other countries is expensive. Being in Ecuador however, there is really everything in one small country that outside travel isn’t really necessary, (however fun, of course, if you are willing to bite the bullet of the cost of a flight).
My WHY to Ecuador: Since my college search endeavor began, I was interested in the opportunity to study abroad because of my interest in Spanish (my WHY behind that interest also has a backstory for a later day). Taking advantage of my time in college to go abroad was/ is important for me to gain language fluency as my primary goal. Often, I think students forget the lifestyle and culture that impacts one’s experience when studying in another country. For me, I knew the options were Spain, or somewhere in Latin America and Spain was a no-go. Don’t get me wrong, Spain is a BEAUTIFUL country with a rich Spanish speaking culture, but I knew the European lifestyle wasn’t something I wanted to live in for an entire semester. When I began searching programs in Latin America, I was primarily drawn to the more globally well-known countries of Argentina, Peru, and Chile. The further I researched and the more I talked with other students who had gone abroad, I stumbled upon the program in Ecuador and was intrigued by their Spanish primarily. Ecuador is different than most Spanish speaking countries in that Ecuadorians typically speak slower and without a strong/ distinct accent. This made me excited because learning a language is hard enough, and picking up a distinct accent on top of that would be exhausting.
I was drawn to Ecuador primarily in search of an effective way to achieve my academic goals through the Universidad San Francisco de Quito, and the benefits of cheap travel became another benefit later. Now that I am here, I would say I have been a Student Tourist. I am obviously still here primarily for academic purposes, but believe me, I have been taking advantage of weekend trips since Week 1! Believe it or not, I have traveled so much already that I am burnt out and ready to take a break, but my bucket list says there is still much to see this semester.
While Ecuador may not be the hot topic Google presents for tourism, it is truly a country of beautiful diversity and adventure in every way! If you don’t believe me, let me be your tour guide. 🙂