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SIT Ecuador Development, Politics & Languages

Fast Facts

Sessions Offered:

Fall, Spring


Quito, Ecuador




2.5 GPA. Good academic and disciplinary standing, three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent and the ability to follow coursework in Spanish, as assessed by SIT.

Application Due:

2/24 for fall semester and 9/24 for spring semester

Program Cost:

Click the Application tab.

The University of Iowa has affiliated itself with The School for International Training or SIT. SIT was founded on the idea that cultural exchange leads to positive social change. Because of this belief, each of their programs is centered around one of five global issues. This program in Ecuador allows students to study Ecuador’s development while considering the relationship between power and discourse as the county’s multilingual and multiethnic populations strive for social change and sustainability. Students learn from local experts: academics, activists, business persons, artists, community leaders, and government officials. This access to local perspectives and knowledge gives students a greater understanding of the issues and innovations within their host communities. The program combines classroom study with hands-on work in the field. Every day, students have multiple opportunities to engage with their surroundings and host communities.

Academic Program

The key topics of study for this program include the impact of development on the environment, and conversations about sustainability and quality of life. Students study how different groups in Ecuador think and talk about issues such as sustainability, restoration, resource-extracting industries, social inclusion, and inter-ethnic relations. The program explores the relationship between the language(s) of political power and social movements in Ecuador. Finally, indigenous languages, politics, interculturalism and plurinationality are examined. Students spend roughly the first three months of the program taking four classes for twelve semester hours of credit.

Languages in Contact: Spanish, Quichua, and Other Languages in Ecuador

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. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English and in Quichua.

Pradigms of Development and Political Discourse in Ecuador


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. This course is conducted in Spanish, although it may occasionally include a few readings in English.

Spanish for the Social Sciences I/II or III

Based on an in-country evaluation students are placed in one of the three levels of the Spanish for the Social Science courses. 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. The outgoing exam includes both a written and an oral component.

Reserch Methods and Ethics

This research methods course is designed to prepare students for an Independent Study Project or internship. Through lectures, readings, and field activities, students study and practice basic social science methods. They examine the ethical issues surrounding field research related to human rights and other program themes and are guided through the World Learning / SIT Human Subjects Review process, which forms a core component of the course.

By the end of the course, students will have chosen a research topic, selected appropriate methods, and written a solid proposal for an Independent Study Project related to the program themes. In addition to taking the above listed courses, students will also enroll in the following course: Independent Study Project. This course is four semester hours.

Independent Study Project

During the final four to six weeks of this program, you will produce a final Independent Study Project (ISP). 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.

Guayaquil, Ecuador
  • University of Iowa students who complete an Independent Study Project (ISP) must follow University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (IRB) policies and procedures. For more information on the Iowa IRB process please visit the Undergraduate Research Abroad web page. An additional pre-departure orientation session, hosted by the Iowa IRB, will be offered on campus to help answer questions and ensure compliance.
  • Program Dates

    Late Autust to early December for fall semester and late January to early May for spring semester

    Application Deadline

    February 24 for fall semester and September 24 for spring semester

    For more information

    Steps to Studying Abroad

    1. Before initiating an application with SIT, students must complete a Discover Study Abroad session at the University of Iowa.
    2. After completing the Discover Abroad session, students must call the Study Abroad office at 319-335-0353 to be assigned to the appropriate study abroad advisor.
    3. Once assigned, students must meet with their study abroad advisor to receive program application instructions.

    Study Abroad
    1111 University Capitol Centre
    Iowa City, IA 52242

    Phone: 319-335-0353

    The City - Quito


    Quito is the capital city of Ecuador. It sits at an elevation of 9,350 feet above sea level making it the highest official capital city in the world. Quito is also the world’s closest capital city to the equator; a distance of only 16 miles. With a population of over 2.5 million people, Quito is second to the port city of Guayaquil. In 1978 UNESCO declared Quito, and Krakow, Poland, the first World Cultural Heritage Sites. The historic center of Quito has one of the largest, least altered and best preserved historic centers in the Americas.

    The Country - Ecuador

    Amazon Basin in Ecuador

    Ecuador has four regions. There is the Amazon rain forest basin, the Andes highlands, the coastal area and then the Galapagos Islands located 600 miles to the west of the continent. The area known as Ecuador has was home to a variety of Amerindian groups that were gradually incorporated into the Inca Empire during the 15th century. In the 16th century the area was colonized by Spain. The country achieved independence from Spain in 1820 and became part of Gran Colombia. In 1830, Ecuador became a sovereign state. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is also known for its rich ecology, hosting many endemic plants and animals. It is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world.

    US Department of State Country Information

    The US Department of State provides safety and security information for every country of the world to help you assess for yourself the risks of travel. Each country information page contains a Travel Advisory, Alerts, and other important details specific to that country that could affect you.

    Pay close attention to the entry and exit requirements, local laws and customs, health conditions, and other details to help decide whether traveling to any given country is right for you. Non-US citizen travelers may also wish to seek guidance from the embassy of their country of citizenship. The UI International Travel Policy for Students addresses restrictions on student travel to high-risk locations and engagement in high-risk activities abroad.

    Living Arrangements

    During your time in Ecuador, students have the opportunity to live with two different homestay families. For seven weeks students live with a family in Quito. Students also stay for four to five days in a rural Amazonian Quichua community. This provides a very different perspective on Ecuador and is an opportunity to practice the Quichua language and implement fieldwork methodology prior to the ISP. Other accommodations during the program include guest houses, small hotels and hostels.

    Travel Arrangements

    Participants will make their own travel arrangements to Quito, Ecuador, taking advantage of any frequent-flyer options and/or internet specials available to them. The cost of travel is not included in the program fee. Information about airport pick up will be given at orientation. Students should book airfare to correspond with the arrival and departure dates given by SIT.

    Local Transportation

    Quito’s fabulous transportation system makes the city easy to navigate. Buses and taxis are abundant, and with the recent addition of the pedestrian and environment friendly Trolebús, Metrobús and EcoVia, the transportation system has been even further improved. Each bus ride cost approximately 25 cents. For excursions out of the area, transportation will be provided for students.

    Students must have a 2.5 GPA and be in good academic and disciplinary standing. Furthermore, students must have three recent semesters of college-level Spanish or equivalent, previous coursework and/or other significant preparation in social work, political economy, development studies, or Latin American studies, as assessed by SIT.

    Good academic and disciplinary standing- Students must be in good academic and disciplinary standing at the University of Iowa. It is the policy of the UI Study Abroad office that all students who study abroad must be in both good academic standing and good disciplinary standing. Students who, even after being accepted into a program, are put on either academic and/or disciplinary probation for any period of time overlapping with the study abroad program dates are ineligible to study abroad. In these cases, students must forfeit their acceptance and will not be allowed to study abroad. Any student who must forfeit their acceptance and/or attendance on a study abroad program due to a probationary status is wholly responsible for any and all financial expenses incurred. See the ‘Withdrawal Policy’ below for more information about the related late withdrawal fees.

    Program Costs

    Students are charged a Program Fee on their Ubill. This charge covers tuition, all educational excursions, and room & board which includes all meals. In addition to the Program Fee, students are assessed a University of Iowa Study Abroad Administrative Fee. Also on the Ubill will be the mandatory Iowa Regents International CISI insurance. 
    Other costs include but are not limited to, application fee, round trip airfare to the program site, passport fees, local transportation, books and supplies, and personal expenses.

    Financial Aid & Scholarships

    Most financial aid (scholarships, grants, and loans) is applicable to study abroad programs. Please check the Study Abroad website for information on financial aid and how it may be applied to studying abroad. You are also encouraged to speak with someone at the Office of Student Financial Aid to explore financial aid options. Scholarship opportunities exist for study abroad participants. Please explore Study Abroad’s websites for UI Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunities, and Non-UI External Awards.

    SIT has several scholarships available to University of Iowa students. Qualified students must complete the scholarship portion of their application. Please visit the SIT Scholarship web site to find out more about their scholarships.

    SIT automatically gives students from Big Ten institutions a $1,500 scholarship. There is no application necessary, the credit is automatically credited to your account. SIT offers additional awards that can be found on SIT's webpage.

    Pell Grant Recipients will have their application fee waived by SIT, are eligible for additional SIT scholarships, and are competitive candidates for the Department of State's Gilman Scholarship. Please talk to your Study Abroad Advisor for more details.

    How to Apply

    Schedule and meet with Kristine Djerf, the Study Abroad Advisor for Latin America. Appointments can be set up in person in 1111 UCC or by phone at 319-335-0353. After discussing the program and its requirements, students can then complete the University of Iowa Study Abroad application . Final admissions decisions to the program are made by SIT.

    Application Deadline

    February 24 for fall semester and September 24 for spring semester

    Withdrawal Policy

    SIT's withdrawal policy can be found here: Withdrawal and Cancellation. After applying and being accepted students will then be asked to confirm their participation in the program. After confirmation, students are responsible for the following:

    Date of Withdrawal Student Financial Responsibility
    Within the first nine days after the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
    Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
    10-19 days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
    Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
    20-44 days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: $400
    Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT
    45 or more days past the confirmation deadline Administrative fee: 100%
    Portion of program fee: Determined by SIT

    Consult with your Study Abroad advisor for any clarification about fees and billing. Note that when you withdraw from a program, any money already paid directly to a program provider and/or a host university will potentially be forfeited. Check with your specific provider/host university for details. Additional penalties for cancellation of airline tickets may also apply. Check with your airline for further details.


    In order to prepare for your time abroad, you are required by the University of Iowa to complete two orientations. These may be in addition to orientations provided by your on-site provider. See below for more information.

    Online Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation

    You are required to complete the International Programs online “Education Abroad Pre-Departure Orientation” course distributed through ICON prior to departure. This orientation is mandatory for all students going abroad under the auspices of the University of Iowa. It covers many practical matters about living overseas, such as health and safety, communication, money, goals and much more. You will be enrolled in this course by International Programs and an email will be sent to you once enrolled. If you have any questions you can email

    Program-Specific Orientation

    This orientation will be facilitated by your study abroad advisor and will cover content specific this program and host countries. It could be conducted in a group setting or one-on-one depending on your type of planned activity abroad. Your study abroad advisor will send you more information about this mandatory in-person session.

    Before Traveling

    Students must complete certain documents and activities for the University of Iowa and SIT before leaving for their study abroad experience and these include:
    1. Uploading a copy of the information page of their passport to their UI study abroad application.
    2. Completing and turning in a copy of their Credit Approval Form.
    3. Registering in MyUI for the appropriate study abroad course.
    4. Completing SIT Confirmation materials.
    5. Finalizing SIT Pre-departure materials.

    Blue Footed Boobie
    Marine Iguana
    Ecuadorian Rainforest