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Ecuador Semester


The Ecuador Program is designed for students who want to develop and strongly increase their ability to speak, write, read, and think in Spanish language while studying the history, culture, arts, and literatures of the Andean region, particularly Ecuador. Because the program is conducted exclusively in Spanish, students will strengthen their linguistic skills while exploring the colonial and post-colonial history and culture of this region. The Ecuador program includes experiencing the everyday life of a student in Cuenca, as we are going to live with local host families, take classes and participate in extra-curricular activities at the Universidad de Cuenca. This program combines a rich array of courses, outside speakers, excursions, and visits to sites of cultural and historic significance, films and theater performances. 

Program Location

The program will primarily be based in Cuenca, capital of the province of Azuay. Cuenca is located in the sierra of the Andes in the Austro or southern region of Ecuador with an urban population of approximately 700,000 inhabitants. Cuenca is approximately nine hours south of Quito and four hours east of Guayaquil. The city ranges from 2,350 to 2,550 meters (7,710 to 8,370 feet) above sea level. The dominant features of the city's geography are also the source of its name in Spanish: the four rivers of Cuenca (meaning a basin made by a confluence of rivers). These rivers are the Tomebamba (named after the Inca culture), Yanuncay, Tarqui and Machangara, in order of importance. These four rivers are part of the Amazon river watershed. Cuenca is surrounded by mountains on all sides with passes to the west, south, and east.

Living Arrangements

Students will live and eat all meals with Ecuadorian families in Cuenca throughout the program. Living with host families enhances the language acquisition process and reinforces the cultural immersion experience.


Click here to apply online for the Ecuador Program.


Universidad de Cuenca

While in Cuenca, students will take classes at the Universidad de Cuenca, a prestigious public university and one of the oldest in the country. At Cuenca University, students will take intensive language-based classes and Rodolfo’s class, in addition to classes in sociology, anthropology and/or history of Latin America. 

Courses and Credits

Students will earn a total of 18 academic credits for the successful completion of this program. All courses are taught in Spanish. Grades will be sent to the Earlham Registrar and will be included in the student's GPA. Courses include Intensive Spanish (8 credits), Andean Travel Narrative: From Colonial Through Modern Times OR a Spanish course at the University of Cuenca for students with lower-level Spanish (3 credits), Topics in Latin American Culture (3 credits), Being Abroad: Multimedia Journal and Reflection of Experience in Ecuador (1 credit), and an Elective course (3 credits). Elective courses that are offered through the Spanish for Foreign Students Program include: • Literatura Latinoamericana Contemporánea; • Literatura Hispanoamericana; • Literatura de la Mujer en América Latina; • Realidad Latinoamericana; • Cultura y Civilización de Latinoamérica; • Cultura y Literatura Indígena de los Andes; y • Kichwa.

Students will be evaluated by the Language and Linguistic Institute at the Universidad de Cuenca and placed into an appropriate language course for their level of proficiency in Spanish. At the Universidad de Cuenca, students who demonstrate superior language proficiency may be allowed to take courses in literature, history, politics, art, music and humanities in general. 

Program Excursions

During the orientation week in Quito as well as Cuenca, students will have the opportunity to explore the cities and familiarize themselves with the distinctive historical districts, landmarks, transportation systems, and cultural centers. During the semester, various mini-seminars, special guest speakers and cultural excursions are planned that focus on anthropological, political and social topics. Some excursions will be day trips and others will require over-night stays. 

Pre-Departure Course and Post-Return Course

Students accepted to the Ecuador Program are required to participate in Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre (1 credit) prior to departure and Cross-Cultural Explorations - Post (1 credit) after they return. Pre-departure sessions are designed to prepare students for the cross-cultural experience and will include readings, activities, films, lectures, and discussions with former participants of the program. A weekend retreat is part of this course. Students and parents will receive a Handbook of important information prior to the program. Following return to campus, students will participate in a 7-week course that will guide them in processing, analyzing and building upon their off-campus experience. Credit for Cross-Cultural Explorations - Pre is dependent upon successful completion of the semester program.

Academic Programs



The cost of the program is equivalent to one semester of on-campus tuition, room, board and fees. Program charges cover academic and educational costs, room, board, cultural events, and required group excursions. Students on financial aid are eligible to apply their aid to one Earlham or Earlham-approved off-campus program during their college career.

Additional Costs

Students will need to plan for additional money to cover round-trip airfare, passport and visa fees, books, cell phones, health costs, personal expenses, and costs for the independent travel period during break.


Students are responsible for arranging their own flights to and from Ecuador. Information on travel options will also be available during orientation.


Undergraduate students of all academic backgrounds and majors in good standing with the College are encouraged to apply. Students must complete at least Spanish 102 prior to the program. Selection for the program will be conducted by a student and faculty committee.

Program Dates

The tentative dates of the program are August 27 - December 7. 


Students may pick up applications in the Center for Global Education (CGE) in 131 Landrum Bolling Center or apply online at: /academics/off-campus-study/earlham-off-campus-program-application/.

Program Policies

Policies for all Earlham and Earlham-approved off-campus study opportunities can be found here.

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