Universidad San Francisco de Quito
Students with four semesters of college-level Spanish (or the equivalent) may choose to spend a year or semester of study at the USFQ in Ecuador's capital city, Quito. USFQ is a small (about 5,000 students), modern university located in a suburb about 40 minutes outside of central Quito (shuttles are offered to and from downtown Quito). It offers a vast range of courses courses spanning from Environmental Studies and Latin American History to Literature and Marine Biology. All students studying through USFQ will live in assigned homestays, and will be provided some meals by their host-families. International students will be provided volunteer opportunities, as well as some group excursions outside of Quito. USFQ also offers a program through the Galapagos Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS). Courses in this program are taught in English, and focus primarily on Environmental, Marine, and General Biologies. The GAIAS program is located on San Cristóbal Island, and offers students valuable experience in field-research, as well as the opportunity to create and execute independent studies or community service projects. Students will stay in either homestays or in university housing, both of which will provide some meals. For this program, Spanish experience is not required, but is recommended.
Further info can be found at: http://www.usfq.edu.ec/Paginas/Inicio.aspx (Spanish) and at:https://www.iesabroad.org/IES/Programs/Ecuador/Quito/Direct_Enrollment/quitoDirect.html (English)
Academically, USFQ was much easier than Reed. While it has some elements that parallel Reed, like an honor code, first name basis with teachers, and open classroom environment, the teaching style felt a bit like high school in terms of some of the assignments. It was definitely interesting however, to learn about things from the Ecuadorian perspective, and I think I learned important lessons inside and outside of the classroom. I struggled with the food situation in my host family. The house itself was very nice and conveniently located very close to the university. I learned many things. From learning how to navigate a foreign city, to how a developing country functions. I learned a lot about indigenous identity from my indigenous students who I taught twice a week. I learned about the culture from living with a host family and engaging in friendships with Ecuadorians. I learned to be confident speaking Spanish and getting around by myself. Try to make friends off campus as it can be difficult to intermingle with Ecuadorians at USFQ who appear uninterested in creating friendships with internationals. My preparations in Spanish, Anthropology, and History really helped me grapple with my experience and make sense of it. In the end I feel that all the theory that went to the back of my brain, was put to use in one way or another in my time abroad. It gave me the opportunity to put into practice much of what I have learned at Reed. It taught me a lot about how the world works and I have a much better understanding of myself, and the world I live in because of my experiences in Ecuador. I'll definitely be able to apply what I have learned to my academic experience.
-Anonymous '13 (general USFQ exchange)
The academics of the program were not necessarily its strong point but they were not bad. I had the opportunity to take classes I would not have a Reed, like “Human Ecology and Maritime Societies” which was a very challenging anthro class. The biology classes did not exactly help prepare me for the junior qual., but approached relevant topics of environmental biology on a macro/organismal level with clear practical application to some of the most pressing world-wide environmental issues. If anything, we were over-fed with delicious meals. It was a little harder for the vegetarian to get food she wanted, but she ate plenty as well. The housing was very nice. The university and its dorms were probably one of the nicer establishments on the island. The furnishing was however, rather barren. It would have been nice to have a desk to work at, or a chair or something in my dorm, but I have already suggested this to them and imagine that it will soon be taken care of. The coordinator on the island also took care of any conditions we may have wanted changed that was not previously established. Although the classes are offered in English, some background in the Spanish language greatly increases the value of the experiences within the local community, which were the strong point of the program for me. Students should also be prepared to live in Quito, Ecuador for a month prior to going to the islands, so there is a bit of a double culture shock-but living in Quito almost made the transition to Galapagos, that much more marvelous. Buy school supplies in Quito, everything costs more on the islands. My experience and learning at Reed reinforced that I wanted to be doing what I was doing at GAIAS, and GAIAS seems to have done the same for my Reed-ness. GAIAS provided another side of the biological spectrum that is less emphasized but equally important to the side provided at Reed.
-Anonymous '06 (GAIS program)