Quest Exchange in Ecuador

Ecuador is the smallest of the Andean countries, but with the Pacific Coast, the Andean Highlands and the Amazon Basin packed into its small surface area, plus the Galapagos Islands off the coast, it boasts a little of everything the continent has to offer. Ecuador is known for its fabulous exotic fruits, high quality fish and seafood, and countless varieties of Andean potatoes. Across the country you’ll find a broad spectrum of national and regional dishes, including lemon-marinated shrimp, toasted corn, and pastries stuffed with spiced meats. If you’re feeling courageous, you can put your culinary bravery to the test with roasted cuy (guinea pig). Ecuadorians are crazy about football, and the national team has shown some successes in international tournaments in the last few years. Carnivals and festivals are also varied through the country and highly appreciated by the population, usually featuring many traditional games and fun.

Nowhere else on earth will you find so much natural diversity and all the fun that accompanies it in such a small country- start your fun today!

3 Fun Facts
  • Ecuador is named for the Equator, which runs through the country.
  • In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to officially recognize the rights of nature. Rather than treating nature as property, Ecuador recognizes that nature has constitutional rights and has the “right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.”
  • Charles Darwin visited Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands in 1835 and largely based his theory of evolution on the discoveries he made there.
Program Dates


Early Sept – Late June


Early Sept – Late Jan
Early Feb- Late June


The typical Ecuadorian school year runs from early September to late June. Classes are usually held from 7am to 1:15-2pm from Monday to Friday. After class, there are usually clubs for basketball, cheerleading, theater, etc. There are about two and a half months of vacation in the summer (July–September), one week of vacation over Christmas/New Year, and one week at the end of the semester, usually in February. Students remain in one classroom and teachers rotate rooms. Students have the same schedules every week and always share the same classroom with the same classmates.

Students will be placed in public or private high schools in the city where their host families live. Boys-only schools and girls-only schools are very common in Ecuador. Students usually take school transportation (bus) to commute to school. Exchange students usually take liberal arts, which include subjects such as literature, English, philosophy, geopolitics, history, mathematics, and psychology. Exchange students can also choose to take chemistry or physics. Students are expected to maintain satisfactory work at school and, in the afternoons, they must dedicate some time to their schoolwork. They will be seen as a novelty among other students, who are excited to establish lifelong friendships.

All of the students wear uniforms when they attend school and school activities. The style of the uniforms varies, but normally includes a jacket and pants or blouse and skirt. Schools have their own sweatshirts for physical education classes and some schools ask students to come with black shoes. Some of the Ecuadorian high schools have very strict rules, such as students’ hair style, length of hair, shoes, socks and length of skirt. Most Ecuadorian schools will not permit students to wear make-up and jewelry to school including rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings/piercings.


Students will typically be placed in Quito, but they may also be placed in suburbs, such as Sangolqui. The Ecuadorian culture is extremely family-oriented. Students are placed with carefully matched host families in cities with close proximity to everything they need. A typical Ecuadorian family consists of the parents and three children. The family is often helped by a housekeeper. Dinner time is an important occasion for Ecuadorians and this is a great time to reflect and share daily experiences with the rest of the family. Elderly members will often live with one of their children, but in recent years the number of facilities to care for the elderly has grown significantly. Godparents are also far more important in Ecuador than in the West, and are expected to provide both financial and psychological support to their godchildren.

It is important to note that there are many variations in family structure, as well as in the social and cultural structure in Ecuador, depending on a family’s socioeconomic position. Generally, the upper classes adopt more of the American or European ways of life. This leads to great contrasts within Ecuadorian society. Roles among the family are established, with women generally responsible for the upbringing and care of children in Ecuador. Men have historically taken a less active role in this area, though recently this has begun to change, with many men doing housework and caring for children when women work away from home. Daughters tend to be more protected by their parents than sons, due to traditional social structures.

Program Extras

Students will have the opportunity to participate in several excursions during their stay in Ecuador. The purpose of these outings is to explore the biodiversity and the rich culture of the different Ecuadorian regions. Here is an example of the activities that take place each month. These activities may vary year to year, and are an extra cost not included in Quest program fees.

September: Adventure in the town of Mindo
October: Exploring the skies of Quito (Cable Car)
November: Visit to the Middle of the World Monument & Thanksgiving dinner
December: Christmas dinner with staff and students
January: Visit the towns of Otavalo, Cotocachi and the city of Ibarra
February: Traveling by train to the Cotopaxi volcano
March: Adventure in Papallacta Springs
April: Exploring the Pululahua Crater
May: “Paseo del Chagra” in the Middle of the World and popular bull fights
June: Two-day tour to the town of Baños


Students should have studied Spanish and have, at minimum, a basic level, or students will be required to pay for private language tutoring in Ecuador.

Some Ecuadorian high schools do not permit exchange students to enroll as seniors in the 12th grade, regardless of how many years they have studied in their home country. The actual grade level is determined by the Ecuadorian high school and is based on a full review of the student’s application, academic record and school policy.


For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the Ecuadorian consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It may take several weeks to obtain an Ecuadorian visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

Will students have access to Internet/WiFi at their home and school?

Yes, the vast majority of households have WiFi in their home. Schools in Ecuador may or may not have access to WiFi. Additionally, malls, coffee shops, etc. all have WiFi so students can go there for free access as well. Our Ecuadorian partner also helps students buy a phone plan that includes free internet.

Can students bring their own cell phones?

Yes, if a student has an unlocked cell phone, they could use their personal phone with an Ecuadorian carrier. Otherwise, students can use WiFi.

Can students travel without an adult chaperone if given permission?

Yes, students can travel outside of the host area as long as the required release form is signed by the natural parents, host family, local school, local partner office and Quest.

How much money should students have for spending money?

Students should budget around $200-$250/month for personal expenses, which include entertainment, personal hygiene items, long-distance calls, etc. Additional money should be budgeted for start-up school expenses, such as books and supplies. These fees are in addition to Quest program fees.

What are some cultural norms that describe a typical host family in Ecuador?

Ecuadorian families are diverse, so family expectations, interactions and activities vary widely. But, generally speaking, they are very tightly knit. Parents like to be very involved in their children’s activities and to be informed about their whereabouts at all times. The families are generally very caring, supportive, and welcoming by helping international students immerse themselves in the culture through food and different traditions. They also enjoy having meals together and talking about their days. During the weekends, they spend time with relatives. Ecuadorian families especially like to be greeted and thanked.

How are host families chosen?

Quest’s in-country partner is responsible for locating, screening and matching host families with our students. Host families go through a careful screening process, which typically involves in-person interviews, home inspections and references.

How do students apply for the visa and how long does it take?

For stays over 90 days, students will need a visa. Students and parents should research visa requirements through the Ecuadorian consulate or embassy nearest to their home as soon as possible, as this is the most time-intensive component of the study abroad application process. It may take several weeks to obtain an Ecuadorian visa. As the details of this process vary greatly by location, neither Quest nor our Ecuadorian partner office can confirm the exact requirements. For this reason, Quest is not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application.

How will the student get to and from school?

Students generally take the school bus or pubic transportation. It is recommended that students take the school bus, door to door, the first month as they get their bearings. The cost for that is approximately $100/month. After that, public bus or trolley system is available for approximately 25 cents/ride. Transportation fees are the student’s responsibility and are not included in Quest program fees.

Is it possible for students to get tutors during their program?

Yes, tutors are available and prices vary based on the subject and duration of tutoring sessions. Spanish tutors usually cost approximately $8/hour.

Can students receive an official document with grades and completed classes after finishing their program?

In general, exchange students in Ecuador do not receive grades or grade reports due to governmental regulations. Schools do offer an official attendance certificate and list of course descriptions, if requested. In order to receive this, students must proactively seek it out, as obtaining this documentation is their responsibility before they leave Ecuador.

Do schools offer different sports/activities?

This depends on the school. Some offer more active sports, such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, swimming, cheerleading, etc. Other schools offer different extracurricular activities, such as art, music, theater, chess, etc. These activities usually have extra costs associated with them. Extracurricular activities can also be found in the local community for a fee.


The rewards of life abroad are amazing and wonderful, but are you up for the unique challenges that come with this experience? You will be away from your friends, family and the lifestyle you are accustomed to. You will have to adapt to a new language, culture, school and family. You will have to make decisions on your own and make new friends. Think about it and do some research on the country you want to study in. There is a wealth of information on the Internet that can better prepare you for your adventure!


Your parent(s) or guardian(s) need to help you make your dream happen. The application process takes time and effort, so it is important, at this stage, to make sure your parents support your decision to study abroad and have given you approval to move forward. If they feel that you are prepared and understand what’s required from them, you are ready to move to the next step.


You may receive credit from your program, but it is your responsibility to make this happen. Only your U.S. school can decide which credits you can receive. You must approach your guidance counselor to determine if you can get the credits you are hoping to receive. Bring Quest’s Academic Guide with you, and be certain of what you will be responsible for.


Fill out our online information request form in order to receive important program information from Quest via email. This email will contain Quest’s Program Agreement and Program Guidelines for your review and signature. Carefully review all of this information with your parents and contact Quest if you have any questions. We are here to help guide you through the process so you can make decisions that fit your needs.


The Quest Program Coordinator will confirm with you the program details submitted on your original request form. If you’re unsure of your destination, we’ll help you narrow down your choices to the country and program season that works for you. We will speak with your parents and make sure that everybody feels informed and ready to proceed with the decisions made.


You and your parents will receive the online Payment Agreement, which states the total program price for your selected destination country and Quest’s payment process. Your parents will receive an invoice for the application deposit, which is due before you submit your student application.


Quest will send you a full student application for the program you have chosen. This application can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. Make sure you give yourself ample time prior to the application deadline to complete the application and supplemental documents.


This is when you get to meet your Quest Program Coordinator and talk face to (virtual) face. During the interview, the Program Coordinator will assess your suitability for the Quest Study Abroad program. This call lasts 30-60 minutes. Parents will speak with us at the end of the call, but the first part of the interview questions must be answered by the student alone. There is no preparation needed other than to talk about yourself, your desire to participate in the program and why you feel you are ready.


Your Quest Program Coordinator will review your application and interview documentation to determine acceptance. Our team members put a lot of thought into the decisions they make, and not all students are accepted into the program. In order to make our decision, Quest must review complete and accurate application materials. We choose students who are emotionally, socially and academically prepared for the study abroad program. We look at each student’s level of maturity, independence and ability to adapt to life in a foreign country.


You will receive a letter of acceptance from Quest via email. Your parents will receive an invoice outlining the total cost with only the first 50% of the total due within 10 days. The final 50% of the remaining program fees are due within 30 days of the invoice date.


This is a very important step in the process and can be very time-intensive. We suggest that you get started researching the requirements as soon as possible with the nearest embassy or consulate for your destination country, as requirements vary by location. Because the process does vary considerably, Quest and our foreign partner office are not able to assist with legal visa documents. It is the student’s responsibility to research the current visa requirements and to obtain and submit the visa application. Start filling out all of the paperwork well in advance, as visa approval can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to obtain.


This is the hardest part: waiting for your school and host family placement information! Making quality placements takes time, and we will need your patience during this important step. Quest will notify you and your parents of a confirmed placement in a school and then again when you are placed with your host family. Write to your host family as soon as possible to introduce yourself, and let them know how excited you are to meet them.


Working together with you and your parents, Quest will confirm your arrival date and book your roundtrip international flight to your placement area. We will also book your student travel and medical insurance for your trip, so you can rest easier while abroad!


Your Quest Program Coordinator will help you get prepped for your trip with a pre-departure orientation prior to your departure. You’ll receive an agenda before the call. We encourage you to write all of your remaining questions down so that we can make you and your parents feel prepared for your trip abroad. We will go over the program rules, what to pack, what to do if you need support once you arrive, and more!


Congratulate yourself and your family for making this happen. You are on your way to the study abroad adventure that you’ve earned!

Balance your time abroad — keep in touch with those back home, but remember that the point of studying abroad is to be present and active in your host country. Keep a blog or an online photo album so you can show all of the revelations you have had and the sights you have seen. On a rainy day, you’ll be happy to reflect on your growing experience abroad. Stay in touch with Local Coordinators and with Quest. We’d love to hear how you are doing!

Programs Available
  • Year
  • Semester
Application Deadline
  • Year/Fall Semester: April 1st
  • Spring Semester: October 1st
Apply Now

Quest International, a nonprofit organization, promoting international cultural awareness and compassion by providing educational programs for American and International students to live and learn together.