Guayaquil Spanish Summer

Deeper, More Meaningful Study Abroad

Ecuador spans the equator on the northwest coast of South America. With its cultural diversity and wide range of environments—the Galapagos Islands, the coastal areas of the Pacific, the Andes mountain range, and the headwaters of the Amazon—Ecuador provides an ideal location for you to learn about South America, directly encountering the issues and concerns of this great southern continent. In Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and gateway to the Galapagos, you will enjoy a tropical climate with varied and abundant flora and fauna and a newly revitalized waterfront, or "Malecon." You will also encounter dramatic contrasts of wealth and poverty, and the social issues generated through that disparity.

You will develop your Spanish skills; study Ecuadorian history, culture, and society at Universidad Espiritu Santo; live with an Ecuadorian family; and serve 15–20 hours a week in an Ecuadorian community-based non-profit agency. Your volunteer service immerses you in the culture and deepens your understanding of Ecuadorian society in a way that goes beyond that experienced in traditional study abroad programs. It also facilitates your mastery of Spanish.

Ecuador's main port and largest city, Guayaquil is a bustling coastal urban center, known for its friendly people, tropical climate, and vibrant nightlife. You can enjoy the refurbished riverside "Malecón," the colonial Barrio Las Peñas, the colorful houses and view from Cerro Santa Ana, the Mercado Artesanal (artisan's market), a variety of beautiful parks and plazas, and an abundance of cafés and restaurants. Guayaquil is also the gateway to the Galápagos Islands and some of Ecuador's most beautiful beaches!

Where you'll stay in Guayaquil

You will live in a homestay with a middle-class Ecuadorian family, who provide your meals and introduce you to Ecuadorian family life. An integral part of the program, the homestay offers you the opportunity to make life-long friends, reinforce you language skills, and experience the culture from the inside. Host families are carefully selected and experienced with hosting students.

Program Director(s): Christian Parraga, Andrea Losada, Jessica Jaramillo


The program welcomes students of any nation who have a high school diploma or equivalent credential. TOEFL equivalent must be 550. Academic studies are taught in Spanish and/or English. (See individual course descriptions.) Minimum Spanish prerequisite: 2 years of secondary school Spanish or 1 year of college/university Spanish, or the equivalent. Intermediate Level (at a minimum) highly recommended - please inquire.

Village Skyline


The program is based at Universidad Espiritu Santo (UEES). You will take two required courses for a total of 6 credits.  A transcript is issued from Universidad Espiritu Santo upon successful completion of the program. Unless otherwise noted, courses are at the 300 level except for any foreign language course that will vary.

Course offerings

Spanish Language

Advanced Beginners to Advanced Spanish Language classes. Students take a placement exam to determine their appropriate level.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3

Institutions in Ecuadorian Society

Examines the ways social institutions relate to and reflect the larger society. Specific issues explored include: culture and development; oil and rights; religion and politics; religion and revolution; development and self-respect; community participation in development; politics and insurrection; gender and fashion; literature and politics; and class structure. Taught in English, but using as much Spanish as the class understands.

This is an essential class to monitor the students’ learning process during the service part of the program. It allows students to reflect, research, and elaborate on the learning processes that they are engaged in through their experiential learning. Students will be able to compare and contrast theories with the realities they are exposed to every day.

Institutions in Society brings the students' attention to the latest articles and findings in the area of community development in Ecuador and in the countries of the region. Their service component will be taken under consideration for evaluation and grading for this class. Students keep weekly journals that the mentor will comment on, and write a final paper, “Profile of the Agency,” which will include a section of recommendations to the agency and to future participants.

Contact Hours: 45
Recommended U.S. Credits: 3



With nearly 2.5 million inhabitants, Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city. Like many cities in South America, Guayaquil has experienced tremendous population growth in recent years; parts of the city have undergone impressive redevelopment while other areas of the city have become vast tracts of squatter housing lacking basic urban services. Urban growth is also putting significant pressures on unique, delicate ecological reserves that provide homes for endangered flora and fauna. These many challenges form the framework for the community service agencies in which students are placed.

You will serve 15–20 hours a week in an established Ecuadorian agency. Some of the service placements are in the "invasion" communities of rural and poor migrants. Areas of service may include:

  • Teaching English as a Second Language
  • Healthcare through medical and dental clinics
  • Health education
  • Tutoring and recreation for children and teens
  • Community and economic development.

You might aid homeless (street) girls; assist in projects for the disabled; work at an adoption agency for abandoned infants; teach in primary or secondary schools; assist in a hospital; or serve in other areas.

The following are examples of agencies where students have served in the past or may be able to serve. Other service placements in the areas of healthcare, social and economic inclusion, foundations for at-risk children, services to street children, foundations for ecologically responsible small farming, or theatre supporting social causes may be available. Your placement will be determined by community and agency needs, as well as your interests, goals, and skills.

Housing and Micro-Credit (Hogar de Cristo)

An organization somewhat analogous to Habitat for Humanity, this agency provides housing, education, health and other services for the thousands of persons streaming into the “invasion” or squatter communities that encircle Guayaquil. The initial focus of the agency has been to provide low-cost prefabricated dwellings using materials native and adapted to the city’s wet, tropical climate; but a new area of emphasis is on adult education focused on developing micro-business and micro-financing opportunities particularly for women living in “invasion” communities. Students assist with housing construction, English language instruction, and educational efforts with “invasion” community women connected to micro-business development.

Population Served: “Invasion” or squatter community mothers and children
Areas of Service: Construction / ESL / Micro-business

Low Income Medical Clinic (Luchadores del Norte)

This public health center, located in a squatter community in Guayaquil, provides medical assistance to nearly 600 families. Clinic, laboratory and pharmacy services are available. Volunteers help with education and information activities about health and prevention.

Population Served: “Invasion” or squatter community residents
Areas of Service: All Ages / Healthcare / Health education

Ecological reserve and conservation agency

A non-profit organization that helps poor families in two locations in the city’s “invasion” communities by providing regular medical care and health education, the foundation is also dedicated to the rehabilitation of young children (infancy to 5 years old) suffering from the effects of malnutrition. Students have performed a wide range of tasks, such as checking the weight and measurements of children, feeding them, giving them nutritional supplements and vitamins, helping with patient intake interviews, assisting therapists with early stimulation routines, and providing general recreation activities for children.

Population Served: “Invasion” or squatter community residents
Areas of Service: Healthcare / Nutrition / Recreation

Clinica and Home for People Living with Hansen's Disease (Fundación Padre Damien)

A mission designed to help people infected with Hansen’s disease (formerly known as leprosy) to live with dignity. The mission also provides patients with daily needs. This foundation provides medical care seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day. It also provides well-balanced meals each day, physical therapy, medicine and basic sanitation services. Volunteers are needed in the following areas: nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, wound care specialties, recreational therapy, arts and crafts teacher. At the moment, the foundation has particular needs for work in: arts and handcrafts, hospital maintenance, informal English classes, and gardening.

Population Served: Elders who have or have had Hansen’s Disease
Areas of Service: Healthcare / Elderly / Recreation

Occupational Therapy center for mentally challenged adults

A not-for-profit private organization founded in 1984 that provides physical and occupational therapy to handicapped adults. Volunteers are more than welcome to participate in physical therapy activities as well as in the development of fundraising strategies. This foundation supports itself by selling crafts, bread, and eggnog.

Population Served: Mentally challenged adults
Areas of Service: Special education / Physical therapy / Fundraising / Recreation

K-12 School for children and adolescents from low-income families (Colegio Jose Domingo Santistevan)

A partner school of Espíritu Santo University, this school provides kindergarten, elementary, and high school education to students who come from economically disadvantaged families. It is located at the foot of Santa Ana Hill (where Guayaquil was founded), and welcomes international students to serve as teacher aides in English, Spanish, sports and art classes.

Population Served: Children and low-income families
Areas of Service: Education / Children & Youth / Recreation / ESL / Teaching/tutoring

Occupational Therapy center for mentally challenged adults (Fundacion AMAR)

A not-for-profit private organization founded in 1984 that provides physical and occupational therapy to handicapped adults including sports and recreation and arts and crafts. Volunteers are more than welcome to participate in physical therapy activities as well as in the development of fundraising strategies. This foundation supports itself by selling crafts, bread, and eggnog.

Population Served: Mentally challenged adults
Areas of Service: Special education / Physical therapy / Fundraising / Recreation

Residential home for homeless girls (Sor Dominga Bocca)

A significant social problem in low-income neighborhoods of Guayaquil is that of girls (4-18 years) who have been turned out of their homes or otherwise left to fend for themselves on the city’s streets. This agency provides a home for such girls as well as access to elementary and secondary education and health care. Students provide essential back-up services to the staff of the home, including help with academic tutoring, arts projects and recreation.

Population Served: Homeless girls
Areas of Service: Social services / Homelessness / Recreation / Women's issues / Teaching/tutoring

School for children who work on the streets (Fundacion Crecer)

A significant number of children and youth in Guayaquil come from families who work on the streets during the day and expect their children to work with them rather than go to school. The goal of this agency is to provide nutritional meals and an educational alternative for these children, linked to efforts to help parents understand the importance, for the future well-being of their children, of education rather than work on the streets. Students serve as aides for teachers in classrooms as well as provide tutoring, recreation and companionship for participating children and youth. Families are provided with education around domestic violence, nutrition and more.

Population Served: Children who work on the streets
Areas of Service: Education / Recreation / Children & Youth

Various Hospitals and Clinics for the economically disadvantaged, physically and mentally challenged (Fundacion AMAR)

Populations served: Infants, children, teens, adults, elderly
Areas of service: Healthcare, physical and occupational and thermal massage therapy, nutrition, sports and recreation, art therapy, yoga and tai-chi classes

Public Health Center

Foundation that supplies low-cost medical care and public health and nutrition and hygiene education

Population served: Economically disadvantaged
Areas of Service: Healthcare (clinical, pharmacy, laboratory), health education

Day Care Center and Elementary School (Casa Cuna)

Population served: Economically disadvantaged pre-school and elementary school children
Area of service: Education/tutoring/recreational and art activities

Urban Renewal Projects

Population Served: Urban inhabitants
Areas of Service: Conservation, eco-tourism, recycling, reforestation, education, fundraising

Waterkeeper International

Works to safe guard the ecological integrity of the Salado Estuary, a biodiversity rich and culturally unique area that is the source of Guayaquil's drinking water.

Areas of Service: Conservation/environment

Animal Welfare (Rescate Animal)

This foundation focuses on the rescue and care of all abandoned, abused and mistreated animals. Has shelter, sterilization, vaccination, vet and adoption services.

Population served: All species of urban fauna
Areas of service: animal rescue/education/ vet care/ shelter and adoption. Students can participate in event planning, marketing, graphic design, animal health and welfare service. Good Spanish is required.

Animal Humane Society (FADA)

Non-profit that cares for abandoned, maltreated and injured household pets and street animals. Has shelter, sterilization, vaccination, vet and adoption services. Their mission is to promote respect for the lives of animals, recognizing their physical and emotional needs.

Population served: domestic animals
Areas of service: education/ vet care/ shelter and adoption/event planning


Things to do

Travel and Excursions that Broaden Your Perspective

Past academic excursions for summer have included an orientation tour of Quito, the historic capital; Cuenca, the capital of the Azuay province; and the Ingapirca Ruins and the coast of Ecuador. We may be able to help you arrange a trip to the headwaters of the Amazon River and/or a trip to the Galápagos Islands on your own for an additional cost. Specific field trips depend on conditions and events in Ecuador at the time of the program.