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The Andean World: History and Culture in Ecuador

The Andean World: History and Culture in Ecuador
Explore the rich colonial heritage and natural wonders of the Andean region on this 16-day winter break program.
Cuenca, Ecuador
Language of Instruction: 
Winter Break
Academic Disciplines: 
Latin American Studies
-Open to All Majors
Program Type: 
  • Next program offering TBA
  • Learn the colonial history, folklore, and contemporary ways of life in Cuenca, Ecuador, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Experience the natural beauty of the Andean highlands to learn about its biodiversity and impact in the development of the region and history
  • Appreciate the cultural diversity and customs of the people of Ecuador
  • Earn 3 credits in Latin American Studies with Professor Santa Arias, a colonial studies expert and director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Program Summary: 

The study abroad program will allow students to gain three credits during an intensive 16-day residential program in the city of Cuenca, supplemented by traveling seminars around the region. With six additional sessions divided before and after the program, participants will gain a broad understanding of the historical development of the region from the colonial period to the present. The course will focus on the colonial experience and its legacy taking into account the role of the Andean geography. While in Cuenca, students will attend a morning class followed by local afternoon excursions and time for fieldwork to produce a site-based multimedia final project with narrative, photos, recordings, and limited video. 


Ecuador is a Spanish speaking country of great natural diversity with rain forests, Andean peaks, the unique Galapagos Islands, and deep valleys that were settled during the colonial period. Quito, the second highest capital in the world, and Cuenca, the country’s third-largest city, host the most striking colonial architecture in Ecuador. Cuenca boasts a mild climate at over 7,000 feet above sea level. With 400,000 residents, the city maintains the feeling of a quaint colonial town surrounded by the equatorial Andean mountains. It was originally settled in 1557 and after the independence from Spain, became the capital of Azuay and began its development as a major center for agriculture and industry. Because of its well-preserved colonial architecture, it received the UNESCO Heritage Site designation in 1999. Cuenca is a culturally diverse enclave that combines picturesque landscapes, modern institutions, and a dynamic economy marked by the exportation of quinine, production of Panama hats, and other products. In close proximity to Cuenca are many sites of cultural and natural interest, including Cajas National Park, the Ingapirca archaeological ruins, and Gualaceo. 

Academic Information: 

Three hours of academic credit are granted by the University of Kansas upon successful completion of the program and will be posted to the student's Spring transcript. Students will enroll in LAA 302/602 Topics in Latin American Area Studies: The Andean Highlands: History and Culture in Ecuador.

The group will meet three times before going to Ecuador to begin learning about Ecuador and the Andean region. After the program, the group will meet three times to close the experience and present final projects. 


Students will stay in hotels while in Quito. While in Cuenca, students will be placed with host families within walking distance of the school. Some meals will be provided in the host family. 

Life Abroad: 

Students will explore major sites of cultural interest and natural beauty related to the history, culture, and geography of Ecuador. While in Quito, the group will go on a colonial tour of the city and visit the nearby cities of Otavalo, a largely indigenous community famous for their market and weaving textiles, and Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, the exact location where the equator divides the world into the northern and southern hemispheres.

Then, the group will travel to Cuenca where the time will be split between lectures, excursions, and time to work on projects. Planned activities include a tour of the city to become familiar with the important sites of interest, a cooking class, visits to the local arts, crafts, and flower markets, and the celebration of the Dia de los Reyes on January 6. Site visits and excursions may include the Ingapirca archaeological site, the Pumapungo Museum, the Cajas National Park, Gualeco village and market, and a Panama hat factory.


Minimum 2.5 GPA required (exceptions considered after submission of a petition).  The program is open to students of any major. There is no language requirement, though students with previous exposure to Spanish will find it helpful.

Further Reading: 
  • The Ecuador Reader: History, Culture, Politics. Eds. Carlos de la Torre and Steve Striffler. Duke University Press, 2008
  • Lonely Planet: Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands Travel Guide
Program Faculty: 

Santa Arias, Director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies and professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese will lead the program. Contact Professor Arias at sarias@ku.edu


Deadlines Extended for Summer, Fall and Academic Year Programs.

See list of programs below:


Study Abroad Financial Advising

The Office of Study Abroad has weekly 'You Can Afford to Study Abroad' Financial aid and Scholarship Info Sessions/Open Meetings on Wednesday afternoons from 4:00-5:00 pm and Thursday afternoons from 12:30-1:30 pm in room 203 Lippincott Hall.  For those that can not attend the weekly Info Sessions, we also offer individualized study abroad financial planning as well as financial aid and scholarship advising for students.  Please visit 108 Lippincott Hall or call 785-864-3742 to set up an appointment.

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More than 160 study abroad programs in 75 countries, with instruction in all disciplines and 20+ languages
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Financial aid is applicable to study abroad programs, and most KU scholarships and grants can be applied to study abroad
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