Ecuador & the Galápagos | Language Learning

Service & Spanish Immersion in the Andean Páramo

Practice your Spanish each day on this student travel adventure in Ecuador, as you work hand-in-hand with Ecuadorian friends in a small village. Undertake meaningful community service initiatives ranging from volunteer construction projects to running a summer camp for local children to helping farmers harvest crops to replanting trees.

June 29, 2017  –  July 29, 2017
At A Glance:
  • Homestay
    A stay paired with a host family and children, sharing their home
  • Immersion
    Language Immersion: Speak in the target language with local people and your Putney group
  • Service
    Focus on community-based projects in collaboration with a partner village
  • Wildlife
    Exploration of flora and fauna in natural habitats, national parks, or wildlife reserves
Completing grades 10 – 12
US Gateway City:
Language Learning
31 days
Typical Group:
14 – 16 students, 2 leaders
$ 6,690 + airfare
  • Practice your Spanish with Ecuadorian friends during a community minga
  • Learn to make corn tortillas from scratch with your homestay familia
  • Ride horseback through the Andean páramo in the shadow of Cotopaxi volcano
  • Observe marine iguanas, sea turtles, and Galápagos penguins in their natural habitat

Leader Profile: EVAN COLEMAN

Education: Brown University, B.A., English

While at Brown, Evan specialized in literary nonfiction and travel writing. During his junior year, he spent five months in South America, training with a… read more

While at Brown, Evan specialized in literary nonfiction and travel writing. During his junior year, he spent five months in South America, training with a professional soccer team in Argentina, working at an orphanage in Bolivia, and collecting notes and interviews from his travels that would later evolve into a literary nonfiction thesis. As a C.V. Starr Fellow at Brown University, Evan implemented an education-based exchange program between the United States and Chile which focused on providing students with the tools they needed to create change in their own communities. He has worked on a tea farm in Ecuador, ice-picked and summited Cotopaxi, taught English in Nicaragua, and backpacked through Patagonia. After two years of teaching A.P. literature, coaching soccer, and directing the literary magazine at The Hyde School, Evan now teaches high school literature and writing in Boston. Evan is fluent in Spanish and has led two Putney Community Service Costa Rica programs,as well as Cultural Exploration Australia, New Zealand, & Fiji program and Language Learning Ecuador.


Departure • Travel Day • Meet your fellow high school student travelers and one or more of your leaders in Miami, and fly together to Quito, Ecuador. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

Quito • 2 days • Explore Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, and get to know your leaders and fellow group members. Wander the colonial Old City, ride the teleférico up the Pichincha Volcano, savor rich Ecuadorian coffee in an outdoor café, and participate in an in-depth orientation to discuss life in Ecuador, your language goals, and group dynamics.

Host Village • 9 days • Travel by bus to your small host village in the cloud forest northwest of Quito. Volunteer with your host community to complete a series of construction, environmental, and agricultural projects, while participating in Spanish language lessons and activities to complement your experiential learning. Construct a community kitchen, plant seedlings to bring native plant species back to the area, clear forest trails, or visit a local farm and learn how to milk a cow. In the afternoons and evenings, play pick-up soccer with Ecuadorian friends, learn to make artisanal crafts, or hike into the hills surrounding the village.

Mindo • 1 day • Stay overnight in cozy bungalows on the edge of the Bosque Protector Mindo-Nambillo reserve in Mindo. Hike through the cloud forest, float in tubes down the river, and spot wildlife and birds in the tropical surroundings.

Homestay • 7 days • Return to your host village and join a welcoming Ecuadorian family for full immersion into Ecuadorian life and Spanish language. During the day, continue work on community service projects, participate in a scavenger hunt organized by your leaders, help out around the family farm, and trade stories around the dinner table.

2016 Language Learning Ecuador & Galapagos (36)

Cotopaxi • 2 days • After saying goodbye to your host village, visit snow-capped Cotopaxi, one of the world’s largest volcanoes. Stay at a cozy Andean hacienda, hike Rumiñahui volcano for breathtaking views, and ride horseback across the surrounding páramo. At night, savor traditional meals and tell stories by the fireplace.

Quito • 1 day  • Return to Quito for one night before catching a morning flight to the Galápagos Islands.

Isabela, Galápagos Islands • 3 days • Language learning continues in your final week as you fly from Quito to Baltra Island and then take a boat ride to the island of Isabela, the largest island in the Galápagos archipelago. Isabela is home to the islands’ largest wild tortoise population. Five of the six volcanoes on Isabela are still active, making it one of the most volcanically active places on earth. Hike to the crater of the Sierra Negra volcano, which last erupted in 2005, and discover an otherworldly landscape of hardened lava flows. Snorkel with penguins, sea turtles, and sea lions, visit the breeding center of the giant tortoise, and watch a colony of blue-footed boobies fishing in the bay.

Santa Cruz, Galápagos Islands • 1 day • Travel by boat to the island of Santa Cruz to meet one of the Galápagos’ most famous residents, a 100-year-old tortoise named Diego, who has helped repopulate an entire species of giant tortoises. Visit Diego along with other tortoises and rarely-seen land iguanas at the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn what scientists are doing to reintroduce them into the wild. Go for a hike in the highlands and check out the cavernous lava tubes. Head to Tortuga Bay, a stunning beach with fine white sand to see marine iguanas.

San Cristóbal, Galápagos Islands • 3 days • Visit the Interpretation Center on San Cristóbal for an introduction to the biology, geology, and history of human impact on the islands. Then, jump on bikes for an exhilarating downhill ride through the highlands to the coast. Snorkel through the passage of Kicker Rock, the remains of an underwater volcano, and scout for manta rays, sea turtles, harmless Galápagos sharks, and an impressive array of colorful tropical fish. Swim at Isla de Lobos and hang out with blue-footed boobies and playful sea lions.

Return • Travel day • Fly with the group, including one of your leaders, from the Galápagos back to Quito. Take an overnight flight from Quito to Miami and continue on to your final destination. To learn more about how we organize travel, click here.

This itinerary represents our best projection of the group’s schedule.  However, we may implement changes designed to improve the quality of the program.

A Day in the Life: HOMESTAY

Due to the traveling nature of this summer program abroad, each day is different. Here is a snapshot of a day during your homestay in our host village.

7 AM Prepare breakfast with your host family
8 AM Join your group at the worksite to lay bricks for a community kitchen
12 PM Have lunch with your host family and share a cafecito
2 PM Meet your group at the town nursery and plant seedlings of native species
4 PM Gather your host brothers and sisters for a pick-up game of fútbol
6 PM Help cook dinner with your host family
8 PM Join your family and group for salsa dancing in the town plaza
10 PM Group meeting to recount the day and discuss the upcoming schedule

Being able to speak Spanish with locals gave me the greatest sense of accomplishment.

— Sarah M., Scarsdale Senior High School, Scarsdale, NY

What to Expect

Language Pledge • The goals of this language immersion program are to improve your fluency in Spanish by building vocabulary and confidence in speaking, and to explore Ecuador’s culture through community service work and interactions with local friends. Expand your vocabulary as you bargain for food at a local mercado, interview a village elder about her family history, or teach a nursery-rhyme to local primary school students. Each day leaders supplement this real-life experience with Spanish language lessons, creative exercises, and fun interactions to further your learning. Language lessons incorporate hands-on elements such as scavenger hunts, games, and informal interviews. Students are required to speak Spanish throughout the program and must sign a pledge to do so, not only with the many local people you meet, but also with the leaders and within the group. Students on this travel program must have completed at least two years of Spanish to apply for this program. To learn more about our Language Learning programs, click here.

Community Service Practice your Spanish each day as you undertake community service work with local friends. During your time in Ecuador, you can expect to participate in several different service experiences — light construction projects where you learn to mix cement or paint a community building, environmental projects such as planting seedlings or shadowing local farmers, and educational projects such as teaching English to local children. All students participate in each of the group’s projects on a rotating basis, and everyone lends a hand in meal preparation and cleanup. You can expect to complete 50 – 80 hours of community service work. To learn more about our Community Service programs, click here.

Independent Project • Choose an independent project and pursue an aspect of Ecuadorian culture of particular interest to you — learn to make empanadas with your homestay family, try milking a cow, learn a traditional dance, or organize an opportunity for you and your friends to lend a hand in reforestation efforts.

Physical Activity • This is a very active summer program. The volunteer work, as well as afternoon and weekend activities, can be strenuous, and you can expect to spend most of each day outside. Community service work, soccer, hiking, horseback riding, swimming, kayaking, biking, and snorkeling are all activities you might participate in during this program. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities.

Altitude • This program visits high altitude destinations — Quito (~9,000 feet), our hacienda in Cotopaxi National Park (11,800 feet), and a hike to the Rumiñahui Volcano (14,000+ feet).

Accommodations • Our living accommodations in Ecuador are very simple. We stay in a group house in our project village with sleeping bags and sleeping pads on the floor, and simple bathrooms. Accommodations will be simple and comfortable during your homestay. In Quito, during excursions, and in the Galápagos, we stay in simple, clean, eco-lodges, bungalows, and family-run inns where you sleep in beds. Leaders reside with students throughout the program.

Meals • In our host village we eat food prepared by women in the community. Each day several students from the group help the women cook meals and form cleaning crews. During your homestay week, prepare and eat meals with your homestay family, and learn how to shop for ingredients at the local market. During excursions and in the Galápagos, we eat in restaurants.

This was our second child to participate in a Putney program, so we were confident the program would exceed our expectations. Leila returned from her experience a more mature, resilient, self-aware young adult.

— Christina & Ajoy Karna, Dallas, TX

Ask Us

Call Ryanne at 802.387.5000 or email

The Language Learning Ecuador summer program is directed by Ryanne Fujita-Conrads. If you have questions, are interested in receiving more detailed information, or would like to talk further about the program or any of our high school student travel abroad summer programs, please get in touch!

Ryanne Fujita-Conrads

Reed College, B.A., Sociology.

While at Reed College, Ryanne’s love for international travel, education, and exploration began with a summer volunteering in a small Ecuadorian mountain community. Before joining the Putney team, Ryanne studied in Barcelona, Spain; worked for an education nonprofit in Mexico; traveled in Patagonia; and lived for a year in rural Thailand. Ryanne has led Putney’s Community Service Ecuador, Community Service Costa Rica, and Middle School Costa Rica programs. She is part of the Outreach team and organizes programs in Costa Rica and Ecuador. Ryanne enjoys riding her bike, running, hiking, baking, discovering new places, and eating delicious food.