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  • Locations: Quito, Ecuador; Riobamba, Ecuador; Tena, Ecuador
  • Program Terms: Fall
  • Restrictions: Drexel applicants only
  • This program is currently not accepting applications.
Fact Sheet:
Fact Sheet:
Click here for a definition of this term Class Eligibility: Junior, Pre-Junior, Sophomore Type of Program: Intensive Course Abroad
Program Description:
Program Overview | Academics | Program Calendar | Program Fee | More Information

Fall Break in Ecuador:
Culture & Community Centered Development

ICA Ecuador Riobamba MEDLIFE

Program Overview

Coupled with community-centered learning in Ecuador, this co-curricular course introduces students to the complexities of development and volunteerism – from large institutions and NGOs to small grass roots organizations. Students will explore how development efforts can further marginalize the very communities they intend to serve. We will then examine the value of a community-driven approach that recognizes culture and history as a model for local and global sustainable development.ICA Ecuador Market MEDLIFE
This course is delivered in three interconnected components. During spring term, students will participate in several preparatory sessions and online modules including training in community-based learning. This will be followed by travel to Ecuador, for intensive experiential learning with local partner MED(Medicine, Education, Development)LIFE – a nonprofit dedicated to addressing structural violence affecting indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorian peoples. Students will engage with leaders of local non-profits and enterprises to learn through real stories about the challenges and successes to empowering marginalized communities and how structural violence related to health, gender, and more, are being addressed. This experience will be a springboard for continued learning during several summer term class sessions, during which students will apply lessons learned in Ecuador to a local context, concluding with a final project.
By participating in this program, students will:

  • Identify key factors in the success and failure of development and volunteerism locally and abroad.
  • Understand the benefits of a holistic approach to community-based development shaped by history and culture.
  • Engage with Ecuadorian leaders who work to address inequities in marginalized communities.
  • Consider forms of structural violence in development and how to curtail such harm.  
  • Learn to be in right relationship to those most impacted by the issues of the course, including each other.
  • Reflect upon our experiences and personal identities in relation to our local communities.


Credit/Registration: Students will be registered for CIVC T380 Culture and Community Centered Development 3 credits as part of their fall term course load. Students must leave room for the 3 credits in their credit load when registering or will be billed for credits exceeding the 20 credit maximum.

Eligibility: This program is being offered in partnership with Drexel's Center for Black Culture. Students will be selected who have a track record of engagement and leadership in Black student organizations, or Black community / justice work. Students in their sophomore, pre-junior, or junior year scheduled for summer term class are eligible. The program is intended for students in all majors with an interest in development work, social enterprise, sociology, political science, social justice, and/or global studies.

Course Structure & Requirements

  • Pre-Travel: 3 in person classes (below) + 1 day long community based learning retreat. BBLearn readings and audio/visual materials, discussion board posts, and reflective writing assignment to prepare for experiential learning in Ecuador.
  • Ecuador: program activities, interviews with community leaders, group discussions
  • Post Travel: 3 in person sessions; final project

Ahaji Schreffler, Senior Director, Education Abroad (
Sharde Johnson, Director, Center for Black Culture (

Program Structure

Pre-Travel (Summer Term): In person sessions and BBLearn readings and audio/visual materials, discussion board posts, and assignments to prepare for experiential learning in Ecuador; Day-long community-based learning training

Spring Sessions 5:00 pm - 7:00pm (day TBD) ICA Ecuador Rose Farm MEDLIFE
Week 5: Lecture and discussion
Week 7: Lecture and discussion
Week 9: Pre-departure orientation

Ecuador: Active engagement in program activities, dialogues with community leaders, peer-led group discussions, reflective journals

Post-Travel (Fall Term): In person wrap up session; final project

Ecuador Travel Dates

Start: September 9th, 2022 (morning arrival)
End: September 17th, 2022 (evening departure)

Tentative Itinerary Highlights

Day 1: Arrival to Quito Upon arrival at the Quito airport, a MEDLIFE leader will meet you and show you to your hotel.

Day 2: Capital Tour and Off to Tena! Our morning will start by exploring Quito. In the Ecuadorian capital city, enjoy a full-day tour taking in the historic city center with beautifully preserved architecture.In the afternoon, we will all get into the bus and head to Tena, at the gates of the Amazon rainforest. Discussion Theme: Structural Violence and Gender Based Violence in Ecuador

Day 3: Wonders of the Napo Valley Community walk through in Tena learning about the flora and fauna and common cultural practices. Visit women's comun run by local indigenous women to learn how they have become self sufficient in a patriarchal society. Discussion Theme: Globalism and the Evolution of International Aid

Day 4: Selva to the Sierra! Visit local MEDLIFE partner to learn about their history and how it plays into the discussions of structural violence. Drive into the Andes to Riobamba.

Day 5: Cultural Complexities of the High Andes Visit variety of locations in the surrounding area of Cebadas. Visit Medical post to learn about how healthcare providers adapt both to minimal resources and cultural beliefs in order to benefit the population.Tour a Cheese factory that works with local farmers in a cooperative. Meet with a local leader to learn about how water access and rights are still a major issue to this day for indigenous populations. Discussion Theme: Structural Violence in City Planning and Housing

Day 6 Our Past is Present Visit Guamote Market to learn more about what products come from the Sierra. Visit the Church of Balbanera built in 1534 AD. Tour the Hacienda and talk about agrarian reform. Discussion Theme: Agrarian Reform and Migration

Day 7 Back to Quito: Return to Quito with stop at flower farm, a major industry in South America. In Quito, visit some sights of the Tierra Nueva foundation, which takes a holistic approach to poverty alleviation. Discussion Theme: How can you help?

Day 8 Chota Valley and Selinas Town Visit Chota valley, a green and beautiful area located in the Chota river basin on the border between the provinces of Imbabura and Carchi, in the middle of the Andean mountains and characterized by having an approximate population of 25,000 inhabitants of African origin and by being the birthplace of many players of the Ecuadorian national soccer team.You will visit the little town of Santa Catalina de Salinas where you will learn and enjoy the Afro Ecuadorian culture, try its delicious gastronomy. Return to Quito. Discussion Theme: Afro Ecuadorian Culture

Day 9: Return to US

Program Fee - $1,190

Due May 2nd - $300 Advanced Payment + $25 Application Fee
Due July 1st - $890 Final Payment
*All payments are non-refundable unless declined admission or program cancels for unforeseen reasons.

Included in Program Fee:ICA Ecuador Church MEDLIFE

  • 8 nights accommodations double occupancy
  • Breakfasts, lunches, dinners on program days
  • Program visits and tours
  • Local transport including airport transfer
  • Translators and onsite support staff
  • On Call emergency assistance

Not Included in Program Fee (Estimated):

  • Regular Drexel tuition
  • Flight to/from Quito $900
  • Yellow Fever Vaccine $350
  • Passport $140
  • US airport transfer $60
  • Spending money $100
  • Text books: $30
  • COVID-19 test in Ecuador: $100
Financial Aid: Grants funded by the Office of Global Engagement and Center for Black Culture ranging from $500 - $1,100 will be awarded to all students with demonstrated (per Drexel Central guidelines) high financial need to offset the program fee and/or airfare. Grant decisions will be made after the February 15th application decision. Any student with high financial need who is accepted into this program will receive some level of financial support.

More Information

  • Program in-country Partner: MEDLIFE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that partners with low-income communities in Latin America and Africa to improve their access to medicine, education, and development (MED) projects. MEDLIFE believes that in order to improve the overall health and welfare of families and communities in need, a comprehensive approach is needed.
  • A recommended flight itinerary will be provided with arrival and return times that align with the program schedule. Students will be responsible for booking their own airfare accordingly.
  • US Citizens are not required to obtain a visa for entry to Ecuador. Other nationalities should confirm visa requirements on the Ecuador Embassy website.

Dates / Deadlines:

There are currently no active application cycles for this program.

This program is currently not accepting applications.