Ecuador High School Exchange Program

Exchange moments - Ecuador - 28 Dec 2012 (1)
Exchange moments - Ecuador - Analy HS - 28 Sep 2012 - 158
Garden - Ecuador - Sonoma Academy - Sep 2012 (13)
Group Shots - Ecuador - Analy HS - 28 Sep 2102 - 1
Group Shots - Ecuador - Sonoma Academy - Sep 2012 (4)
Local context - Ecuador - Analy HS - 28 Sep 21012 - 62
Local context - Ecuador - Analy HS - 28 Sep 21012 - 67
Reforestation  - Ecuador - 22 Feb 2013 (4)
Reforestation  - Ecuador - 30 Mar 2013 (7)
Reforestation - Ecuador - 8 Apr 2013


Traveling with GSE involves everything from visiting a native bird sanctuary to hiking along Ecuador’s beautiful coastline. Students enjoy authentic Ecuadorian cuisine and collaborate on local projects with their international peers.


GSE uses hands-on service-learning projects and cultural exchanges to provide students with life changing learning opportunities. Students develop ecological literacy and participate in grassroots international relations while building crucial 21st century skills such as communication and collaboration.


Each year during exchange programs, students plant 3,000 native trees in La Punta Gorda Preserve. Students also work along side their Ecuadorian peers at Fanny de Baird High School to further develop their school garden. The garden provides produce for the school community and offers an interactive education on local food systems and organic farming.


Plants aren’t the only things that grow! International travel facilitates profound transformation for students. Students leave the trip with a better understanding of different cultures and people, inspiring them to become change makers and leaders in their own community.

Sample Itinerary


Day 1 — Travel to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Day 2 — Bahia City Tour and First site visit

Day 3 — Orientation Workshop, History of Ecuador Workshop, & Project Initiation

Day 4 — Mangrove reforestation work day, Discussion on water scarcity

Day 5 — Head to ‘La Punta Gorda’ Preserve, Begin reforestation

Day 6 — Reforestation work, afternoon free to relax on the beach, play soccer, etc.

Day 7 — Reforestation and educational hike

Day 8 — Head back to hostel in Bahia, visit San Clement beach, enjoy local dinner

Day 9 — Travel to Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Day 10 — Travel back to USA

*Note: This is not a fully accurate itinerary for any particular trip. Sample is given to show the basic break down and potential program elements.


Do students need a visa for traveling to Ecuador?

Students will receive a tourist visa upon entrance to the country.

What should I pack?

  • Pack light! You can hand wash clothes or pay to have them cleaned.
  • Buy or borrow a backpacking backpack. This is a large backpack that can hold all of your travel items and be carried on your back. Rolling suitcases or duffel bags will be difficult to manage.
  • Bring a small backpack that you can take on day trips, to fill with carry-on items on the plane, and keep close to you on bus trips with your valuable items (camera, passport, ATM cards, etc.) Limit your luggage to 2 bags only.


  • Jeans (1 pair)
  • 1 nice shirt or outfit for celebrations and formal events
  • Comfortable lightweight T-shirts (3-5)
  • Shorts (1-3)
  • Socks, bring some high socks for jungle comfort (2-5 pairs)
  • Underwear (4-6)
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Hiking shoes
  • Sandals
  • Sweatshirt or long sleeved shirt
  • Sun hat
  • Sleep clothes (shorts, tank top, etc—it will be hot at night)
  • Swimming gear

Other Items:

  • Passport
  • Any medication you need (malaria medication, travel antibiotics etc.)
  • Lightweight sleeping bag or “sleep sack”- two bed sheets sewn together like a sleeping bag. The weather will be warm enough that the sleep sack will be comfortable.
  • Sleeping pad
  • Durable water bottle
  • Toiletries (tooth brush, floss, shaver, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe vera, because you may still burn at some point
  • Bug/mosquito repellant
  • Liquid, biodegradable soap; Dr. Bronner’s is great
  • Sunglasses
  • Work gloves
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Power bars – nice to have when traveling and working
  • “No Jet Lag”- natural supplement for helping with jet lag- nice to have for flight
  • A bandana (nice to have while working to wipe sweat off)
  • “Emergen-C” or other vitamin supplement you can add to water, any other supplements you’d like to bring to keep your immune system strong
  • Money belt (for money, passports, vaccination cards, etc.)
  • Pocket knife (for cutting food)
  • Deck of cards?
  • Pictures of family, loved ones to show Nicaraguan students
  • Frisbee, hacky sack
  • Campfire stories
  • A good book
  • Journal (if you keep one you will love it, and be very glad you did)
  • Spending money- ($100 in U.S. dollars for drinks, souvenirs etc.)
  • Camera/iPod, bring at your own risk and remember that we do not need to be bringing these out with us at all times (camera’s and iPods signal that you are a tourist, and give the impression that you have lots of money)

Can my son or daughter bring any food with them, like Clif Bars?

Yes. In fact, we encourage it. Many of the service workdays involve long hours or challenging labor. Water and snacks are always provided but students should bring additional energy bars that they can snack on throughout the day.

Where do groups stay?

Students stay at GSE’s newly built Casa Gorda in the community of BellaVista, overlooking the city of Bahia and the Pacific Ocean.

Is airfare included in the program fees?

Yes, we work with a travel agent to buy tickets in bulk, which allows us to keep costs down.

How can I communicate with my son or daughter while they’re abroad?

During break time when in town, students often have access to internet, skype and phones. Email is usually the easiest way to keep in contact with your child. Our programs offer the students the opportunity to be away from home and explore their independence. Please arrange with your students to have them check in with you if you are interested in hearing updates.

Who should I communicate with if I have concerns while they are gone? In case of emergency, how do I get in touch with my son/daughter while they’re overseas?

During our program cycle, a full time GSE staff member is on call 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to support US families and our groups overseas. Please contact Kate Crigler at (707) 228−8831

What if my son or daughter cannot pay the full price of the trip?

That is a great question. We actually have many students who cannot personally fund the whole international trip. For this reason, and because fundraising is an important part of advocacy and organizing, we have developed training and projects to help students fundraise. With the support of GSE staff, students have even fundraised their entire program costs! GSE’s fundraising packet will be sent out after the first parent meeting through email.

Should my son/daughter bring money with them on their trip?

Everything that your son/daughter needs will be provided on the trip. However, if he/she would like to buy gifts or memorabilia then they should bring some additional spending money. They may also want to have some money to buy snacks at the airport.

Is it safe to travel to the developing world?

Global Student Embassy has built a vast network of in-country contacts in all of our partner locations and communities. We stay in dialogue with these partners regularly and are constantly receiving the most up-to-date information about our destinations and how it affects our groups and programs. We do everything we can to safeguard our selves and our possessions, but students are also responsible for their own safety by following our policies, guidelines, and advice.

What about the drinking water?

Filtered drinking water is available to students 100% of the time. Students should bring canteens or water bottles to re-fill throughout the trip.

Does my son or daughter need international travel insurance?

Global Student Embassy does not have a policy about international travel insurance and therefore, leaves the decision making to each individual family. Many US-based insurance plans will cover you for medical expenses overseas, but since each plan is different you’ll need to call your provider to verify coverage during your GSE program. Many homeowners and renters policies will also cover you for lost/stolen items during your travels. However, they can have high deductibles and a variety of clauses that can make this more troublesome than you’d prefer.

Does GSE have insurance for students while traveling?

Yes, GSE has foreign liability coverage for each student participant, which includes emergency medical evacuation and health coverage.

What safeguards does GSE have to ensure that my son/daughter wont get sick and what will happen if he/she does?

Different environmental factors exist when traveling abroad and our bodies may not be used to the challenges posed by daily life in a new country. While a certain amount of travelers’ diarrhea is to be expected, our leaders have the travel experience and medical training required to determine when an illness is potentially severe and when it is more routine. GSE has a wilderness first aid trained staff member on each trip. Should a student ever need to go to the doctor, a leader will accompany him/her to make sure he/she asks all the relevant questions and gets the best medical care possible. It is important that you notify your program directors and leaders of ANY medications you are taking regularly, or before you begin something new during the program.

Where is the closest hospital?

In Bahia, a few miles away from our project.

Who do you typically hire as program leaders? How are your field staff qualified for this experience?

We recognize that the quality of a students’ experience is directly related to the quality of their leaders. For this reason, trip leaders undergo a meticulous interview and training process then ensures we are working with the best. Our leaders are typically 25 – 30 years old and love working with youth. They often have traveled sufficiently to the relevant regions, speak the local language, and are experienced in youth leadership.

There are 3 International Program leaders on each trip, as well as the Executive Director or Director of Programs. All leaders undergo basic CPR and First Aid training as well as rigorous programmatic training to ground them in program itineraries, safety issues, and how to be a positive peer mentor.

What is GSE’s policy on drugs and alcohol?

GSE has a zero tolerance policy on the use of drugs or alcohol. Our programs are focused on community service and building relationship and students are prohibited from seeking out or using intoxicants. Students will be kept by the side of a chaperone in the event that these rules are broken and may be sent home at their family’s expense if their behavior is endangering themselves or the group. (Please see the release waiver for more info on this subject).
“I do feel empowered regarding communities working together to promote change, mostly because of how accepting the locals were of us coming here. I always felt welcomed and immediately accepted and that as long as students from both countries were working towards a common goal, we were hardly considered different at all.”
— Lucas Rohrer


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