There’s a reason why many of the world’s most famous scientists have visited the Galápagos Islands—now it’s your turn to discover one of the world’s most beautiful and biologically diverse island locations. It’s here that you will get hands-on experience studying topics such as biology, ecology, environmental studies, marine ecology, and sociology.
This direct enrollment program is organized through the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS), a remote campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) located on the island of San Cristóbal.
Before you head to the Galápagos, the program will begin with a month in Quito, where you participate in an orientation, a course at USFQ Cumbaya campus, and course-related excursions. The remaining months are spent on San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands, although additional course-related excursions allow you to spend time in other locations, based on your course enrollment.
Choose from courses in three tracks:
The Galápagos Islands and Quito will be your classroom. Witness the famous land iguanas and giant tortoises as you study the evolution of these unique species. Visit indigenous and traditional Andean communities to better understand the relationship between humans and their environment. Dive into the Pacific to get close to the marine life you learn about.
We want you to feel at home in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, so we do everything we can to help you integrate into student life. From housing to cultural events, our job is to make sure you have the most authentic study abroad experience possible. During your time in Quito and on the Islands, you stay with a host family or señora, which helps you familiarize yourself with the Galápagos, its people, and its cultures.
After you are admitted, refer to the Travel Dates section of the Predeparture Information in your MyIESabroad account before booking travel.
IES Abroad’s mission is simple: to provide you with the best study abroad program possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences. That is why we partnered with USFQ and GAIAS.
You take 15 credit hours per semester, and all courses are worth 3 credits. Courses are taught through USFQ in a series of five consecutive modules. The first module is taught at a USFQ campus near Quito and the other four are taught at GAIAS on the island of San Cristobal. All courses are taught in English.
Program TracksThe program offers the following tracks, which each consist of five course modules. You can take courses from any track as long as you meet all prerequisites.
Courses offered at GAIAS
Courses are taught through USFQ in a series of five consecutive modules. The first module is taught at the USFQ Cumbaya campus near Quito. Remaining modules are taught at the GAIAS campus on the island of San Cristóbal. All courses are taught in English.
Courses vary by semester, but here is an example of past course offerings.
Fall 2014 Courses
Research I .pdf
Plants of the
Political Ecology .pdf
Research II .pdf
Additional non-credit workshops in disciplines such as Spanish and Photography may also be available.
The Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS)
GAIAS is a remote campus of the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) that was established to further efforts in conservation and sustainable development in the Galápagos Islands. As a world-class academic and research institution, GAIAS attracts both local and international students and scholars from around the world.
GAIAS offers unparalleled courses that explore Ecology, Biology, and Environmental Studies through an in-depth and hands-on approach. The university’s professors and course options enhance your academic experience and provide you with new perspectives each day in class.
Although your adventure begins in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, our field study trips take you to other great locations to provide contrast and context for what you are learning in your courses. Your activities and learning experiences in each location may vary based on the track in which you are participating.
See the Field Trips tab for locations and durations of field study trips.
Even though you’re directly enrolling in one of our partner universities, there’s something IES Abroad wants you to know: we’re here for you if you need us.
Choosing and directly enrolling in courses abroad can be confusing and overwhelming. This is why we offer you predeparture advising that’s specific to your needs. Our goal is to provide support and guidance throughout your application and enrollment process.
But our advising services don’t stop there. While you’re in Quito, and the Galápagos Islands our staff is available to help you transition into your new home.
The support services we offer IES Abroad direct enrollment students are specifically designed to help you achieve your study abroad goals as effectively and smoothly as possible. We know studying abroad is an adventure, and, at times, you may need help or just someone to talk to—that’s why our staff will be there for you.
We want to make sure that your greatest challenge is deciding which landmarks to see first or discovering the best café—not finding a place to live where you feel comfortable. We do our best to locate housing that is reflective of how the local students are living. Our goal is that when you leave Ecuador, it will feel like home.
You will live in private homestays with a family or señora in Quito and in the Galápagos Islands. In Quito, all meals are provided except lunch on weekends. In the Galápagos Islands, breakfast and dinner are provided daily.
Part of making you feel at home in the Galápagos Islands is doing our best to help you feel safe and cared for. Whether it is an orientation program that makes you feel prepared, housing that is well-located and comfortable, or the field trips that take you to places off the beaten path—we’re all about our student services. This is just one of the things we’re known for.
When you arrive in Ecuador, you participate in an introductory orientation with IES Abroad and GAIAS staff members. Designed specifically for direct enrollment students, the orientation program introduces you to your program, your fellow students, Quito, and the Galápagos Islands. You will also find out more about topics such as academics, housing, transportation, and health and safety.
Additionally, CORE™, IES Abroad’s Comprehensive Orientation & Re-entry Experience, begins during orientation and continues throughout the semester with activities focusing on cultural adjustment, goal achievement, and preparing for the return home.
You have the option to participate in approximately two to three SCUBA dives in different marine environments throughout the semester, at an additional cost paid on-site. Though these activities are not required as part of the academic program, they are coordinated and led by GAIAS faculty. Please note that dives are not guaranteed and are subject to change based on student interest, instructor availability, and local safety conditions.
IES Abroad students that wish to participate in dives must have Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Open Water Diver Certification in order to participate on any GAIAS-organized dives. Proof of PADI Open Water Diver Certification must be provided to IES Abroad prior to the start of the program.
Even though your adventure starts in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, course-related excursions and an extra-curricular field trip take you beyond the city to discover the cultures and traditions of your host country. Destinations, activities, and learning experiences vary based on your course enrollment. (All trips are included in the program cost.) Here are a few possible destinations.
All students participate in one co-curricular field trip in the Galápagos. Past students have gone on a 4-day boat cruise touring the islands they furthered their knowledge of environmental studies.
Here are some of the past excursions that have been offered as part of specific courses. Individual student participation depends on course enrollment.
About the Center
IES Abroad QuitoSituated near Quito’s financial district, the IES Abroad Center is housed in a new, modern building. Features include:
Through LASPAU (Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities), Eduardo Ortiz, a native of Quito, received a Fulbright Scholarship to obtain both his B.A. and his M.A. in Psychology at SUNY Geneseo in New York. After receiving his degrees, Eduardo returned to Quito, where he worked as Senior Official in the Ecuadorian Institute of Educational Loans and Scholarships (IECE) and as Ecuadorian Coordinator for an international educational exchange program (Canada World Youth). He also worked as Associate Professor in two leading Ecuadorian Universities (Catholic University of Ecuador and Army Polytechnic University). Eduardo also has experience as a project manager for USAID (United States Agency for International Development) in Ecuador where he managed projects in tax administration and education. Additionally, Eduardo has international consulting experience in training, organizational development, human resources management, and institutional strengthening in several International Development Agencies including IDB, the World Bank and Universalia Management Group from Canada.
IES Abroad Staff
Gladys ArgotiStudent Services Coordinator
Rene BuenoAcademic Coordinator
Juan Carlos SanchezAdministrative Support
Indira EspinaStudent Affairs Coordinator in Galápagos
IES Abroad FacultyChristopher Minster, Ph.D.
Angélica Ordóñez, Ph.D.
Diego Quiroga, Ph.D.
Ana Rodriguez, Msc.
Evelyn Rodriguez, Msc.
Gabriela Rota, Msc.
Iván Ulchúr, Ph.D.
Hugo Valdebenito, Ph.D.
Marcelo Varela, Msc. MBA
Esteban Suarez, Ph.D.
Juan Aulestia, Ph.D.
Pablo Dávalos, Ph.D.