Study Abroad
Galápagos Islands Direct Enrollment - GAIAS Add to favorites
  • Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

You are here

Galápagos Islands Direct Enrollment - GAIAS

Why the Galápagos Islands?

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.

What You'll Study?

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 Cumbayá campus, and course-related trips. The remaining months are spent on San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands. Additional course-related trips allow you to spend time in other locations, based on your course enrollment.

Choose from courses in three tracks:

  • Evolution, Ecology & Conservation
  • Marine Ecology
  • People, Politics & the Environment

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.

Daily Life

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 the Galápagos, you stay with a host family or señora, which helps you familiarize yourself with the Galápagos, its people, and its cultures.

$5 Million in Financial Aid

We firmly believe that financial limitations should not prevent a qualified student from participating in an IES Abroad Program. This is why we commit $5 million to our financial aid programs.


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.

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.

You take 16 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 Tracks
The program offers the following tracks, which each consist of five-course modules. You must take three courses in your selected track. After that, you can take up to two courses in other tracks as long as you meet all prerequisites.

  • Evolution, Ecology & Conservation
    Examine first-hand how Ecuador’s diverse ecosystems have been shaped by evolutionary processes and the role that distinct societies have played in the protection or transformation of these environments. Course-related trips bring you to bio-diverse jungles, picturesque coastal regions, and to one of the world’s tallest volcanoes. There is a prerequisite of at least one Biology course or one Ecology course to enroll in courses in this track.
  • Marine Ecology
    Examine the importance of marine conservation and the social aspects of marine management by combining coursework and fieldwork on the Pacific Coast and in the Galápagos Islands. You visit mangroves, wetlands, inter-tidal ecosystems, open oceans, and coral reefs as you study animal habitats and communities. There is a prerequisite of at least one Biology course or one Ecology course to enroll in courses in this track. It is also a requirement to be PADI certified to enroll in this track. Please note: the Marine Ecology track has a $515 fee (Spring 2019) to cover program expenses that will be billed to you later in the semester.
  • People, Politics, & the Environment
    Explore the economic, cultural, and social issues that affect the relationship between humans and their environment. Coursework includes course-related trips to several indigenous and traditional Andean communities. To enroll in courses in this track, you do not need to have taken a biology or ecology course; it is recommended to have two semesters of college-level Spanish but not required.

Spanish Language
You are required to take a 1-credit Spanish language course during your time in Quito. If you wish to continue your Spanish language study, an optional 3-credit Spanish language course is offered later in the semester during your time in the Galápagos Islands.


Courses are taught through USFQ in a series of five consecutive modules. The first module is taught at the USFQ Cumbayá 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.

  Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Marine Ecology People, Politics, and the Environment
Module 1 Tropical Ecology Techniques of Marine Research I Wildlife Conservation Management
Module 2 Native and Introduced Plants of the Galapagos

Marine Life

Global Climate Change: Economics, Science, and Society
Module 3 Origin of Species - Tree of Life Tropical Marine Ecology Strategic Planning for Natural Resource Management
Module 4 Quantitative Field Ecology Marine Ecosystem Based Management Historical Ecology
Module 5 Geographical Information Systems Techniques of Marine Research II Island Socio Ecosystems

Spanish Language Courses (1 credit)

Starting Fall 2017 the Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation track will include a 6th course option: Island Biogeography

Advising & Support

In a direct enrollment program, you are enrolled as a full-time student at one of our international partner institutions. Even though your local host institution is where you’ll take your classes, we’re still here to fully support you.

Choosing and directly enrolling in courses abroad can be confusing and overwhelming—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.

On-Site Staff
As an IES Abroad student directly enrolled at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and the Galápagos Academic Institute for the Arts and Sciences (GAIAS) you have access to on-site IES Abroad staff who are specifically dedicated to your needs. Our on-site staff work with you and your local institution to answer any questions about academic requirements, housing, or well-being and safety.

Our support services for 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 is there for you.

Field Trips & Events

Even though your adventure starts in Quito and the Galápagos Islands, course-related trips and an extra-curricular field trip take you beyond the campus to discover the cultures and traditions of your host country. Destinations, activities, and learning experiences vary based on the track in which you are participating. All trips are included in the program cost.

Galápagos Islands
4 Days | Fall & Spring
Tour the islands by boat to further your knowledge of environmental issues. All students participate in this co-curricular field trip regardless of their program track

Course-Related Trips

Here are some of the past course-related trips that have been offered as part of specific courses. Individual student participation depends on course enrollment.

Amazon Rainforest
Tiputini Biodiversity Station
4 Days | Fall & Spring
Explore the largest and most bio-diverse rainforest in the world.

Ecuador's Coastal Regions
Machalilla National Park & Manabí Province
7 Days | Fall & Spring
Visit a number of coastal ecosystems and study the animals that live within them.

Maquipucuna Cloud Forest
Pinchincha Province
2 Days | Fall & Spring
Discover the beauty of this unique ecosystem.

Paluguillo Paramo Preserve
1 Day | Fall & Spring
Explore the diverse flora and fauna of an alpine forest.

Note: IES Abroad field trip destinations, course-related trips, activities, and lengths of stay may vary according to term and availability.

Daily Life

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.


When you arrive in Ecuador, you participate in an introductory orientation with IES Abroad at the Quito Center and at the USFQ Cumbayá campus with 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.


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.

Homestays - 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.

Extracurricular Activities & Cultural Events

Optional Activities
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.

Get to Know Your New City

Explore the Charles Darwin Research Station

A must-see for budding scientists, check out the breeding center, and learn about the islands’ fascinating ecology and history.

See Turtles at Turtle Bay

You just might observe hatchlings emerging from their eggs and heading to the ocean!

Snorkel with Sea Lions

Head to La Loberia beach, and spend a day in the sun with these unique marine mammals.

Hang with the Local Penguins

Take a trip to Las Tintoreras, and get up close and personal with the islands’ penguins.

Visit the Santa Cruz Fish Market

Watch fishermen unload their catches from the day, and grab a bite of fresh seafood.

Program Cost

Consider these prices as a starting point. We encourage you to contact your study abroad office to determine the actual cost to you when factoring in financial aid, scholarships, your home school policies, and other factors.

Term: Fall 2019
Term Tuition Housing Insurance Total
Fall 2019 $16,095 $4,125 $230 $20,450

Term: Spring 2019
Term Tuition Housing Insurance Total
Spring 2019 $15,935 $4,080 $230 $20,245

Use our budget worksheet to calculate your costs

$5 Million in Financial Aid

We firmly believe that financial limitations should not prevent a qualified student from participating in an IES Abroad Program. This is why we commit $5 million to our financial aid programs.

Our Center

IES Abroad Quito
Situated near Quito’s financial district, the IES Abroad Center is housed in a new, modern building. Features include:

  • Two well-equipped classrooms
  • Student lounge
  • Staff offices
  • Small library
  • Computer lab
  • High-speed Internet and printer access

Our Staff

Tania Ledergerber de Quiroga

Center Director

Tania has been the Director of the Quito and Galápagos Islands programs since 2018. Tania brings a wide range of international education administration experience. She directed the International Partnership for Service Learning and Leadership Program at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), and spent 10 years as the Resident Director in Quito for Kalamazoo College. Previously she taught for IES Abroad, instructing our Internship Seminar and Social Science and Service Learning classes at USFQ. Tania has traveled and worked around the world, spending nearly 20 years devoted to NGOs.

IES Abroad Staff

IES Abroad Staff

Ximena Paredes
Student Affairs Coordinator in Quito

Juan Carlos Sanchez
Administrative Support

Maria Cristina López
Student Affairs Coordinator in Galápagos