Top Five Things to Do In: Quito, Ecuador

Nestled amidst rolling hills and volcanic peaks, Quito is sure to be one of the most breathtaking cities you’ll ever lay your eyes on. The city, Ecuador’s capital and among its largest cities, is a wonderful mix of historic charm and modern flair. Quito is largely divided into two parts, the historic center – frequently referred to as the “old town” – and the “new town”. Differentiated by their architecture, culinary offerings and culture, the two areas offer visitors the best of both worlds. The “old town”, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is home to architectural masterpieces – several of which were constructed during the 16th century. In the “new town” you’ll find high-rises, bustling streets, trendy cafes and international restaurants. To make sense of the limitless opportunities the city has to offer, we’ve compiled a list of our top five must-sees.

  1. Plaza Grande

La Plaza Grande (formally referred to as La Plaza de la Independencia) is the central square of Quito’s old town. The square is home to five monumental buildings, four of which date back to the colonial period. The square also features a monument to commemorate Ecuador’s independence. Aside from the rich history and beautiful architecture, visitors are likely to be drawn in by the relaxed feel of the square and the natural beauty of the surrounding atmosphere.

  1. Monastery of San Francisco

Construction of the monastery, the city’s largest colonial structure, began just shortly after the founding of Quito in 1534, although the building took nearly 70 years to complete. Though the outside of the building is beautiful, the interior is not to be missed. The elaborate interior of the church, particularly the main altar, features intricate gold carvings and beautiful artwork. It’s no wonder that the church is considered to be one of Quito’s highlights.

  1. TelefériQo

For breathtaking aerial views of the city, take the TelefériQo up the east side of the Pichincha Volcano. The sky tram takes passengers from the edge of the city center, up to Cruz Loma. Once there, you can enjoy the sweeping views over Quito’s rolling landscape or continue the climb up to the summit of Rucu Pichincha, an approximately three-hour hike.

  1. Museo Nacional de Quito

For a dose of culture, pay a visit to the Museo Nacional de Quito. This museum houses an amazing collection of ceramics, gold artifacts, and Ecuadorian artwork. One of the museum’s most fascinating exhibits features the remains of the first inhabitants of what is now Ecuador. Once you’ve explored each of the exhibits head outside to see the Inca ruins, wander through the garden, and get an up close view of indigenous birds at the aviary.

  1. Mercado Central

If you’re in the mood for some traditional cuisine, hop on over to Mercado Central. Here, you’ll find a variety of different food venders cooking up some local favorites. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood, papa, or some fresh produce, this local market is the place to go.

With so many activities, we had a hard time choosing just five. We also haven’t yet mentioned one of the best parts of spending some quality time in Quito: the weather. The temperature typically ranges from 48°F to 69°F and is rarely below 45°F or above 72°F. It’s hard to find a better environment for exploring and adventuring outdoors. But don’t just take our word for it… Experience it for yourself!

Internships in Quito, Ecuador

Volunteer Programs in Quito, Ecuador

 

Why You Should Stay With a Host Family

When most people travel abroad, they stay in hotels or resorts and don’t get the chance to immerse themselves in the culture of the country they are visiting. If you choose to do a World Endeavors intern, study or volunteer program that offers a home stay with a native family, you will have the opportunity of a life time. Here are some reasons a home stay is such a great experience.

1. The family will most likely cook local and delicious food for you daily.

2. In some cases they might even do your laundry for you!

3. You can ask them about their culture and gain an understanding of your surroundings and why people have certain customs or how they came about.

4. You can see how people live day-to-day.

5. They can make suggestions for local places to eat. This will give you a chance to go to these places and mingle with the locals.

6. If there are any interesting places to visit in the area, such as caves, beaches or castles that not many people know about, they will probably give you tips on where it is and how to get there.

7. If you have doubts about how to do daily tasks in a foreign country, especially one that speaks a different language, such as catching the bus or setting up your cell phone, they will also be able to help.

8. It’s nice to have a home away from home in a foreign country. Often, you will be able to do activities with them or go on trips with them.

9. You can stay in contact with the family after you leave. This may increase your chances of going back to visit!

10. You can greatly improve your language skills if the family doesn’t speak English.

Megan: Volunteer in Ecuador

One of our past participants, Megan, from the Street Children Assistance program in Ecuador contacted us today!  She sent us some great photos of herself with the girls she worked with at the center for street kids:

Megan volunteered in Ecuador during February of 2008.  Thanks, Megan, for sharing your photos with us!  Here is what she said about her program experience:

“I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to work with the girls [at the center in Ecuador].  My experience in Ecuador really pushed me to become a much stronger person in both spirit and mind.  And I must say, that the girls at the center were truly amazing!  Their hope, courage, resilience,  and fortitude was inspiring, and I hold to the fact that they taught me more than I could have ever hoped to teach them!”

Tourist, Student, or Work: Which Visa is Right for You?

The topic of visas (aka entry clearance) can be very confusing for the first-time traveler. And I’m not talking about credit cards! A ‘visa’ is a stamp or sticker that is placed in your passport by an immigration official of another country. World Endeavors’ participants mainly choose 1 of 3 kinds of visas:

Tourist visas

Student visas

Work visas

Tourist visas are usually the easiest and cheapest kind of visa to get. Most of the time, you simply arrive in a country (like Costa Rica or Ecuador) and the customs official stamps your passport as you get off the plane. The stamp is good for a certain amount of days – usually 21, 30, or 90 days. Many times the stamp can be renewed if you would like to visit for a longer amount of time. Some countries, like India, Brazil, Ghana, and Tanzania, require that US citizens get a tourist visa in advance. This usually involves filling out an application form, and sending it along with your passport and a fee to a consulate or Embassy. Yes, you do have to send them your passport in the mail! Don’t worry, they’ll send it back to you in a couple of weeks.

Student visas are required for most semester and year-long study abroad programs and some internship programs. Obtaining a student visa requires that you apply well in advance. Some countries, like Italy, Spain and France, require that you go to the consulate in person. Considering that the consulate for your area may not be right in your city, this is something to consider and plan for. Additionally, student visas may take a few weeks to process. You should start the process of obtaining your student visa as far in advance as possible. This might mean that you call the consulate to make an appointment 2 or more months before you plan to start your program. You may also need special paperwork in addition to your application form and passport, such as: original acceptance letters from a foreign university, a letter from your bank indicating sufficient funds, a round-trip flight itinerary, health insurance, and other documents. Please consult with a World Endeavors representative before you start your application for a student visa – we’ll help you get started!

Work visas allow individuals to obtain a job in a country of which they are not a citizen. Most tourist visas and student visas bar you from getting paid employment. Long-term or permanent work visas aren’t easy to get, and for some countries it is nearly impossible. However, some short-term (6 months – 1 year) work visa options are available to students or recent graduates. Check out programs like BUNAC for more information about getting a work visa. Work visas are required for World Endeavors’ Intern in England and Intern in Australia programs.

In short, visas can be complicated business, but all it takes is a little advance planning! For the best results, if you’re not sure what kind of visa you need for your World Endeavors program, just ask one of our friendly Enrollment Advisors (like me). We have lots of experience and we’re always ready to help.

World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest

Hello to all of our World Endeavors volunteers, interns, and students going abroad in spring/summer 2008!

We are excited to have participants in 16 countries this summer – Costa Rica, Ecuador, Brazil, Spain, Italy, England, Ghana, Thailand, China, Nepal, India, Guatemala, New Zealand, the Philippines, France, and Jamaica! With so many incredible people abroad doing so many incredible things, it would be a shame to not have a way for you to share all of your experiences with each other. And so…

I am excited to announce the first ever World Endeavors Summer Photo Contest! This contest will be a way for all of you to share what you’re up to, as well as to show off your photography skills. We will be collecting photos in 3 categories:
People – Photos of you, new friends, host families, people you work/volunteer/study with, etc.

Landscapes – These can be urban or natural – scenes from the cities, towns, and rural areas where you’re living and traveling.

Food – Who doesn’t love food pictures? I want to see typical meals from your countries, scenes from produce markets, and all of the crazy new things you’ve been brave enough to try (or at least brave enough to photograph!)

Email your pictures to us by July 10 (so you’ve got a few weeks to get out there and take some photos!). You don’t need to submit one for each category – just send in what you’ve got.

I will post all of the submissions right here on this blog, and then you will have a chance to vote for your favorites. The winning photos in each category will be featured on our website!

So if you’ve got some great pictures already, send them in, and if you’ve been shy with the camera so far, get out there and get some great shots! We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.

Volunteering in Special Education

We are proud to offer our volunteers many unique programs- and some of the most meaningful ones, to us, are our Special Education volunteer opportunities. Children and adults with disabilities in developing countries often are considered ‘second class citizens,’ not receiving the same access to education, economic opportunities, or transportation as people without disabilities. By teaching English, providing skills training and special tutoring, or just by being a friend, international volunteers can help. While these programs present special challenges to participants, the volunteers who do participate have a deeply meaningful experience.

In Ecuador, volunteers can work with children who have Down’s Syndrome, as well as blind and Deaf children.

In the Philippines, World Endeavors offers a program providing skills and computer training to young Deaf adults.

In Thailand, volunteers can work at an orphanage that focuses specifically on providing care to children with developmental and physical disabilities.

In Jamaica, volunteers can provide extra tutoring to Jamaican adults hoping to get into college during the July “Fast Track” program.

Opportunities may exist in other countries, too! Let us know if you have a specific interest. The best thing about Special Ed programs is that our volunteers consistently find that they have more fun, more connections, more meaningful experiences, and more friendships than they had ever thought possible. The biggest beneficiary of the program might not be the Deaf teenager you tutor in keyboarding or the blind child in Thailand – it may very well be you.

Our programs in Special Education always need another volunteer, so don’t hesitate to apply!