Galápagos Islands Direct Enrollment - GAIAS


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Read more about this program on the institution's website

Program Description

Earn U.S. Credits Virtually This Summer

Get ahead! Earn extra credit through a globally recognized U.S. education program this summer on our Virtual World DiscoverIES program.

Just picture it: one day you're exploring business ethics with a professor in London and the next it's Japanese pop culture from Tokyo, studying alongside classmates from the U.S.’s highest-ranked colleges and universities. This is what it's like to take a course or two (of your choosing!) from IES Abroad’s most popular centers around the world this summer.

Learn more about how you can discover the world through IES Abroad.

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 5 weeks in Quito, where you participate in an orientation, a course at USFQ Cumbayá campus, and course-related trips. Then you will travel to San Cristóbal in the Galápagos Islands for modules 2-4. You will end with your 5th module in Quito. Additional course-related trips allow you to spend time in other locations, based on your course enrollment.

Choose from courses in four tracks:

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

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.


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 (plus one week of module 2) and last modules are taught at a USFQ campus near Quito and the other three 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: this track carries an extra fee. For exact pricing, please consult the Program Fees Sheet
  • 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.
  • Sustainable Tourism. Examine the components of the tourism industry and the interrelationships for successful and responsible planning and management. To enroll in courses in this track, you do not need to have taken a biology or ecology course.

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.

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.

Galápagos Islands - Island Hopping Boat Tour

4 Days | Fall & Spring

Tour the islands of Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela, where you will learn about the terrestrial and marine ecology, and the human history of each settlement.

See wild Galápagos giant tortoises in the Santa Cruz highlands and snorkel with marine species such as penguins, sea turtles, sea lions, seahorses, and a variety of rays and other animals in Isabela. You’ll also climb volcanoes and visit lava tunnels to gain a deeper knowledge of the formation of the archipelago.

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 biodiverse rainforest in the world. Developed by USFQ (in collaboration with Boston University), the station is located adjacent to the Yasuni Biosphere Reserve in the equatorial western Amazonia, which means you will be in direct contact with the greatest concentration of species on earth.

Ecuador's Coastal Regions

Machalilla National Park & Manabí Province

7 Days | Fall & Spring

Visit a number of coastal ecosystems and study the animals and horticulture that live within them. See armadillos, two species of monkeys, and 270+ species of birds, and vegetation like the opuntia cactus, palo santo trees, kapok trees, and the algaroba tree.

Maquipucuna Cloud Forest

Pinchincha Province

2 Days | Fall & Spring

The Reserve tops a biodiversity hotspot. With at least 350 species of birds, 45 species of mammals, and 250+ species of butterflies. Experience the Cloud Forest, a generally tropical or subtropical, evergreen, and moist forest characterized by low-level cloud cover.

Papallacta's Hot Springs

1 Day | Fall & Spring

The hydrothermal value of Papallacta's Hot Springs is thanks to its location between two volcanoes. The source temperature of the thermal baths varies between 30°C and 70°C (86°F and 158°F). (Tropical Ecology students only.)

Paramo Preserve

1 Day | Fall & Spring

Located at 4,200 meters above sea level in the Andes Mountains, this unique ecosystem experiences constant changes in weather. Visit an alpine forest and explore the diverse flora and fauna that has managed to adapt to the fluctuating weather and height of the mountain.

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.

Our Comprehensive Orientation & Re-Entry Experience (CORE™) begins right when you arrive and continues through the semester with activities focusing on academic and cultural adjustment. Detailed information about housing, public transportation, culture, health and safety, and other important topics are also covered.


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 a private homestay with a family or señora in Quito and in the Galápagos Islands who will help facilitate your language learning and integration into Ecuadorian society, and you will have a room to yourself. In Quito, all meals are provided except lunch on weekends; in the Galápagos, breakfast is provided daily, and dinner is provided Monday through Friday. WiFi is available in your homestay, but speed and connectivity are often limited in the Galápagos. Laundry is also 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 the Professional Association of Dive Instructors (PADI) Open Water Diver Certification in order to participate in any GAIAS-organized dives. Proof of PADI Open Water Diver Certification must be provided to IES Abroad prior to the start of the program.


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.

Spring 2020

Term Tuition Housing Insurance Total
Spring 2020 $16,420 $4,210 $230 $20,860

Scholarships & Aid

Program-Specific Scholarships

John Gearen Need-Based Dublin or Developing Regions Scholarship

Up to $1,000; awarded to 2 students each year.

John Gearen, a member of the IES Abroad Board of Directors for many years and past chair of the Board for six years, is a leading real estate attorney and Rhodes Scholar who is involved in numerous philanthropic causes. Mr. Gearen has generously established this scholarship to support students who have an interest in studying on an IES Abroad Center in a developing region of the world (Argentina, Chile, China, Ecuador, Ireland, Morocco, or South Africa).

Dr. William Louis Gaines Need-Based History or International Relations Scholarship

Up to $1,875; awarded to 4-6 students each year.

This scholarship is named in honor of Dr. William Louis Gaines, President of IES Abroad from 1974-1992. Dr. Gaines was dedicated to strengthening IES Abroad's academic framework, broadening the scope of IES Abroad locations, and securing the financial foundation of the organization.

Open to students majoring in History or International Relations.

William E. & Mary M. Dwyer Need-Based Spanish Scholarship

Ranges up to $1,000; awarded to 4-6 students each year.

These scholarships are intended for students interested in studying in a Spanish-speaking country.

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
Last updated May 2020

About the School

Everything we do is about the IES Abroad student. Our profoundly passionate team of study abroad professionals believes in creating once-in-a-lifetime educational adventures that transcend expectation ... Read More

Everything we do is about the IES Abroad student. Our profoundly passionate team of study abroad professionals believes in creating once-in-a-lifetime educational adventures that transcend expectations. Our goal is to rock the world of some 6,000 study abroad students every year. Read less
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