Information for Parents
It is both exciting and scary when your child decides to study abroad, and surely many questions come to mind. On this page, the Pachaysana Institute offers some extra information for parents.
Rehearsing Change is different from any other study abroad program in the world; thus, if you want to fully understand what we do, it will require careful reading of this entire site. Here, we categorize the most common questions according to the subjects below. We also hope you will visit other pages, such as the Testimonials page where you will find what previous students and parents have said. If you do not find what you are looking for in these pages, do not hesitate to write us directly.
Note that we value the privacy and independence of our students. Once they have been accepted into our program, all our communications must include a copy to the student. Once a student is "on the ground" and studying with us, unless there is an emergency, we will not communicate with parents without the full knowledge and permission of the student.
In a hurry? Request information and we will get back to you.
Health and Safety
While a slight generalization, our fall semesters in Quito include more significant safety risks than health risks, and our spring semesters in small rural Amazon communities are the opposite.
Quito is a bustling urban center with over 2 million people, and students need to practice sound awareness and common sense to prevent incidents. As a matter of preparation, Pachaysana provides the most extensive orientation of any study abroad program in Ecuador, with a week of immersive sessions. At this time we do not only share important information, but from day one start exploring town to begin engaging in best practices. If a student has a health issue, rest assured that Quito has some of the best health care in Latin America with several excellent hospitals and clinics.
Current concerns from Parents: Zika and other tropical diseases are not present in Quito, as the high altitude does not allow for the disease-carrying mosquito to live here. Large earthquakes are more common in the coastal region, but Quito does have a tremor every now and then. There are some nearby active volcanoes, albeit none are of a primary concern to Quito. For all cases, Pachaysana has an Emergency Action Plan, which we regularly update according to potential threats. Additionally, we have the full support of our local partner, USFQ, guaranteeing swift and organized responses.
Student emergencies: We believe in preparedness and being able to respond to any urgent matter with immediate action. In addition to our Resident Director, we have an entire team of coordinators who are on call 24-hours a day.
Amazon communities have almost no safety risks; however, due to higher temperatures, changes in diet and the prevalence of insects, we spend extra time on health preparedness. The most typical problems are intestinal issues simply due to the changes in what students eat. That being said, our host families are truly amazing and have adapted to the more sensitive stomachs. What's more, the food is completely natural, and vegetarians, as well as other special diet needs, are very welcome. Zika and other insect-born diseases are not really present in our host communities.
None of our communities are isolated deep in the rain forest, and all are accessible by car. As in Quito, we are extremely prepared for medical emergencies and are ready to move students to a medical facility if it should be needed. We always have our own ground transportation on site and travel time to emergency medical facilities is 45 minutes or less. If we need to get to Quito, we can make the journey in between 3 and 4.5 hours.
More than anything else, our students' parents are concerned about the health and safety of their children. We appreciate your trust and by no means take it lightly. Please feel free to contact us with questions or concerns.
The Rehearsing Change team is truly a family. Our Resident Director, coordinators and faculty are all close friends who are fully committed to our mission. We believe all are equals (local community members, international students and faculty) and each semester, we invite our students to share and grow with us. To learn more about our team, Pachaysana Executive Director, Daniel Bryan, is also the Resident Director. He has 10 years of experience in international education. In addition to being one of our main faculty members, he is also an expert in health and safety. Our coordinators, both of whom are leading young professionals in the field, are with us on a day to day basis. Together with our local community counterparts (including host families), these are the people who will constitute the student's Ecuadorian family.
In addition to the personalized approach to each and every student, our team are experienced program administrators and renowned educators. We like to believe that you would be hard-pressed to find such quality anywhere in the world.
In Quito, we usually are located in Quito's historical center where students live with middle-class families, always one student per family. Neighborhoods are safe and the homes are very comfortable. Rooms are private but most bathrooms are shared. Food is very healthy and complete. Homes are older, which does mean that they can be quite drafty. Students live within walking distance of where we have our classes.
In the Amazon communities, conditions vary greatly. In some communities, students live 2 per family, sometimes sharing a room with each other. In other communities, students live in a guest housing similar to a dorm, sometimes with as much as 4 students sharing bunk beds in one room. In the first case, all meals are with the family, and in the second case all meals are in a community dining room. All rooms are either completely screened in, or the beds will have mosquito nets. Host families are well adapted to international students and are very prepared to deal with diverse diets and living habits. That being said, we ask students to adapt to the community and family customs. In some communities, bathrooms are inside the house, and in some cases they are outside the house. Families never have more than one bathroom. In short, accommodations are humble but extremely comfortable. Parents have visited our students in the past and lived comfortably in the same conditions. Families should also know that a Pachaysana staff member is in the community at all times during the semester.
Our Partnering Organizations
Pachaysana is a small non-profit organization that excels due to strong networks. Our most important partners are the communities with whom we live and work. We work for years to build relationships and trust and because we support each other, the community is clearly our greatest ally for all needs. When parents talk to students about our communities, they are immediately set at ease because they can sense how much the community members are caring for their child
Our local academic partner, the Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), is the most acclaimed university in Ecuador. All Rehearsing Change students are considered USFQ exchange students and have access to university resources. USFQ provide the transcripts to the student's home school, and to date we have had no issues with transferring credits. They also have a large international student population and a complete emergency action plan.
Our extensive and carefully crafted partnerships provide our small organization with a large organization infrastructure.
Preparations are divided into several categories: Academic/Experiential Learning, Logisitcal, Technical.
Academic/Experiential Learning - We ask students to read pre-departure materials and begin reflecting on the over-arching themes we will be exploring during the semester. If you would like to have an understanding of our academic program, we recommend the Curriculum page of our website; if you want to read some stories or get a sense of our vision, we recommend our blog, especially some of the older posts.
Logistical - What to pack, what are specific notes that will get the student ready for life in partner communities? This is almost all covered in a Pre-Departure handbook that we send to students. (Parents can request a copy of his handbook via email.) Then, we set up a private Facebook group so that all incoming students can ask questions and see everyone's responses. Finally, we have a group Skype call several weeks before departure to Ecuador so that everyone can get to know each other and ask real-time questions.
Technical - Some of the hardest stuff is getting all the paperwork done as well as fulfilling the legal and bureaucratic processes. After our application, students must complete a health certification form in cooperation with a physician. This should be sent back to us no later than one month prior to arrival. Depending on the semester students may need to get a Yellow Fever vaccine. (For other vaccines please consult the CDC website and your family physician.) Students need to complete the USFQ on-line application. This is only a formality, but necessary to acquire a USFQ student ID number and enroll in classes. Instructions are sent to students directly from USFQ. Once the students have an ID number, it is their responsibility to enroll in the designated USFQ courses. We send them all the information. Finally, students have to get a temporary residence visa, which USFQ sponsors. We send students all the paperwork necessary and urge them to get started as early as possible. For fall students, it is probably just easier to get them here in Ecuador, which we will facilitate in conjunction with USFQ; however, for spring students, we recommend getting them at your designated consulate. Some consulates are very tricky while others are extremely helpful. We send students all the instructions necessary and are happy to send the same information to parents, if requested (remembering that students will be copied in our communications).
We recommend that all students acquire a local cellphone or come with an unblocked cell that will work with a local SIM card. Most students get a SIM and then put on pre-paid minutes every month. Since the need for cell calls is limited, we notice that students spend between $3 and $10 per month. In fall semesters, cell phones are used more regularly, since life in Quito demands more communications. Our recommendation is to buy a cheap "dumb phone" here, mostly because we notice that students are not as careful with their expensive smart phones as they should be. In spring semesters, two students can share a phone, which are only really necessary during vacations when students travel.
With regards to communicating back home, most students use Skype, WhatsApp or similar programs. In the fall semesters, maintaining regular communications is very easy, as internet is quite prevalent in Quito. For parents of spring semester students, communications back home are more limited. All our communities have cellphone reception, but there is no access to 3G/4G, meaning that sending emails or talking via apps is not very functional. Depending on the community, access to internet is only a walk or bus ride away and most students maintain weekly or twice-a-week communications with family.
Pachaysana will only communicate with family in the event of an emergency, or if we believe that parents might have cause for concern. For example, in April 2016, there was an earthquake in Ecuador's coastal region. While very far away from where our students were located, we sent emails to parents, assuring them that all students were safe and accounted for.
Costs and Payments
In almost all cases, our students attend universities that have formally approved our program, meaning that families pay the university and the university pays us. In other cases, families or students pay us directly via our partner, IFSA-Butler. Currently, the direct tuition and fees cost is $14,915 for the semester. If you would like to understand more about what these costs cover, please visit our FAQ's page. Also, we believe it is important that parents understand our cancellation and reimbursement policy.
Pachaysana is 100% committed to creating an experience that fulfills the objectives of our students and partner communities. We have a set of core values that guide all of our work. Finally, with relationship to discrimination, Pachaysana does not and shall not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations. We respect and promote all forms of creating and expressing knowledge and identity.