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ECUADOR - ISEP Universidad Casa Grande - Cuenca

Discover Ecuador’s ethnic and ecological diversity with the Center for Interamerican Studies (CEDEI) in Cuenca. Explore Cuenca’s cobblestone streets and urban rivers and parks while participating actively in the local life of the city and living with a carefully-selected host family. 

CEDEI’s Semester in the Andes program combines academic content with an extended intercultural and language experience. Integrated into the program are visits to indigenous villages, sandy beaches and snow-capped mountain ranges, along with travel to some of South America’s must-see sites, including Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands and the Amazon Rainforest. 

This program is best for a student that is independent.  A student must be comfortable with advocating for themselves on campus and comfortable with the local language to thrive in this location. Please be aware that there may not be the same access to internet or amenities to which you may be accustomed.  Student services and especially class registration may not be at all similar to what is done at the College and may be difficult for some students to adjust.  


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have junior status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Minimum GPA of 2.75.  
  • Language Requirement: There is no language requirement to apply if a student plans to take all courses in English. To take classes in Spanish, it is recommended to have at least the equivalent of 4 semesters of college-level Spanish.

Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up.  Direct options may have an additional cost (see a financial section for more information).


Cuenca soars approximately 8,200 feet above sea level functioning as the economic center of the southern Sierra as the capital of the Azuay providence. Dating back to the 16th century, Cuenca’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is composed of stunning old-world cathedrals, massive rotundas and colonial parks that attract students, tourists and expatriates from around the world. 

Not only is Cuenca jam-packed full of culture, it also is known for its notable artists, writers, poets and well-known intellectuals. The wide variety of museums, parks, colonial plazas, churches, restaurants, nightlife and international food allows you to soak up the local culture and familiarize yourself with the impressive history. The locals define themselves as having a laid-back culture and agreeable weather. The city center also offers many craft traditions, ranging from metal work to ceramics with more in between.

Living in Cuenca is a combination of traditional cultures and modern international amenities - although the vibrant city has attracted many travelers and foreigners over the last decade, Cuenca remains a traditional Ecuadorean city. Visit museums, national parks, and Incan ruins, gain skills in Latin dance rhythms and traditional cooking and explore your creative side in craft workshops – all part of the Semester in the Andes program! 

To learn more about the visa process for this country, please visit the ISEP Country Handbook for Ecuador



CEDEI operates on the Northern Hemisphere academic calendar (starting in August and ending in May). The Semester in the Andes program is open to students from a wide range of majors, with or without previous Spanish knowledge.

Each semester is divided into two academic terms. In the first term, students take intensive Spanish courses. In the second term, students can choose to continue with language courses, participate in an internship or service learning project, and/or take regular university courses taught in Spanish or English.

To find courses to visit the CEDEI course catalog. Choose the subject(s) you are interested in from the list on the left side of the page. Each course has a description and a link to a complete syllabus. The language of instruction (English or Spanish) is also noted. The number in parenthesis (i.e. 3c) refers to the number of U.S. credits the course is worth. Students enroll in a minimum of 12 and a maximum of 18 credits. 

According to the law of Higher Education passed in 2008, 1 credit in a classroom-based course is equal to 16 effective hours and at least 16 hours pertaining to the student’s independent work. 

It is common that courses have 3 credits, each one bearing a 48-hour workload throughout the semester.

To Earn 4 Lake Forest credits, students must take 15-16 credits.

To Earn 3 Lake Forest credits, students must take 12 credits.

The number of credits listed here is estimated, and GEO will work with you, your advisor, and the registrar to ensure you are earning enough credits to keep you on track for graduation.

Area of study (ENGLISH COURSES)

Area Studies, Business, Communication, Education, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Natural Resources/Conversation, Social Sciences, Visual and Performing Arts

Area of study (SPANISH COURSES)

Business, Education, Foreign Language and Literatures, International/Global Studies, and Visual and Performing Arts

Website for Course Availability


Academic Environment and Teaching Style

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

NOTE: Students need to be at least at the intermediate level of Spanish to participate in an internship or service learning course, or take regular university courses taught in Spanish. 

No Spanish language background is required to apply. Students with no Spanish language background will take beginner Spanish language courses and courses taught in English. 

Student Life

International students have the chance to participate in trips that the department will arrange and in several university activities, like pedagogical simulations. University activities are included in ISEP Benefits. Extracurricular activities, like trips, have an extra fee that has to be covered by the student.

  Experiential Opportunities

**All internships and service learning require at least an intermediate high level of Spanish comprehension.

ISL 201: International Service Learning: Theory and Practice (1-3c) (Download Syllabus)

An interdisciplinary course designed to explore the theory and practice of service learning using a two-pronged approach: on-site volunteer service work in Cuenca, Ecuador, combined with a classroom seminar. By combining formal study with service to the local community in an intercultural/international setting, students find their learning has both greater depth and scope. Students will complete 40-45 hours of community service designed to create substantive links between coursework and service. In class, students will actively seek out answers to questions arising from their service experience and relate them to service learning issues that are of interest to scholars and to society. In this way, the students will be able take ownership of the learning process and tackle real-world problems that transcend the classroom setting. To this end, the course will employ a classroom approach known as problem based learning, whereby problems drive the curriculum. The key problem we will examine is this: What is international service learning and what implications does it have for society, citizenship, and self?

ISL 380/381: Micro-Internship: Analysis & Placement (4c) (Download Syllabus)

Full-time internship placement in a local business or community-based organization. Involves 120-240 hours (4-8 weeks) at the placement site and completion of a journal and an institutional report. Must be taken concurrently with ISL381. Prerequisites: junior or senior standing, three years of college Spanish or equivalent, acceptance into the program by the internship committee.

Housing and Meals

As an integral part of our programs, our department offers our students the opportunity to stay with a host family in order to provide them with an invaluable experience. Beyond their normal schedules, the students have the opportunity to be immersed in the culture, customs, and the daily life of Cuenca; an enriching experience for both the students and for the families who host them, resulting in a true cultural exchange.

Taking into consideration that the experience of living with a host family in another country is a very important part of the international studies program, the Department of International Programs has a host family coordinator who is responsible for the careful selection of the families best suited to receive our students in their homes. The evaluation of potential host families will be based on the distance from their house to CEDEI, their motivation(s) for receiving a student, and the willingness and desire of the family to accommodate an international student while sharing their home and personal lives with them.

It is very important that the student fills out the ‘Homestay Questionnaire’ as honestly as possible. Once the homestay questionnaires have been received from our students, the coordinator will then discuss in detail the student preferences, personalities, and interests with their future Ecuadorian family. Our careful process is to assure a pleasant stay with the hopes of an unforgettable and rewarding experience through which our students will create bonds and close friendships with their host families.

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee includes orientation, ISEP coordinator, college fees, housing, and some meals.  

ISEP costs for Exchange are usually the most cost-effective, as it is intended to promote mobility of students around the world. Direct options are available for those students that prefer to attend a school with limited availability for Exchange, though costs may be different as they are set by the host school. For students that participate in ISEP Direct to Ecuador, the program fee includes all of the above plus insurance. However, the program fee may be different than that of Exchange.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2019/Spring 2020 programs:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost for Southern Hemisphere programs, as that starts a new academic year.


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Confirmation and Application Fees


ISEP-required health insurance (estimated, $90/mo)

Note: Some countries require national insurance, which may be instead of, or in addition to, ISEP insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of February 2019. We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Deposits to other programs, if required, are paid by the student to the host program, and will appear as a credit on your study abroad term bill from the College.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

  • Contact:

    For Questions About the Initial Application Process:

    Alexandra Olson
    Coordinator of the Global Engagement Office