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The UW-Madison Summer Field School for the Study of Language, Culture and Community Health in Ecuador is unique in its emphasis on the cultural context as a prism through which to understand health and healing. Some clinical experiences help fill out this context, but the foundation for the program is built upon medical anthropology and community health in the broad sense, which includes the relationships between people and their animals. The cultural context is woven through field and classroom study of languages, culture and community-based health care in the Andean and Coastal regions of Ecuador for an interdisciplinary group of UW-Madison health science students.
The course offers a five-week immersion opportunity to study Spanish and cross-cultural issues relating to health care in a developing country. Students will learn valuable language skills and will examine the complex cultural, ecological, socioeconomic, political and biomedical factors influencing human and animal health in the Andean and Coastal regions of Ecuador. Students will be exposed to the interface between Western medicine and indigenous health care practices in Ecuador and will learn about global public health issues through classroom and experiential field activities.
Otavalo is a largely indigenous town in Imbabura Province, Ecuador. The town, which is in a valley, is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura, Cotacachi, and Mojanda volcanoes.The Otavalo Indians are famous for the weaving of textiles, a practice which they have had for 400 years. Otavalo was traditionally an area made up principally of farming communities, but with the growth of tourism the town has begun to focus more on the making of handicrafts which have made the Saturday market a popular stop with visitors to Ecuador. Tourism had become the town's main industry and as a result many hotels have been set up in colonial buildings along with a number of restaurants. Otavalo is also known for its Inca-influenced traditional music and musicians. There are many musical groups currently traveling around the world promoting Inca music.
Getting to Your Program
Students make their own travel arrangements but are given guidelines for arrival dates and times.
A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for this program. U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program.
Students staying on after the program should consult the Ecuador Embassy: http://www.ecuador.org/nuevosite/serviciosconsulares_visas_e.php
if the visit exceeds 90 days.
Students attend an orientation to the course in Madison prior to their departure for Ecuador. The orientation provides an overview of the course structure, cultural norms and expectations, health and safety precautions, and advance planning for community health field activities. There will also be an on-site orientation upon arrival in Ecuador.
Housing is included for the duration of the program. Students live with host families in Otavalo. During orientation in Quito, students will stay in a local hotel. There will also be a week-long trip to a rural health care project in the Coastal region of Ecuador. Most meals are provided. Dietary preferences of students usually can be accommodated.
Excursions and Activities
The majority of instruction will occur in Otavalo, a community in the Andean highlands. Students will visit clinics and health centers and will participate in community assessments and other community activities. Field trips will include cultural events and visits to scenic natural areas. Past site visits have included an animal market, local healers, clinics, the indigenous communities of Yambiro and La Calera, and river rafting.
You will be enrolled in the UW System required health insurance through Cultural Insurance Services International (CISI) and the cost of the insurance coverage is included in program fees.
A faculty member from Bellarmine University will be the Resident Director.
Use the links below to find out more information on academics, daily life and student impressions for this program.Ecuador, Otavalo handbook 2013
(Summer - 2012-13)
Returned Student Network
to contact a returned student.
How to Apply
First complete the IAP Online Application. The following supplemental application materials will become available to you through the application portal:
Summer Program Forms
Global Health Study Abroad Essay
Unofficial Transcript (Student Record)
Unofficial Undergrad Transcript (Student Record)
Forms are subject to change. Complete the forms according to the checklist provided to you in the online application portal.
After the Deadline
IAP will review your application and make the final admissions decision. You will be notified of the admissions decision via email.
Students participate in two concurrent academic activities throughout the program. Students will study Spanish at a language institute the Amazon and in Otavalo while simultaneously engaging in lecture, discussion and field activities focused on health-related course content. Participants will be awarded five UW-Madison credits upon successful completion of the program - three credits for PHS 645 and two Spanish credits.
In this interdisciplinary setting, students will think critically about connections between cultural variables and human and animal health and disease, will gain firsthand experience with cultural and medical issues in a developing country, and will develop an understanding of the theoretical and empirical foundations of medical anthropology. The course is designed so students will develop cross-cultural skills that will ideally grow into personal and professional assets for future health care practice.
On most days, students will study Spanish in the morning and will have two to three hours of additional class in the afternoon. Afternoon sessions will consist of faculty- and student-led discussions on a variety of topic areas. Throughout the course, the class will consider how biological/scientific approaches to health can intersect or conflict with more culturally based approaches and will engage in such questions as: how can a cultural understanding of the body and its various conditions improve the understanding and delivery of health care?
A faculty member from Bellarmine University will serve as Resident Director in Ecuador. Students will also hear lectures from UW-Madison faculty and from local specialists.
Use the links below to see a list of courses that students have taken on this program before and the UW equivalents. Note: this list only includes pre-approved courses for your program and may not be an exhaustive list of courses or departments. You will get instructions on the course equivalent process after acceptance.
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