Pitt in Ecuador - June Session

Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. The Andes and Amazon Field School, our partner organization is located on a 1300-acre preserve along the Napo River in the Amazon Rainforest. You will have open-air, screened-in dorms and classrooms with modern day conveniences right along the Napo River. Three meals a day will be prepared for you by local community members. The program has a summer-camp atmosphere with several local excursions, hikes through the forest and time spent around the fire at night.
This 6-credit program is just shy of 4-weeks. It is designed for students interested in healthcare, indigenous communities and culture. You will explore Health and Nutrition of the Quichua People, Ecuador’s progressive healthcare system and indigenous medicine. You don't need to have studied Spanish to participate in Pitt in Ecuador- all courses are taught in English. It is the perfect location and program to explore new ways of preserving biodiversity in the Amazonian forest and sustainability of Amazonian communities.

What You'll Accomplish

As an engaged and active participant in this program, you will have the opportunity to develop:

  • an understanding of the concerns of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador and the Amazonian region including: nutrition, infectious diseases, environmental change and health policies. 
  • similarities and differences between traditional Ecuadorian medicine/assessment vs biomedical assessment of risk and solutions.
  • traditional pottery skills and learn about pottery's influence on the environment and use in everyday life.  

The Andes and Amazon Field School is located at the Iyarina lodge in the Napo region of Ecuador. Students will fly into Quito, Ecuador where they will meet as a group and explore the city before heading east to Iyarina. The Field School is located on the South bank of the Napo River, 100 miles east of Quito, and 10 miles from the town of Tena, Ecuador (population: 28,800), the provincial capital. You will travel by bus from Quito to the Field School. It is approxiamtely a 4-hour ride with many turns and changes in elevation. There are several cultural stops along the way to break-up the trip. The Field School is approximately 1965 feet above sea level the area is characterized by small Quichua communities clustered along the river bank. The forest surrounding these communities is among the most bio-diverse in the world with a high number of endemic species of flora and fauna. Iyarina is located directly on the waterfront surrounded by a 1380 acre rainforest reserve.
Temperatures and precipitation vary based on the season. Temperatures are typically temperate. In June, the temperatures are pretty mild can average 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Temperatures cool off at night and there’s also always potential for rain. It is a good idea to pack a light, waterproof/resistant jacket.

Where You'll Live

Students will live and take classes on site at the Andes and Amazon Field School. The program has a summer camp feel with open-air dorm room style cabins. The cabins are screened in and bug nets are also available for additional protection. The bedrooms in the cabin are spacious with modern-day amenities with an incredible view that overlooks the river and forest.. You can expect the following at the Andes and Amazon Field School:

  • Two to three students per room
  • En-suite bathrooms with hot running water
  • High-quality mattresses
  • Three meals per day are included.
    • Single menu du jour is served family style
    • Meals consist of traditional Ecuadorian food and American dishes
    • Vegetarian options are available upon request
    • Good idea to bring/buy snack food to sustain you through meals
  • Open air classrooms overlooking the Rio Napo with projection and outlets
  • Fire pit for relaxing at night and small discussion space

We do our best to provide the most accurate information about housing and amenities but due to the nature of the locations in which we offer programs and limited availability, these items are subject to change.  Contact your program manager with any questions. 

What You'll Study

You'll earn a total of 6 credits on the Pitt in Ecuador-June program. Everyone who participates on the program will take the same courses, which are taught at the Andes & Amazon Field School. The Health, Population and Nutrition course is typically taught by a Pitt Instructor or an instructor who formerly attended Pitt. The Amazonian Arts: Making and Meaning course will be taught by local faculty. Both courses will be taught in English. In these courses you will study:

  • Concerns of indigenous peoples in Ecuador and the Amazonian region, including nutrition, infectious diseases, environmental change and health policies
  • Traditional arts of the Amazonian region in the context of their function and meaning

Full course descriptions and syllabi are available below. If you are seeking to count these courses towards a major, minor or certificate, please meet with your advisor to discuss this program and what the courses will fulfill for you. Information about how the courses on this program count towards general education requirements for different schools and campuses can be found here.

Health, Population and Nutrition of the Kichwa People I (ANTH1713)

The course is designed for students interested in health,  health-related fields or anthropology. It uses readings, lectures, field trips and research with Kichwa people to explore major issues in global health as applied to the context of Ecuador and the Amazonian region. These include the negotiation between biomedical assessment of health risks and solutions on the one hand and those of the indigenous medicine practiced by a majority of the population on the other. By focusing on the concrete case of the Amazon the course prepares students to understand the increasingly global context of contemporary healthcare practice. The course builds skills and experience that will be useful in working in cross-cultural medicine anywhere.

Amazonian Arts: Making and Meaning (ANTH1548)

This course introduces students to the visual arts, poetry, music, and dance of the Amazonian region in the context of their function and meaning. The course will be taught as a combination of lecture and hands-on experience working with Native potters from the Bobonaza River. Students will learn to make pottery in the Kichwa (Quichua) tradition, and to understand the role of pottery and material culture in the daily lives of people in this region. On a number of occasions, students will accompany the Native potters on journeys into the adjacent forest to gather materials and to study the patterns in nature that inspire them. Here students will observe related arts such as face paint patterns, beaded ornaments, ritual singing and storytelling. Carefully selected readings and lectures will use these arts as a window for exploring Amazonian thinking about the natural world behind the designs, and the ways in which the designs can be used to understand patterns of social interaction. Interviews with potters will aid in understanding these arts in the context of daily and ceremonial life. In the process, the arts become a doorway allowing the student to explore Amazonian culture and environment first hand. Comparative material from several other world regions will also be discussed.


The University of Pittsburgh partners with the Andes and Amazon Field School for this program. In 1999 Tod Swanson founded the Andes and Amazon Field School in his wife's home community on the Napo River. Swanson's administrative experience includes having directed Arizona State University's Center for Latin American Studies as a Title VI National Resource Center from 1997-2007.  He has also held elected office as a councilman for environmental affairs for the Santu Urku Amazonian Kichwa Community. Contact Tod Swanson.
The mission of the Andes and Amazon Field School is to provide quality in-country education on the Ecuadorian Amazon in a safe and comfortable setting.  Each summer we bring together a top group of academic and indigenous experts for 8 weeks of learning and research.  Together with students we seek to interpret and preserve the culture and environment of the region and to find practical solutions for a sustainable future. 
The name of the station that hosts the Field School in Ecuador is in Ecuador is  "Iyarina," (ee-yah-ree-nah), a Quichua word that means to think about the future by remembering the past. According to Quichua tradition memory is recorded in the land.  Iyarina, therefore, means to remember by contemplating the land.  This act of remembering lies at the heart of our efforts to record and preserve Amazonian tradition. 

The courses that are not taught by Pitt Faculty or Pitt-Affiliated Faculty will be taught by local adjunct faculty members.

Your Pitt Study Abroad Contacts

Tim Crawford

Hi Everyone! I’m Tim, and I am the Assistant Director for Domestic Study Away Programming. I have experience running international study abroad programs and programs here at home in the United States. I was fortunate to have many experiential learning opportunities, both international and domestic, during my college career. Being from a small town in Central Pennsylvania, my experiences opened my eyes to the rest of the world and helped open my eyes to different cultures and career opportunities I’d love to help you take advantage of the numerous experiential learning opportunities here at Pitt. Outside of the office, I’m always looking for the next adventure. I love traveling, hate sitting still and love doing anything outdoors, in all seasons. Personally, I’m on a quest to visit as many national parks as possible. I’d love to talk to you more about any of our study away programs, answer any of your questions and help you find the right opportunity. Please reach me via email at timcrawford@pitt.edu

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Your In-Country Contacts

Tod Swanson

Tod Swanson, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, PhD University of Chicago, is the on-site director for the Pitt in Ecuador program.  He is a specialist in Amazonian culture and environment.   His areas of research includes indigenous relations to plant and animal species and Kichwa linguistics. Swanson manages the 1300 acre Iyarina Forest Preserve as an ongoing experiment in sustaining of fragmented Amazonian forest. 
In 1999 Swanson founded the Andes and Amazon Field School in his wife's home community on the Napo River. Swanson's administrative experience includes having directed Arizona State University's Center for Latin American Studies as a Title VI National Resource Center from 1997-2007.  He has also held elected office as a councilman for environmental affairs for the Santu Urku Amazonian Kichwa Community. Contact Tod Swanson.


Items Billed by Pitt

  In-State Out-of-State
Tuition $4,656 $4,856
Program Fee $544 $544
Study Abroad Fee $300 $300
Total Billed by Pitt $5500 $5700

Estimated Additional Out-of-Pocket Costs

Airfare $1000-$1200
Personal Expenses $500-$1000
Local Cell Phone $100
Vaccinations $100-$200

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

The amounts above are for the 2019-2020 academic year and should be used as estimates only. Pricing for 2020-2021 will be posted and announced in the fall term.

What's Included

As a part of your Ecuador - June program fee, the following are included in the program:

  • Tuition for six credits
  • Airport transfers upon arrival and departure (group transfer only)
  • Transportation from Quito to the Andes and Amazon Field School
  • Three family style meals a day while at AAFS
  • International travel health insurance
  • Cultural activities

Remember that your lifestyle and spending choices can greatly affect the amount of money you'll need while abroad.  Visit our Budgeting page for more information.

When You'll Go

Dates for the 2020-2021 academic year will be posted in the fall! 


What Else You Need to Know
  • You will fly into Quito, Ecuador and fly home from Quito, Ecuador at the end of the program. You are required to book your flights within the arrival/departure window set by your program manager.
  • The field school is tucked in the rainforest along the Napo River and located about 3 kilometers from the town of Tena. It is about a three hour bus ride from Quito to the Field School. If you get motion sickness, you may want to bring motion sickness medication.
  • You will have many opportunities to go into Tena via bus or local taxi
  • Classrooms are held in open air rooms.
  • Some classes will involve hiking in the forest for a few hours. Rubber boots are provided, but it's probably a good idea to bring a pair of hiking shoes.
  • While are you staying and living in a tropical rainforest, temperatures can still become cool at night or at elevation. Make sure to pack a light jacket, sweatshirt and pants.
  • Three meals a day are included. Accommodations for dietary restrictions and preferences can be made, but there may be limited alternative options based on the kitchen size and staffing. Important to purchase snacks as sometimes excursions in the field may delay a meal.
  • Flexibility is extremely important. Schedules may change.
  • Remember that this is an academic program and that you should expect to invest the same amount of time and effort on your courses abroad as you would on a course at Pitt. 
  • You will need to bring a laptop or tablet with you
  • There is internet and wifi, but it may be slower than you're used to in the U.S. There may be restrictions on using it at certain times throughout the day. You will still be able to communicate with your families, stay in touch with friends and use it for academic coursework.
  • There will be bugs. 
  • The juice at breakfast is phenomenal