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Conexiones Ecuador 2018 Study Abroad

MAY 24 - JUNE 23, 2018

Conexiones Ecuador Mountain Top Group Photo

The University of New Mexico, through the Honors College and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, presents Conexiones—an intensive program of Culture and Language study at UNM and at the field site of Cuenca, Ecuador. Conexiones offers students up to ten semester hours of credit, with orientation sessions at UNM and abroad and approximately thirty days of field session.

Conexiones offers students an extraordinary and unique experience. Ecuador is a country rich in diversity. It has the greatest biodiversity per area in the world: it occupies the first place in the world regarding species per area. In addition, the geographical diversity includes coastal lowlands, the highland Andes, and the Amazon rainforest, as well as the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador is also home to a rich variety of ethnic groups of indigenous populations, which speak 18 different languages among them. Don’t worry, however: we will focus on Spanish!

The field session will start with arrival in the capitol city of Quito, where we will stay 3 days before continuing the next morning on to our field site in the colonial city of Cuenca nestled among mountains at 8400 feet.

Students will live with a host family in Cuenca for four weeks. They will attend Spanish classes at the Universidad de Cuenca’s Programa de Español para Extranjeros, which is located in the heart of the city. All the families live within walking distance of the university. Weekly excursions are part of the program, including a hike in El Cajas National Park and research field study in indigenous communities.


Conexiones is an intensive Spanish language and culture study abroad program. Conexiones began in 1982 and has since become a premier language study program. In 2013 Conexiones was awarded the“Provost’s Special Program Award for International Excellence.”  

Ecuador Inca Trail


Conexiones immerses students in the living, breathing reality of Ecuadorian society. The key to the Conexiones approach is integration. Conexiones fuses language study with cultural exploration. Intellectual, linguistic, and personal growth are seen as a unified process. The program is designed to expedite that process. The program is open to all applicants. Prior participation in the Honors College is not required. A unique feature of Conexiones is the support groups, which emphasize personal growth and help students to understand culture shock as a positive (if sometimes uncomfortable) growth experience.


Students will live with a host family in Cuenca, Ecuador. Cuenca is located at 8400 feet and is surrounded by vistas of the Andean mountains. The city skyline is dominated by domes of many colonial churches and convents. The cobblestone streets, ironwork balconies, and the river winding though the city add to the charm of Cuenca. In 1999 UNESCO declared Cuenca a “World Cultural Heritage Site.”

During our long weekend excursions students will be lodged in ecolodges, hostels, or hotels. Expenses of room and board are covered for all program travel.


Applicants must have finished two semesters of College Spanish or the equivalent. Applicants should have a minimum of 3.2 GPA; however, students with a lower GPA may apply since all applications will be considered individually and exceptions may be made. Students with “Degree Status” and “Non-degree Status” may apply. Once students are accepted into the program, they will be required to complete some written assignments based on readings. Deadlines will be communicated to the students when they are accepted into the program.


Applying to Conexiones is easy! The application is a .pdf document which you can save to your computer or flash drive and print once completed. 

Early Application Deadline: Friday, February 16, 2018. The early application deadline guarantees a place in the program and, if students are accepted, they will have time to apply for the Regents’ International Study Grant (See Financial Aid)
Regular Application Deadline: Friday, March 16, 2018


In addition to the application process through the Honors College, students will need to register with the Global Education Office and follow their procedures for providing the necessary documentation (copies of passports, health insurance, etc). Click here to visit the GEO website and familiarize yourself with those requirements.

Students who decide to complete the hard copy Conexiones application should return their completed application packet to the mailing address below or hand-deliver your application to the UNM Honors College which is located on the ground floor of the Student Health Center (Building 73, Room 21).  Hard copies of the Conexiones Ecuador application can be picked up in the Honors College front office.

Once completed, applications should be returned to:

Conexiones: Ecuador
Attn: Margo Chávez-Charles
UNM Honors College
MSC06 3890 1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001


The Conexiones Program fee is $2300. The Conexiones fee covers room and board in Ecuador for approximately 30 days. The fee covers in-country travel expenses, as well as entrances to museums or special events, and all excursions. The fee also covers the Spanish instruction for 3 credit hours. 

Not included is the travel to and from Ecuador. Not included is the UNM tuition for 6 credit hours of Honors classes (required) and 4 hours of Spanish. Out-of-state students should note that non-resident summer tuition is the same as resident tuition.

See further information on the Financial Aid page, regarding travel stipends and scholarships available.


Honors Travel Stipend
Honors students are eligible to apply for the Honors Travel Stipend. A hard copy of your completed application must be submitted in-person to the Honors College front office. Applications should be submitted by March 15, 2018. 


Annette Mares-Duran from the UNM GEO Office will be holding a Gilman International Scholarship workshop on Tuesday February 20th from 3:00pm-4:30pm in the Career Services Conference Room. Students must be an undergraduate student, receiving a federal pell grant, and participating in a program that is at least 3 weeks long in late spring/summer.

UNM Regents' International Study Grant

The UNM Board of Regents does provide international study grants in an effort to increase the number of UNM students participating in credit-granting international programs, and to heighten international awareness and expertise among students and the public.  APPLY FOR THE REGENTS GRANT NOW.

You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • a degree-seeking undergraduate UNM student,
  • in good academic standing at UNM,
  • planning to participate in an approved UNM study abroad program,
  • able to receive UNM credits or transfer credits for the international program, and
  • demonstrate financial need.

The deadline for the Regents' Grant is March 15 for spring break, summer and fall programs. Students who plan to apply for this grant for Conexiones must also meet the February 16 Conexiones Program early application deadline.

Travel Info

Students will make their own arrangements for their round trip travel from the U.S. to Ecuador. Students will meet in Quito on May 24and spend 3 nights at a hotel with the entire group. On the morning of May 27 the group will take a flight from Quito to Cuenca, our home site. The flight from Quito to Cuenca is arranged by the program, and that expense is covered by the program. After the program has officially ended on June 23, students are encouraged to stay for an optional week of independent travel. Students are responsible for their expenses during the extra travel after the program ends.  

Important Travel Dates

Travel to Quito, Ecuador: May 24, 2018, staying in Quito May 24-27

Travel to Cuenca from Quito: May 27, 2018

Field Study in Ecuador: May 27- June 23, 2018

Optional Free Week of Travel: June 23 – June 30, 2018 

Travel Back to New Mexico: June 23 or June 30, 2018

Tickets, Passports, and More

Students travel to Ecuador at their own expense. Due to the rising costs of air travel and to the fact that group discount rates are not always the most advantageous rates, Conexiones encourages students to find their own best airfare. We will provide recommendations, but students will be responsible for making their own travel arrangements. We will also try to facilitate students traveling together.

In order to ensure that you have made your reservations in a timely manner, we will require that you provide a copy of your ticket or e-ticket by the date in the spring that will be communicated to you. You must arrive in Quito by the evening of May 24 so that we can travel from the airport to the hotel together.

Passports and Insurance

A passport is required for travel to Ecuador. Applicants who are U.S. citizens do not need a visa. To apply for a passport, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website:

All students are required to have accident and medical insurance coverage for the duration of the program. The Global Education Office at UNM has information regarding insurance. 

The program director will also provide information on insurance. Students are encouraged to buy a Student Identification Card from the Student Travel Assistance (STA) office (details will be provided in information meetings).


Students participating in the Conexiones program sign up for two classes in the Honors College and one class in the Spanish Department. The Honors classes are:

UHON 301-030 Conexiones Ecuador (3 credits)
Instructor: Marygold Walsh-Dilley

This course is an in-depth examination of Ecuador’s culture and history and it is experientially based. It features investigative assignments to be completed in Cuenca an in surrounding sites, and during the field excursions within the region. The richness of Cuenca’s history and cultures and architecture make the culture study a unique experience in which students learn in the field the connections of space, time, and culture of Ecuador’s past and present. Requirements for this class include field study in Spanish with completion of Cuaderno (workbook) activities and a final research presentation at UNM.

UHON 498  Individual Experiential Study: Research Methods (3 credits)
Instructor: Marygold Walsh-Dilley

Students will deepen thier knowledge through qualitative research methods used in the social scieces. Focusing on the theme "Food, Sovereignty, and Development", the class will practice their growing skills in a variety of settings in Cuenca and beyond before participating in original field research on food production, livelihood formation, and rural development in Kichwa communities in the highland province of Cañar.

Students will also sign up for two Spanish courses for 4 credit hours and a maximum of 10 credit hours for the entire program. Conexiones students attend small Spanish classes daily (two and a half hours daily), taught by local instructors of the University of Cuenca, accustomed to working with US students. Experiential assignments in Spanish dovetail with work in the Honors culture study course. All students must register for one of the following courses:

Spanish 200 Intermediate Spanish Abroad (3 credits)

This course focuses on communication in the Spanish language. Through a conversational and experiential approach, students will study the grammar and analyze the structures of the language. Within the rich context of the local environment, students will use the Ecuadorian culture to provide topics for communicative activities.

Spanish 301 Topics on Ecuador Culture (3 credits)

This intermediate Spanish class focuses on the reinforcement of the competencies in basic Spanish, but with emphasis on oral expression and reading, without ignoring written expression and listening comprehension. To achieve this goal, this class employs primary sources of the Ecuadorian culture in its different expression: literature, music, cinema, and more. There are readings, conversational activities, oral presentations, and written assignments to evaluate progress in the class.

Spanish 439 Literature and/or Cinema (3 credits)

This Spanish class focuses on studying the literature of the country. The readings can be complemented through other means such as cinema to refine the understanding of the stories and to support the analysis of the readings.

In addition, each student signs up for a 1 hour Spanish conversation class. 

Students are required to purchase a text of readings and read assigned selections from the text in preparation for the field study. Students will be informed of assignments at the first meetings. 



Marygold Walsh-Dilley

Marygold Walsh-Dilley

Marygold Walsh-Dilley is Director of CONEXIONES-Ecuador 2018. Holding a PhD in Development Sociology, Marygold is Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the Honors College at UNM. She has over 15 years experience conducting research and living in the Andes, including in Ecuador where she was a co-leader for CONEXIONES-Ecuador 2016. Her research focuses on rural and agricultural development, food systems, and indigenous politics in the Andean region. In the Honors College, she teaches courses on Food & Society, Andean Studies, and Indigenous Peoples and Globalization. 

Margo Chavez-Charles

Margo Chavez-Charles

CONEXIONES Coordinator and co-leader Margo Chavez-Charles has vast experience working with the Conexiones Program since 1987. She has served as the Director or co-director in the various Conexiones Programs in Mexico, Spain, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. She is an adjunct instructor in the Honors College, teaching interdisciplinary classes. She has also taught Spanish in Santa Fe and ESL in various countries.

Santiago Vaquera-Vasquez

Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez

Co-leader and Spanish coordinator of Spanish instruction, Santiago Vaquera-Vásquez is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Southwest Literatures and Cultures and Creative Writing in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at UNM. He was a former co-director of Conexiones-Ecuador in 2014, and has over the last twenty years directed study abroad programs to Latin America and Spain. As a Fulbright scholar, he has taught in Spain and Turkey. He has three collections of short stories and a chapbook, and his most recent book is a co-edited anthology of scholarly work on Latinos/as in the Midwest. His research focus is on Chicano/a cultural production, Mexico/US borderlands, and communities in contact. He teaches courses on Chicana/o Popular Culture and Borderlands in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.



Home Base: Cuenca

Conexiones-Ecuador is hosted by the University of Cuenca, in Cuenca, Ecuador. Located on the southern highlands at an altitude of 8,200 feet above sea level, Cuenca has been UNESCO World Heritage Trust site for its Spanish colonial architecture dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries. Cuenca is the capital city of Azuay Province. While attending classes at the University of Cuenca, Conexiones students live with host families and participate in the civic and cultural life of the city. We will be in Cuenca for the festival of Corpus Cristi, which is celebrated on the main plaza with fireworks, sweet treats, and other festivities.


Excursion #1) Quito, including Otavalo and Agroecology Institute

We will arrive in Ecuador with a weekend excursion to Quito, capital city of Ecuador, Otavalo, a nearby market town rich with indigenous culture and history, and the Intercultural Center for Agroecological Training. We will stay in Quito’s Ciudad Antigua, “Old Town”, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. This excursion will connect us to the indigenous and colonial histories that shape contemporary Ecuadorian cultural life. We will also visit Ecuador’s National Intercultural Center for Agroecological Training (CINCA) to learn more about indigenous agricultural production and sustainable agriculture in Ecuador.

Quito --  Ciudad Antigua

Quito-Cuidad Antigua



Photo source:

By Sputnikcccp -, CC BY-SA 3.0,

CINCA: National Intercultural Center for Agroecological Training

Excursion #2: El Cajas National Park

Parque Nacional Cajas is a highland conservation area of tundra, lakes, and hills that straddles the continental divide. Designated a “Wetland of International Importance” and an “Important Bird and Biodiversity Area”, El Cajas is home to a biodiverse variety of plants and animals, many of which are endemic to the area. It is the origination site for two of the rivers that flow through Cuenca, the Tomebamba and the Yanuncay. In El Cajas we will take a guided hike.

Cajas National Park

Parque Nacional Cajas is a highland conservation area of tundra, lakes, and hills that straddles the continental divide. Designated a “Wetland of International Importance” and an “Important Bird and Biodiversity Area”, El Cajas is home to a biodiverse variety of plants and animals, many of which are endemic to the area. It is the origination site for two of the rivers that flow through Cuenca, the Tomebamba and the Yanuncay. In El Cajas we will take a guided hike.


Excursion #3: Chordaleg, Gualaceo, and Ecuagenera Orchid Farm



In the town of Chordeleg, we will learn about their particular artistic style of silver jewelry.



We will visit the town of Gualaceo and learn about its particular style of textiles as well as its Orquideario (orchard nursery).  


Ecuagenera is a small family owned company focusing on conservation and propagation of orchids. We will tour their facilities to learn about orchid propagation and see their collection of over 8,000 orchid varieties.

Excursion #4: Saraguro

Saraguro is a village and region South of Cuenca that is home to the Saraguro people, an indigenous nation that has maintained its ethnic identity and continues traditional ceremonial, cultural, and handicraft practices. In Saraguro we will be introduced to ancestral weaving techniques, felt hat-making, indigenous ceremonies, agricultural production, and traditional foods of the region. 


Excursion #5: Inga Pirca and Cañar


Inga Pirca is a site occupied first by the Cañari indigenous people, who called it Hatun Cañar, and then conquered by the Inca Empire. Today the site is considered the largest known Inca ruins in  Ecuador. The astronomical observatory was built under Inca Huayna Capac. They renamed the city and kept most of their individual customs separate. Although the Inca were more numerous, they did not demand that the Cañari give up their autonomy.

Satellite map:


In Cañar, students will get a chance to conduct research on rural development and agricultural production with indigenous households in the region.  We will visit Mushuk Yuyay, a local agricultural cooperative, and spend the afternoon with families, including a typical lunch of potatoes and cuy.

Program Sponsors

Since 1982 Conexiones has been a premier Spanish language and culture study abroad program. It is sponsored by the Honors College in collaboration with the Spanish and Portuguese Department at UNM. If you would like to become a contributor to this program, please contact the UNM Honors College and 505-277-4211.