Tropical Conservation Semester – Preparing to Go

Congratulations on your acceptance to the Tropical Conservation Semester in Ecuador!  We are excited to have you join this unique learning adventure, and can’t wait to meet you in Quito.

Enrollments Steps and Preparing for Your Trip:

We must receive your enrollment form by Monday, October 30 or your spot may be awarded to an applicant on the waiting list.  This form asks you to submit contact and medical information, and requests your preferences for your future host families in Quito and the Galapagos.  The other materials on the list below may be submitted after the enrollment deadline, but for some (e.g., obtaining a passport) you may need to get started right away.  Please read the following list of enrollment steps carefully.

  1. Fill out the online Enrollment Form by the enrollment deadline.  Please note this link redirects you to a Google Form; you cannot save this form, so make sure you have all information on hand before starting.
  2. Read the TCS packet and FAQ about traveling to Ecuador.
  3. Sign the TCS_liability_release and mail it with your original signature to Ceiba.
  4. If you don’t yet have one, apply for a passport immediately and email a scanned copy of the photo page to Ceiba.
  5. Purchase your plane ticket and submit your travel itinerary to the UW study abroad office.
  6. Obtain a Yellow Fever vaccination (see details below), and email a color scan of your signed vaccine certificate to Ceiba.
  7. Take an online Spanish placement exam (instructions will be emailed to you).
  8. Purchase course textbooks (Spanish texts will be provided in Ecuador) and other required materials.  See the TCSpacket-web for lists of what to bring!
  9. Pay your program tuition.  The University of Wisconsin or your home institution will bill you for tuition and administrative fees.
  10. Obtain your visa, a two-step process mostly completed in Ecuador (see instructions below).


You must have a valid passport to travel to Ecuador, and it must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates (i.e., your return flight to the USA). If you do not have a passport, apply for one immediately. It can take up to 6 weeks to obtain a passport, and you cannot apply for a visa until you have one. Passport applications can be completed at most large US Post Offices or State Department offices.  For more information visit the U.S. State Department passport website. As soon as you receive your passport, please email us a color scan of it (as jpeg or pdf) if you have not already included this at the time you applied.

Visa Information

All students will need a visa for the length of the program, nearly five months.  In recent years, this process has become much easier:  you don’t have to do anything special before departure!  Simply request a Tourist Visa at the airport upon your arrival.  This visa is valid for 90 days.  Once you are settled in Ecuador, you will work with our local university partner and the Ministerio del Interiór in Quito to extend that visa in order to cover your entire stay; however, Ecuador has a habit of switching the rules at the last minute, so prepare to be flexible, and patient!  The cost of the visa extension, at present, is $120 and so please budget your cash accordingly (the Ministerio does not accept credit cards).  Please be aware that you cannot attend this program without obtaining a visa, and Ceiba is not responsible for the consequences, financial or otherwise, if you do not secure a proper visa.

Travel Itinerary

We recommend you purchase your ticket to Ecuador as soon as possible to get the best available fare on the recommended arrival date.  Your acceptance and enrollment letter contains details about the recommended arrival and departure dates.

Many flights arrive late at night, or early the following morning (e.g., 2:00 am!) — don’t worry, you will be picked up at the airport as long as you arrive on the recommended date or early the following morning. As soon as you purchase your ticket, please submit your travel itinerary through UW’s Study Abroad website.  Since we use this information to schedule your airport pickup, you must notify Ceiba of any changes to this itinerary prior to your departure.  We also recommend you communicate with your host family about your travel arrangements, to make sure they will be able to meet you; you will receive contact information for your host family a few weeks after the enrollment deadline.  Please see the FAQ sheet for more details on arriving in Ecuador.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

You must obtain a valid yellow fever vaccination to travel to the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in the Amazon rainforest.  You will be asked to present proof of vaccination, typically in the form of a standard “Yellow Book” immunization record, which you should ask your physician to complete when you are vaccinated.  The vaccination is a simple shot that can be obtained from most health clinics, personal physicians or travel clinics; it is valid 10 days after being administered.  Although yellow fever is not a concern at the Tiputini station, proof of vaccination is an inflexible requirement, and no exceptions will be made.

For additional information on travelers’ health, vaccinations, and preventative medications, please consult the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your university health or travel clinic, or your personal physician.

TCS Program Packet & Frequently Asked Questions

You must read the TCS Packet prior to traveling to Ecuador. The packet contains important information on the sites we visit, what to bring, course content and activities, required textbooks, and travel details. Pay careful attention to the textbook and packing lists, many of these items are absolutely necessary during the program and can be difficult or impossible to obtain in Ecuador.

Please read the FAQ for the Tropical Conservation Semester.  Included are answers to common inquiries about preparation, arrival and living in Ecuador, health and safety, contacting home, computers, money, cell phones, diet, and much more.

Of course, we are here to help you should you need us! Feel free to contact Ceiba at any time.

Program Tuition

If you are applying through the University of Wisconsin’s Office of International Programs (email), you will receive a bill from the UW Bursar for the program tuition plus administrative fees; if you are not a UW student you may receive this bill directly from your home institution.

U.S. and Canadian participants should contact the UW study abroad office with any questions on tuition payment. Participants from outside the U.S. and Canada should contact Ceiba for tuition payment instructions.