Friday, September 9, 2011

Nick's First Day of School - Ecuadoran Style


This morning Nick started the 9th grade (8th grade in the US) at Unidad Educativa Santana which is an IB (International Baccalaureate) certified, private school located in Cuenca. All the classes are taught in Spanish with the exception of English class which is two hours per day. School begins at 7:40 AM, and is dismissed at 1:40 PM which includes two 15 minute breaks, but no lunch, and classes are held Monday-Friday.

To prepare Nick  to attend Santana he had Spanish lessons for five weeks, consisting of two hours each day Monday-Friday. After researching and choosing Santana we had to go through the application process. First task was to complete the application package, which consists of a copy of Nick's passport, a letter from the Ecuadoran Ministry of Education stating Nick's meets the requirements to attend a secondary school in Ecuador, and approving Santana as his school choice, a Health Certificate, school transcripts for the last two years, and a $50 application fee. Once the application package was turned in and accepted we had to pay the annual registration fee of $118. Next, we had to go through the testing process, which included testing in Mathematics, English Language, Spanish Language, and Psychological testing, and personal interviews with Nick, Susan, and I with the school Psychologist, and the Principal.  Wednesday, the day before school started Nick was officially accepted, and we purchased his school uniforms for $108. Last Saturday, Susan and I bought Nick's school supplies for $89, so he was ready to go this morning.

With school starting so early, we got up at 6:00 AM (yuck!), and were out the door by 7:15 to look for a taxi. Usually, we can walk out our building and find a taxi within 5 minutes,  but not today, the first day of school. We had to walk up the street a good ways until Susan finally was able to flag down a taxi. We arrived at school with 5 minutes to spare, and stood in the courtyard waiting for someone to point us in the right direction. Luckily, the Principal, her name is Margarita said Buenos Dias, and explained where Nick needed to go to meet his class adviser. After meeting the adviser, Susan and I left Nick alone in a new school, in a new language, and we had no idea how he would survive the day. Susan, and I walked part of the way home before catching the bus, and once home had second thoughts on what we had just done to our youngest child. Would he understand his teachers? Get frustrated by his minimal understanding of Spanish? Or be an outcast due to being a gringo?

In the afternoon, at around 2:30 the school bus/van dropped Nick off in the front of our building, and Susan was as excited as if Nick had just come home from his first day school ever. Nick was smiling (rare for a teenager), and told us school was fine, he made two friends, but could only remember one of their names (Lucas). He said the other kids in his class speak English, and he understood a little of what the teachers were saying. He doesn't change classrooms during the day which is helpful, and the different teachers come to the individual classrooms to teach the different subjects. Santana limits the 9th grade to only 50 students per year, and Nick's class has 22 students. He arrived home hungry, since he hadn't eaten since 6:30 in the morning, so he grabbed a snack, and we headed out the door to his Spanish lessons in El Centro.

So, the first day of school is over, and we can relax a little bit, because it was stressful going through the process of finding a school, the application process, and finally starting school. We will continue to write about Nick's school, and hopefully this will help anyone with school-age children who considering a move to Cuenca. Life is good.


  1. A poignant description of the trials, hope and angst of parenting at this stage. Good for each of you! How is it going for Nicholas so far? My best wishes are with him as he walks into that school each day. And with the parents in this transition and new adventure. sharon

  2. Nick has made a friend at school, and so far he hasn't complained too much, so that is a good start. Thank you for the comments.

  3. Your posts have been very informative! I have enjoyed reading your perspective and look forward to more.


  4. We may be doing the same thing with our 9 year old son. What is the tuition costs there? Seems like that is rarely disclosed on web sites. How is Nick liking the new school and the new everything?

    thanks for sharing this experience.


  5. How much is the school per year? We are going to be moving with our son in the next two years. If you don't want to post here can you e-mail it to me at ysrgroup at Thank you.