HECUA

Provider

HECUA (Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs) is an NPO comprised of 22 different liberal arts colleges, universities and associations, all of which are dedicated to education for social justice, offering study abroad programs that address pressing issues in various nations and neighborhoods around the world. HECUA enriches each institution with interdisciplinary programs and activities through cross-institutional cooperation.

Programs from HECUA

Program Reviews

  • Rachel
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Northfield, MN
    Other
    10/10
    Until the Cows Come Home--
    04/10/2016

    Our time in Ecuador was full of incredible adventures! From hiking towering mountains to birdwatching above the rainforest canopy to interacting with social activists in Quito, Ecuador. We were truly immersed as we got to spend time with our host families navigating the city, exploring deep into the Amazon Rainforest, and traveling north to Imbabura province for an experience of rural Ecuadorian life.

    The Amazon was a time of deep reflection as we came to terms with the unparalleled biodiversity with the realities of oil drilling. One of my favorite experiences was our night hike. We were able to see extremely unique wildlife-- I have no idea how our guides noticed them all! I was utterly taken aback by the beauty and expansiveness of the sky on this night. Far removed from light pollution, these were some of the most breath-taking stars I have ever seen.

    Our other excursion was to the northern province of Imbabura! My classmates and I had gone to the field with our host mother to help with her evening chores. Our task that night was herding the cows back home. Unfortunately, my peers and I were quite inept at this task, losing the cows until we had to run after and chase them back onto the path. We looked back to see our host mother laughing at us. Needless to say, we decided it was better if we stuck to collecting vegetables for dinner!

    How could this program be improved?

    I would recommend that there are more scheduled evening events to help us immerse in the culture through theater, arts, music, and sports.

    Photos:
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  • Tatum
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Northfield, MN
    Saint Olaf College
    10/10
    HECUA Ecuador was "quito" incredible!
    04/06/2016

    I think part of the beauty of this program is the fact that you are living with fantastic host families that provide you the freedom to explore the city of Quito on your own. The program leaders also highly encourage that, with a degree of safety, of course. Everyone that HECUA put us students in contact with were willing to do anything with us because they really wanted us to experience all of Quito, and Ecuador for that matter. One of my favorite memories from the trip was something that a group of us students decided to do on our own the last day we were there. One of the host fathers was a professional mountain guide. Volcan Pinchincha lied right behind my host family's house and we got to experience it the very first day we arrived in Quito. We decided to ask the host father if he was willing to take us to the summit of Pinchincha. He agreed and the last day, we took the Teleferico up to the spot where we began out hike. It took a lot of altitude adjustment, support, and bravery (especially for those who fear heights), but we made it all the way to the summit (15,000 ft). Not only was that a feat in it of itself, but the beauty of having the opportunity to look down at the place we called home for three weeks was the perfect ending to our trip. It gave me closure and it made me really appreciate what I had learned in the class, on the field trips, and through everyone I had met. Even though we were out of breath, taking too many pictures, and having a great time, it was one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would honestly like this program to be longer... HA. But, if I had to be honest and say something productive, it would be to have a little more engaging material in some of the lectures. Some of my favorite class days was when we went on mini excursions because I learned the most from those days. Granted, I am a hands-on learner, but I think those experiences are very valuable. Guest speakers were nice, but it would be nicer to travel to them instead of them traveling to us!

    Photos:
    At the Guayasamin Museum in Quito.
    With my entire group in Parque Nacional Yasuní, the Amazon Rainforest.
    The group that summited Pinchincha! (With St. Olaf banner)
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  • Alia
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Northfield, MN
    10/10
    Alia MCDaniel Hecua Review
    10/02/2015

    The most amazing thing about the program was being exposed to the different communities in Ecuador in such a short amount of time. We were able to capture the typical day of someone who lives in the city and the next week we were in the amazon learning how to weave baskets from the native people. We were also able to see how these differ from the afro- Ecuadorian communities and the indigenous communities. Ecuador has so much diversity in culture. I went into the trip having a particular image of an Ecuadorian person and came back to the states with more than five different Ecuadorian cultures.

    How could this program be improved?

    Not at all! I believe that the trip could not be any better than it was!

    Photos:
    We are on our way up the Teleferico to see the Pichincha. There is a then minute ride in cable cars up to see the volcano with a beautiful view!
    One of the trips we were able to take during J-term was to visit the indigenous Ecuadorian communities. The man pictured above is spinning alpaca fur in order to make sweaters and other clothing. He is one of the last in Ecuador to continue using the spinning wheels.
    In an afro- Ecuadorian community we were able to visit a jewelry maker who collects all of her own beads and even makes them out of colorful beans and other stones. All of her proceeds go to the children and the schools in the community.
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  • Elena
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    St. Paul, Minnesota
    Hamline University
    10/10
    You Won't Believe It Was Only A Month
    10/01/2015

    I was nervous when I left for Quito. It was a program with students from schools other than my own, in a place I knew very little about. I knew I wanted to spend my J Term doing something meaningful, though, and this was the right experience.
    I could go on forever about the experience. One of the absolute highlights for me was the family I had the privilege of living with. They were all so welcoming, and interested in knowing us as people, and teaching us everything they could. We ate almost every meal as a family, and it was common to stay at the table talking after dinner finished (one night we talked for three hours!). Our mom always made sure we were well-fed, and her cooking was a mix of healthy and traditional and flavorful. She always explained when something she was making for us was native to Ecuador, or a cultural tradition.

    We spent hours in the classroom, yes, but in the end it paid off. We heard from many field speakers, who gave great insight into Ecuador's past, present, and future. Outside of the classroom, I loved the structure of the experience. We were only there for a month, but wow, we saw so much. Exploring Quito was just the beginning. We went to the rainforest and the Andes, two areas so different from each other and from where we were staying. On our free days, we independently organized group trips to the Cloud Forest and Banos as well.

    Overall, it was a whirlwind of learning and adventure. I pushed myself to new challenges and experiences-- zip lining, climbing a birdwatching tower, night-hiking, salsa dancing, speaking Spanish with strangers, herding cows, taking transit in a new city, making new friends, baking in a wood-fired oven, learning a traditional Quechua dance, swinging over a mountain valley, soaking in hot springs, eating tropical fruits I've never heard of, and exploring crowded outdoor markets. By the time I was done, I wasn't ready to leave! I plan on returning to Ecuador, and I would recommend this program to anyone.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would have liked to been given access to the schedule/syllabus earlier. We got it on the second day after arriving to Quito, so when I left the US and even when I first got to Ecuador, I didn't really know what to expect.

    Photos:
    A massive waterfall known as "El pailon del diablo"
    Tiputini River, in the middle of the Amazon rainforest
    Climbing the church tower at Basilica del Voto Nacional in Quito
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  • Jake
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Northfield, MN
    Saint Olaf College
    8/10
    Spring Semester with HECUA
    09/28/2015

    There is so many facets of this program that it is hard to put them all into words on a computer. I chose the program because of the great level of Spanish (you do not need to have incredible language skills to participate, some people come with very low levels and others with very high levels but both improve tremendously) and the fact that I got to stay with a family. While you sometimes wish you had a little more privacy (most college kids haven't lived with family since heading off to school) I did not want to travel half way across the country just to live in a dorm and enroll at another university. If your goal is to meet a bunch of people your age, however, this is not the program for you. You'll meet great people, but not all that many Ecuadorians will be college aged. One of my favorite parts of the experience is the amount we are able to travel. You are able to do some cool traveling with the program but a large part of the experience is the traveling you do on your own time with friends.

    How could this program be improved?

    I wish I could have traveled more in the rest of South America. It is hard to plan for extra time after the program because you don't know who you are going to travel with and with airfare you have to plan ahead (just from the United States; in South America you can buy plane tickets just before the trip). Traveling itself will be easy because you will learn how to plan and travel throughout the program, but a large part of the experience is who you go with. If you are into solo traveling or going out on a limb, I recommend just buying your return ticket well after the program ends and just fill in the space when you are in Ecuador and get to know how things work down there (it's different if you haven't picked that up yet).

    Photos:
    This was taken at a indigenous rally in Quito.
    This was taken in the Afro-Ecuadorian community where you go with the program.  The kids love the students.
    Laguna Quilotoa where we traveled on our own time (I HIGHLY recommend this, it is beautiful)
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