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.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Study in Quito

Living and studying in Quito was a life-changing experience. When people ask me how my trip was, it’s impossible to just say, “it was good.” This experience left me feeling humbled. I found a deepened understanding in my abilities and my goals. Being immersed in another culture completely is something all college students need to experience. One incredible aspect of this program is the internship. You get to work in another country AND build your Spanish vocabulary. Lastly, the home stay really makes you feel like you have a home in another country, and another family. That is not something you get in other study abroad programs. I left so impressed and awed and the things I experienced. Thank you HECUA!

What would you improve about this program?
Making sure internship sites are very willing and interested in having their interns. There were a few safety concerns as well.
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Yes, I recommend this program

HECUA New Zealand - A Shared Future

Spending a semester traveling, interning and studying New Zealand with a cohort of students and a group of caring and humble faculty is one of those experiences that will stick with me always.

New Zealand is a beautiful country, with friendly people. The island biodiversity, progressive politics, copious sustainability initiatives, and indigneous-colonizer relationships make it an interesting and unique place to study biology, political science, environmental studies, and peace and justice studies.

HECUA staff did a great job of supporting me throughout the semester, as well as in the logistics of travel before and after. I always felt safe, learned a ton (academically and personally), and had a lot of fun.

What would you improve about this program?
The hardest part of this program for me was the size of the cohort - 17 people. Keep this in mind when deciding if this program, rather than a direct-enroll, is better for you.
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Yes, I recommend this program

A quick word about Italy

Spending a semester in Italy was amazing. The slow food and community oriented culture made the stay delightful and authentic. Many natives of Montespertoli were kind and welcoming as long as you were respectful. Filippo was incredibly supportive whenever we had questions or needed assistance. What I enjoyed most were the field trips we took all around Tuscany and further south. We got the privilege of experiencing the Italian countryside and wine culture at its apex with insightful natives as our guides. I also enjoyed the freedom we got on the weekends. I spent a lot of time traveling to other surrounding cities and countries. One piece of advice is to save up as much money as you can to travel in your free time. I spent a lot of time trying to decide if certain weekend trips would be worth the money but I never regretted the expenses after I made the experiences. However, contrary to many Italians, you will need to be punctual with your time. Getting to and from Montespertoli can be difficult and risky if you are negligent about the bus schedule.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Studying in Tuscany!

Getting the chance to study abroad in a smaller Italian city gave us the chance to get to know some of the locals. I was lucky enough to stage at a local gelato shop, along with a few other students. The owners took the time to get to know us, helped us with our Italian, and taught us quite a bit about Italian food and culture.

At Sonnino, the teachers are very welcoming and are adaptive. They truly care about the students and the academics. We had a few classes that we were able to be outside, either learning about sharecropping, or from a local gardner. This program does provide opportunities to grow as a person as well as learn about the Italian culture and lifestyle.

What would you improve about this program?
Change up the internships. A lot of students did not feel challenged and a handful of the places of the business they worked at, either didn't have much for them to do or didn't know what to do with them. Also, increase italian language classes throughout the semester.
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Yes, I recommend this program


I loved so many things about this program and miss it a TON now that I'm back at my university. This program was unique in so many ways. I was continually impressed by the level of community immersion (rather than immersion just in one university setting) that took place. I knew it was a social change program before I committed but was even more impressed once I got my feet on the ground there.

We took three really eye-opening field trips to different parts of the country. We were also able to do a lot of traveling on our own on the weekends because we had enough time and cost of living was rather inexpensive while we were there. Whenever I recount my study abroad experiences to others, they (and I!) are amazed by how much ground we covered because of the content and structure of the program.

As a group, we had fantastic homestay experiences, which helped so much with learning the language and with understanding Ecuadorian culture. My internship was rewarding in the same ways and so many more. HECUA's professors were knowledgeable about everything they taught and provided us with so much personal support through the program as well.

I absolutely absolutely ABSOLUTELY recommend this program to anyone who is interested.

What would you improve about this program?
Compared to the study abroad experiences I have heard about from other students not in the HECUA program, it was a bit difficult to socialize with Ecuadorian people our own age. Some of us had host siblings that were comparable in age but, largely because my group was composed just of students from American universities, we never really had a reason to get to know people our own age, which is something really powerful. There were some opportunities, but that part was a bit difficult.


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Martha Moscoso

Job Title
Program Director, Ecuador

How and when did you begin working for HECUA?

A woman posing for a photo.

Prior to 1998, the Community Internships in Latin America program was based in Colombia. As the political situation in Colombia deteriorated, HECUA began to look for a different homebase. The outgoing Colombian country director suggested Ecuador.

After decades of an absurd war regarding territory and resources, we Ecuadorians had recently signed a peace accord with Peru. A friend of mine let me know that HECUA was looking for someone based in Quito to lead the program. I was interested, applied, and now, here I am.

Why do you think HECUA’s model of internships + classroom time is so effective?

I think the effectiveness of this model is due to the combination of the focus on hands-on experience, and the time we give students to reflect on the experience. Young people are always motivated by action, by doing.

But the experience alone means nothing without reflection. It is in this way that we can learn and nudge the learning towards rooted change.

How have you changed/grown since working for HECUA?

A group of students gathered.

This is a great question! Change and growth that stem from the program experience are topics that we discuss at length with students, and that we reflect in the classroom. It is rarely perceived that my involvement with the program as director is something that has made me change and grow.

But in reality, I’ve learned many things! It is incredible the enormous amount of information about my own country, my city, the organizations where our students intern, etc., I have accumulated.

I have also learned so much about young Americans. Their lives, their expectations, their hopes and concerns, the way they live, and how they can be transformed by an experience like this one.

What is a regular activity/field visit/speaker presentation in your program that you find to be particularly exciting?

I wouldn’t choose a single activity, but a broad sweep of action. There are two sustained actions that are the most exciting: the internships (where students spend up to 20 hours a week) and the field visits.

Both of them allow students to be in contact with the real day-to-day life of Quiteños. They work, they are in contact with people, they experience new ways of life, they know diversity, they become aware of their own privilege.