Community Internships in Latin America

Explore competing and collaborating visions for social change. Experience the rich political, cultural, and geographical diversity of Ecuador.

Accepting applications for 2022-2023 academic year.

Program Structure

Classroom time is split into two three-hour seminars, taught in Spanish. In addition, each student is placed at an internship site, where they spend 20-25 hours/week for the duration of the program. As a group, the class completes three field visits to different regions outside of the capital city of Quito.

Topics & Themes

Community participation, social movement theory, gender issues, globalization, indigenous peoples' movements, Afro-Ecuadorian communities, international development, and environmental justice.


Quito, Ecuador

Terms & Dates

Spring 2022 (suspended)


16 credits

Program Overview

In 2008, Ecuadorians voted in a referendum to adopt a new constitution. Progressives were thrilled by the document, and the accompanying promises of then-President Correa. This enthusiasm has waned, and HECUA’s Community Internships in Latin America (CILA) program examines why. CILA students analyze the ideals embodied in the Constitution of 2008 and the challenges the country has faced applying those ambitious goals. A year after an election that saw a change in leader but not party, students will pay particular attention to the changes proposed by current President Lenin Moreno. Based in Quito, the CILA program weaves together a project-based internship, coursework focused on the promise and perils of development, and field visits ranging from the Pacific coast to the Amazon river basin. When not in the field, students live with a host family in Quito, Ecuador’s historic capital city. During the third week of class students begin internships at a diverse range of community organizations. Past sites include: an organic farm (Granja Integral Pachamama), a media hub (El Churo Comunicación), and a women’s safe house (Casa Matilde). Students end the semester with significantly improved Spanish, a deep understanding of models of community participation with a focus on indigenous perspectives, and a firsthand view of the political landscape in Ecuador and the region.

Staff and Faculty

Martha Moscoso

Program Director Martha Moscoso is a sociologist and historian, with an advanced degree in Sociology of Development from the Sorbonne University in Paris, and a master’s degree in Andean History from the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO), Quito. Martha has completed extensive research in women’s studies and gender studies and in indigenous communities’ history. Martha has participated in numerous academic conferences and has published many articles on history in Ecuadorian and Latin American books and journals. Recently she has done research on education in Ecuador, sponsored by the University of Geneva, Switzerland, and the International Bureau of Education – UNESCO (IBE). This research was conducted within the framework of an international program for the construction of political dialogue in the field of education. Martha is member of the Institute of Ecuadorian Studies (IEE), a nonprofit organization that works in local development and citizen formation. She participates actively in a Citizen Assembly that aims at active participation at very local levels by people seeking social change. She is also a member of the Atelier of Historical Studies (TEHIS).

Adriana Corti

Program Assistant & Field Trip Coordinator Adriana Corti received her bachelor’s degree in Linguistics and Literature from the Catholic University of Quito. She minored in International Relations and Business, which allowed her to intern as an undergraduate at the Ecuadorian Ministry of Foreign Relations in the department of Economic Promotion. During her time in school she also studied in Denmark for a year as a member of a student exchange program. After graduating, Adriana held a position with IBM, in the Learning Services department, but left the position to grow her family. Since 2001 she has held a coordination position with HECUA’s Ecuador programs. Adriana has passion for her family, community development, and also enjoys traveling internationally. She knows Spanish, English, Danish, a little French, and some Portuguese and German too.

María Andrade Chalán

Instructor María Vicenta Andrade Chalán holds a Master’s in Local Development, with concentration in Social Movements from the Salesian University in Quito (2009); Diploma in Political Participation, Management and Development in the Local Area at the University of Valencia (2007); Degree in Management for Sustainable Local Development (2002). She serves as instructor for the Political and Development Seminar in Ecuador. She has also worked as a trainer in adult education to various social organizations and indigenous and rural women. Topics of her interest are related to indigenous peoples, social movements, multinationality, interculturality, gender and women’s human rights and social research. She has worked as a consultant with governmental institutions (including the United Nations), local governments, international cooperations and NGOs. María speaks Spanish, Kichwa, and English.



Politics and Development in Ecuador (4 credits)

A seminar focusing on development challenges for Ecuador and their political contexts. Students review development strategies of the last 50 years, and the development model established in Ecuador’s 2008 constitution. Key themes are Ecuadorian history and the current situation; the constitutional process and ideals of Sumak Kawsay/Buen vivir, “Good Living”; development challenges in the Amazon and the Yasuni; the culture, history, and visions for development among indigenous peoples in Ecuador; Afro-Ecuadorian culture, history, and vision for development; debates on mangrove forests and community development options; alternative development models; food sovereignty, social entrepreneurship and the solidarity economy; women as subjects and makers of policy; and sexual identities in Ecuador.

Community Participation and Social Change (4 credits)

Students experience and begin to understand the city of Quito and its social, cultural, political, and popular culture. Lectures, discussion, and creative activities illustrate the participation of stakeholders in the processes of social change, the historical elements at work in the current situation of Ecuador, and the dynamics of the city (examining class, ethnicity, age, occupation). The seminar is also a space for reflection, analysis, discussion, understanding and construction of knowledge about Ecuadorian society and culture that helps students make sense of their experiences at their internships, homestays, and in their everyday life in Quito. Students take visits to internship sites and organizations working for social change. A creativity workshop supports students in assessing their own personal development as they become integrated into Ecuadorian life.

Ecuador Internship (4 credits)

A structured, guided, and monitored internship at a community organization in Quito. Students carry out projects core to the work of the organization, one of many HECUA partners involved in movements big or small for social change. Evaluation by internship supervisor and program faculty; students record their work and progress in a journal.

Independent Study Project (4 credits)

Guided work on a paper in a field and on a topic of the student’s interest. It is recommended, but not required, that the topic relate to the internship. The project may be comparative with the United States or another Latin American country. Field research (interviews with key persons, surveys, life stories, etc.), discussion of theoretical and conceptual contexts, and literature review may all be included. Many ISPs include ethnographic research as primary source material. They may be written either in Spanish or English, depending on how the student chooses to use the paper for home institution credit.

Complete Syllabus


Below are details of a few recently completed internships and projects. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

Acción Ecológica

Website: Students work on issues affecting the environment, specifically with regards to depleting fish stocks from oil exploitation, water and land pollution due to oil leaking and spraying. Mostly this site is dedicated to research and writing. Students can also make contact with other international environmental organizations through their work here.


Website: This organization develops activities aimed at cleaning up the city of Quito by promoting the use of bikes in the city and beyond, by encouraging the use of bicycles as an alternative means of transportation with the goal of reducing air pollution. Students help organize and run bike tours of Quito to build support and enthusiasm with locals. Beyond this, students are expected to help promote the organization throughout the city with creative publicity and marketing. Bike maintenance is also taught through the organization.

Granja Integral Pachamama

This is a group of women who have escaped poverty and violence and formed a collaborative on a community organic farm. They focus on developing technical and interpersonal skills. Beyond growing produce and raising cuy (guinea pigs), the women market and sell their products in local neighborhoods. The collaborative empowers women to be self-sustaining and economically independent. HECUA students spend time at the farm harvesting and selling at the market.

El Churo Comunicación

Website: El Churo is a collective of young people exploring new communication methods to keep connected in urban cultures. Though various alternative methods like using music (hip hop, rap, punk), art (graffiti, guerrilla art), radio, etc. they keep others informed about their rights and introduce new ways of being recognized in society. At its core, it is an organization dedicated to grassroots organizing. HECUA’s most recent intern describes it as “an independent collective that works with fellow youth organizations, metropolitan districts, and government ministries to plan arts & cultural events, radio workshops, public demonstrations, and they also have their own online radio station.”

Program Costs

Fee Breakdown:

Cost includes group transportation to field sites, planned group excursions, lodging, meals, local transportation, medical insurance, and administrative costs. Students are placed in individual homestays and meals are provided by the host family.

A note on costs:

The program costs listed below are what HECUA charges for participation in its programs. The final amount that a student pays might be higher and can vary from college to college. Many colleges assess additional fees or charge their own tuition for off-campus programs. Some colleges also have specific financial aid rules for off-campus programs. Therefore, all students should check with the off-campus-study office and the financial aid office of their home institution to confirm their final cost for a HECUA program.  A full and comprehensive fee breakdown can be found on the Program Costs page.

Member schools

Member schools are schools that are part of the HECUA consortium. For HECUA member school students, the cost of our program is $18,100. Check your school’s status.

Non-Member Schools

Non-member schools are schools that are not part of the HECUA consortium. For non-member school students, the cost of this HECUA program is $18,900. Check your school’s status.


HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: the Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Click here to view all scholarships.

Good to know

Language requirements:

The equivalent of two years of college Spanish is required. Ecuadorian Spanish is generally spoken clearly and at a relaxed pace, offering an ideal environment for students to gain confidence and fluidity in the language. Lectures and class discussions are conducted entirely in Spanish. Readings are mostly in Spanish. Certain papers may be written in English or Spanish. Internships and field projects require Spanish. Students needing additional language assistance will have an opportunity to attend optional weekly language instruction for the first month of the program.


Homestays are provided for the duration of the semester. Many of the families that host HECUA students have done so for ten or more years and are familiar with helping students feel comfortable, preparing nutritious food, and getting students into a family routine. Families are middle- or upper-middle class and live in secure neighborhoods of the capital city Quito. Some families consider HECUA students part of the family and include their new son or daughter in all family outings and other events; other families may provide more autonomy. There may be children of varying ages (6 yrs – 30 yrs) at home, as it is typical to live at home until marriage. Accommodations are arranged prior the start of the program so that families greet students at the airport on arrival.

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