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Guest blogger Justine Taesa is a student in the Summer 2017 semester of Change Lab International: Ecuador – a unique, interdisciplinary program in global social entrepreneurship delivered by RADIUS, the Beedie School of Business, Impaqto Quito and Insight Global Education

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“Change Lab Ecuador?”
I stared at the words that I hastily scribbled into my notebook, as I had been running late into class and just caught the last bit of the presentation. I was looking for something different from my usual life in Vancouver, as well as some form of direction I could take my education. I had no idea what social innovation was, where this program would take me, or why I felt so compelled to go, but I applied the following night.
Fast forward 6 months, and here I am! I am now currently living in Quito, while learning and discovering the world of social innovation. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t caught that last minute of the presentation, decided to apply for a program I knew little about, or made the decision to leave my work contract 2 months early to be here.
It is safe to say that I do not regret my decision one bit. Since arriving here in Ecuador, I have felt right at home. I have already had the opportunity to make some amazing connections and friendships. In addition, I have been extremely fortunate to be paired with a great company through ImpaQto – the social enterprise incubator partnered with RADIUS and Insight Global Education.

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At the start of the program, all of the students were matched with an entrepreneur to assist with their start-up projects. We were to provide assistance in any way that we could, while learning about the process of starting a business. We were all extremely lucky to get our first or second choice in who we wanted to work with. I was paired with BionicsTech, a company that has developed a fully functioning bionic hand, which would be available at a fraction of the price of those already on the market. The BionicsTech entrepreneurs themselves are still learning about how to market and turn their product into a business, and I have the opportunity to assist in the project’s growth.
Despite my not being a business student, they are excited to receive input from a different perspective, while also gaining assistance in the communications department. So far, I have been doing a lot of translating, while also editing applications for grants and conferences in English. Through this work, I have learned a lot about the complexity of the entrepreneurial process. It is incredibly inspiring to work with this team of talented and dedicated entrepreneurs.

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However, this trip has definitely not been solely about work! On the weekends we have many opportunities to go about and explore. Between the activities on the coast, the Andes and the Amazon, there’s no shortage of places to go. Last weekend, our entire cohort took a trip to Baños, a small mountain town that is the centre of adventure tourism here. The magic of Baños is hard to describe- but just imagine colourful streets, towering mountains, and abundance of friendly travelers.
Not only did we get to experience the lush plant life in the wilderness, but we also had the opportunity to zipline right over some truly unique views of the Andes, flying hundreds of feet over the ground. A few of us then went to the Pailon Del Diablo, a massive, thundering waterfall that we were able to climb up behind and get soaked.

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On our final day in Baños, our luck with the weather had run out and the rain had set back in. However, this did not stop us from getting out to see the famous Casa Del Arbol, which features a massive swing overlooking the Tungurangua volcano. Unfortunately, the fog was too thick to see much of the mountains, but the swing was exhilarating nonetheless. We left Baños feeling the abundance of good vibes from the city, ready for another work week in Quito.

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I don’t know where the rest of this trip will take me – both work wise and travel wise, but I look forward to every opportunity I get. I am excited to explore everything I possibly can throughout Ecuador.

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