Staff Spotlight: Hakan K.

Co-Director of Programs - Ecuador


Hakan! Introduce yourself to the world.

I'm originally from Sweden and came to Ecuador in 2005 as a backpacker with the goal to see the Galapagos. I honestly didn't know more about Ecuador than that they had these magical Islands and that Quito was the capital. I met people easily and they quickly told me about all the beautiful places to see in the Amazon, the mountains, and the coast. I also met my future wife, so I moved to Ecuador later in 2005.

Though I understand the importance of education, I was never much of a student when I was young as I just wanted to start working to have my own life and be able to travel. I finished what in English would be high school at 19, and studied to become an electrician. Most of my education has been traveling around the world, Asia, Europe, Australia, Latin America, and working to support that. I am now also fluent in Spanish, of course!

When Adelante Abroad first came to Ecuador and decided to start a program here I really liked that we all had the same thoughts about providing quality to fewer students rather than just looking at the quantity of students and number of placements.

What is your favorite travel memory?

The first time I visited the Amazon in Ecuador was in 2005. I stayed at a lodge for four days and I still remember how amazed I was with the sounds and bird life here. I went for a hike at night and seeing all of the insects that came out made gave me an understanding of how a place can have so much life, and be two different worlds from day to night.

I also have an amazing memory of traveling in northern Vietnam where two other travelers and myself decided to hitchhike from place to place. We arrived in a small village in the middle of nowhere in the forest by canoe and could immediately tell that it was very unusual for non-locals to visit.

Aside from kids being a bit shy at first, the whole village opened up to us and were just as curious about us as we were about them.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

When I was younger I was always a bit shy as a person but working with candidates in Ecuador has opened me up more in this way. Though I'm still that typical calm Scandinavian with my roots in Sweden, I have also adapted much to the Latin lifestyle!

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Though it's always great to hear when a student has had an adventure or "extreme" experience, my favorite stories are still when they tell me how they have become not only close with co-workers and family but that they have also made Ecuadorian friends outside the program on their own. This tells me that they have really taken in the Ecuadorian life and have maximized their experience here.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I think that I'm proud that we don't keep growing and growing, but rather keep our organization smaller as it feels more personal for us. I think many participants feel the same.

I have seen organizations, both Ecuadorian and foreign, that have grown constantly and in the end, there is nothing personal left, and is a "corporation" just like any other.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Though it doesn't work for all participants, I think that in this kind of organization it is important to let the participants stand on their own legs instead of making a bubble around them with an Ecuadorian life that is not reality for us here.

It puts a bit more pressure on participants to engage with the family and project that they are interested and they have to learn Spanish, of course, but in the end they will have this great feeling of accomplishment.

This is one of the best feelings someone can ever have. We are always available to help them along the way, as well as in regular contact with the host family and work assignment project to check on how they are doing.