Ella Duangkaew’s impression of the first Thai-American National Internship Program
The inaugural Thai American National Internship Program was an invaluable and indelible experience this past summer, and it has left me with life-long lessons, opinions, opportunities and goals that will stay with me far past this summer. I now have an enriched and empowered perspective on working in public service, and look forward to pursuing a career in the field, which this internship has opened my eyes up to the multitudes of opportunities available in it. I now also have a strong and detailed view of U.S.-Thailand relations, and even more broadly U.S.-Asia relations, and I am impassioned to work to strengthen and build the impressive relationship between my two home lands; and I am so grateful for this internship giving me a thorough introduction on how to do so. Additionally, this internship has shown me what I can do in the domestic sphere to help my community, opening my eyes to the impressive diaspora of opportunities to help Asian Americans, and even more so Thai-Americans. While I always saw myself as wanting to work in international relations and foreign diplomacy, I see the importance of catering to people of my heritage within the U.S., and am also determined to strengthen and build their opportunities, voices and presence in the U.S., along with their native counterparts overseas.
Finally, this internship has shown me concretely and specifically what organizations I can work with, and what work I can do within them, to achieve my goals of helping Thailand and U.S. relations, as well as Thai Americans domestically. Through a busy and exciting first orientation week, where each day we met with five experts in different aspects of foreign relations, government or Asian-American Affairs, we learned how Washington works, how to work in Washington, and what a large pot of opportunity the capital is for these fields. Additionally, through my individual placements at the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council and the Royal Thai Embassy, I saw firsthand how I could get my foot in the door in international relations; either working for a clearly defined diplomatic mission such as the Embassy, or working for a more wide reaching business organization like the U.S. ASEAN-Business Council, which dealt with several countries, several business matters, and several clients. I did enriching and enlightening work at both of these placements, from helping to plan, and getting to attend, a Gala dinner with impressive VIPs at the Council, to witnessing primary level negotiations of the MOU military exchange agreement between the U.S. Air Force and the Royal Thai Air Force in the Air Force Attaché Office at the Embassy. This internship has proved to me that the world of foreign relations and public service is an open door for a Thai American like me, and I could not be more excited and encouraged by this fact.
The only criticism I have of this program is that I wish it could have been longer. I made extremely close and beloved friends in this program, as well as at my placements, and became immensely fond of Washington D.C., and all of its attractions and opportunities. I felt I could have stayed at my placements for years, and was saddened to have to leave after only a matter of weeks. That being said, it speaks to the quality and value of the program that I wish it could have been longer for me, and that I firmly recommend that it be at the minimum 10 weeks for future classes. Like myself and my colleagues, I anticipate future participants will not want to leave once they discover how incredible their colleagues, placements and Washington D.C. are, and I hope they get the chance to stay much longer than we did. Thus, it is with a heavy, but grateful heart that I bid farewell to the inaugural, and unforgettable, Thai American National Internship Program, and I wish all who shared this experience me all the best in their future endeavors; and to the future participants of the program, I wish for you to have all of the wonderful experiences I had in your time here, and more. Thank you to the Embassy and the U.S. Asia Institute for giving us this program, and may it continue, and grow, for many, many years to come.
By Ella Duangkaew from Illinois