Alit Ponkaew: Experience as a Thai-American Second Generation in Washington

capAlthough my internship has ended, the experiences that I gained by working in Washington DC will continue to be a part of my life. The Thai American National Internship Program provided me with an incredible opportunity to learn more about the US political process. Here, I met other Thai-Americans who also share similar interest in US-Thai relations.

Starting with the second week of the program, I began my congressional internship in the office of Congressman Danny Davis. During my six weeks in the office, I worked on a wide range of tasks. This office is more open-ended in terms of what my role was. I was assigned tasks by some of the staffers, but I was also able to attend events and work on issues I was interested in. My first week in the office was more relaxed which allowed me to better understand the layout of the Rayburn building and how to get around to various other government buildings in the area. For my first few days in the office, I wrote replies to constituents who sent us messages urging us to support certain legislations. Throughout my entire time in the office, I also answered phone calls from constituents and addressed their concerns. Every so often, I worked at the front desk and had to deal with a huge influx of calls coming in typically on voting days with important legislation and also during the democrats’ sit-in for gun control legislation.

congressmanCongressman Danny Davis is on the Committee on Ways and Means so there were multiple occasions where I went to see the committee while they were in session. I also attended a number of briefings on a wide range of topics including those on student aid and debt, cybersecurity, and mental health. These briefings were of great interest to me and they helped me learn more about aspects that I didn’t know. After attending some of these briefings, I wrote a memo on it and sent it to the staffer that deals with that topic. I was given two trainings while interning in the office. My first training was learning how to utilize the Congressional Research Service. I used them once when I was researching more on the Treasury Department’s regulation proposals designed to undermine corporate inversions. The second training I received was on giving a US Capitol Tour.

scholarshipDuring my last week interning in the office, I was awarded the Congressional Intern Scholarship by the Illinois State Society to help further my studies at my university. Coincidentally, the day I received the scholarship also happened to be my birthday.

After this internship, I can say that I better understand the inner workings of the legislative process. I saw the complexity and compromises that had to be done to get bills or amendments passed. Although the six weeks in the office flew by quickly, it was a rewarding experience.

capitolDuring the last week of the program, we worked at the Royal Thai Embassy, Consular Office. At the consulate, I gained a better understanding of how visas, document legalizations, and passports are handled and processed. During the morning when the consulate is open, I stationed myself at one of the front windows processed applications. Later in the day, I worked on tasks that the staffers there assigned.

Now that this program has come to an end, I would like to once again thank the Royal Thai Embassy, the US-Asia Institute, the office of Congressman Danny Davis, and everyone who help made this internship a rewarding and incredible experience for me. After this internship, I am more willing to contact my congressman regarding any concerns that I or the Thai community may face knowing that they will listen to and actively help to address those concerns.

Alit Ponkaew

Click HERE to learn more about the Thai-American National Internship Program (TANIP)