Nattacha Munakata : Experience as a Thai-American Second Generation in Washington

“Thank you to the Royal Thai Embassy for having me here. My name is Nattacha Munakata and I am honored to be a member of the TANIP program. I am from Alexandria, VA, just across the Potomac River. I have always viewed Washington DC as the neighbor with historic monuments and lots of traffic, but rarely saw the political and the business side. During this summer, the first week was an orientation week hosted by the US-Asia Institute where I was able to see many parts of DC, from the federal institutes to non-profit. The most memorable moment was when I met with Senator Tammy Duckworth. I was able to talk to her about her interest in Southeast Asian public health and was inspired at her works both domestically and internationally.  Thank you to the US-Asia Institute, Mary Sue, Joycelyn, Megan, Jacob, and the many speakers that took their time to meet with us.

The following 6 weeks while the other interns were placed on the hill, I was placed at Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership or CAPAL, a non-profit organization focused in providing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders public service position opportunities through their internship program and many events. At CAPAL, not only was I doing basic office work, such as emailing sponsors and board members and managing documents for the CAPAL Scholars and Interns, I was also given several projects to lead.  For example, this month, I lead a Congressional Budget Information Session and Resume Writing and Interview Workshop. My daily workday at CAPAL was very busy. I learned that events as small as 20 attendees takes months of planning and hard work. Juggling projects in our small office, which had 2 full time staff and 2 interns, required lots time management. From a third person perspective, this may sound like a terrible job, but instead it was the opposite. I was excited to come to work that I voluntarily came at 8:30 every morning. My small office was like a second family where I knew that I was going to be cared for. I still remember us going to 7-11 to grab free Slurpees on 7-11 day and laughing so much talking about our weekends. Thank you to Liz, the best boss, Felicia, and Camille. I definitely miss you all and the office and will put Justin Timberlake’s Lovestoned on repeat. I also will like to thank the board members and the CAPAL Scholars and Interns for their generosity and support.

Reflecting back on this internship, I noticed that I was different from the other 5 interns. They were placed in congress, I was in a non-profit. They were interested in political science or economy. I am a community health major. They can speak fluent Thai, I can understand Thai, but have a difficult time having conversations in Thai. I can continue on. But during my time, I never felt like an outcast. Instead I was able to experience a different perspective. I saw the domestic involvement of health and government but also saw a view of the importance of public health in Southeast Asia. I also felt pride in being Thai because of Thailand’s advanced view in public health. I would like to thank the other TANIP interns for including me regardless of my lack in Thai and teaching me more about Thai politics and history.

Thank you to Ambassador Pisan and his staff member for giving me this extraordinary opportunity. I will carry my experiences to become the next Thai-American leader through health.”

Nattacha Munakata from Virginia

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