Phet Srisupapol: Experience as a Thai-American Second Generation in Washington

First, I would like to acknowledge a special gratitude to the Royal Thai Embassy at Washington, D.C., The Charge d’Affaires คุณ บุศรา กาญจนาลัย , Congressman Foster and all of his staff and the US-Asia Institute for collaborating and creating the Thai-American National Internship Program I am so honored to have been part of this.

I am Phet Srisupapol. I was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. I am currently a senior studying International Relations and Politics at Thammasat University in Bangkok, and will be graduating at the end of the year.

As I grew up in Thailand in a mixed dual nationality household, I was always familiar with both Thai and American cultures. But because I spent the  majority of my life in Thailand, the U.S. always seemed a little far from me even though I have visited multiple times. It’s even more difficult when you spend most of your life studying in a foreign  institution. When my professor told me about TANIP, I saw this as an opportunity to get in touch with more of my American heritage. I have always been interested in the legislative work and policy formulation process. I saw that this was an amazing chance for me to explore this realm.

Right off the bat, I was able to meet all of the accomplished interns who are part of this program. Natalie, Naree, and Nan are strong and intelligent women whom I have been fortunate enough to share my experience with throughout this incredible internship. 

During the first week of the program, I was able to meet with people from various offices, all of whom have an important role in the shaping of our country; from the Department of Justice, Library of Congress, offices of the Department of State, Think Tanks, as well as lobbyist groups, to name a few. This  introduction allowed me to understand more about the different roles people play in both the  public and private sectors and how the different offices which represent a variety of areas, shape the United States.

My first week was an astonishing and rare opportunity. Meeting with such devoted people inspired me to think of the future role I could play as a Thai-American in the United States government system and the different pathways through which I could potentially contribute myself.

Prior to this, my understanding and experience with the United States government had been from afar, both physically and conceptually. So this program granted me the opportunity to be within the legislative branch, within Congressman Foster’s office; to observe, notice, and understand as part of the internal organs.

During my time in Congressman Foster’s , his staff were so genuinely welcoming.  Even though I was not a constituent from their district, state or even had any association with this office directly, they treated me as one. They informed the duties of the intern role that I would be performing in the office. These included reception, drafting memos, interacting with constituents, and giving tours of the capital. While performing all of these tasks, I was able to observe the happenings within the office. Constituents, interest groups, and even the workings of different offices. I began to understand more of the policies and processes going on in the nation’s capital. In addition to my direct work, I was so fortunate to be able to explore other opportunities and leadership groups located in Washington during the various briefings hosted in either one of the congressional buildings or their headquarters.

Looking back on this congressional internship, I have developed many friendships and received assistance throughout, particularly within the congressional office.

Even though working in the Royal Thai Consular was brief but the experience was extraordinary. Seeing all the work that the consular section do, with visa, immigration, and everything for constitutes was a rare and extraordinary opportunity.

Today, at nearly the end of the program, I have had so many incredible and unique experiences which I could have never imagined. Particularly as a Thai-American, there are not many of us who are able to  partake in this field, which means a limited representation of an area which needs improvement for the development of environmental, social and economic issues . I feel incredibly honored to have been selected to witness and participate in everything offered throughout this summer in Washington. Thank you to everyone who facilitated this program and thank you to all of my new friends for your support.