Chakapong Soundara: First Week’s Experience by a Second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C.


My participation in the inaugural Thai-American National Internship Program was a dream I never thought would become a reality. Ever since I was a child learning Thai at Wat Thai D.C. and Wat Yarn Rangsee Buddhist Temple in the Washington metropolitan area, I have always wanted to work at the Thai Embassy. This year my dream came true. The vision of His Excellency Mr. Pisan Manawapat, Thai Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, is unprecedented because he understand the importance of educating the next generation of Thai-Americans about the political process in Washington, D.C.  Ultimately, this development will strengthen the Thai people’s representation at all levels of government and will give a voice for them to address their needs and concerns.

10985286_397003830510580_6992347192390024499_nUnfortunately, I missed the first two weeks of the program because of a conflicting study course at Oxford University. I am so grateful for my internship director Mr. Kajtiti Wiwatwanont, Thai Embassy Counsellor, and the collaboration with US-Asia Institute’s Mrs. Mary Sue Bissell, Vice President and Executive Director, for their kindness and generosity in allowing me to participate in my dream program.  Even though I was unavailable for the first portion of the program and more specifically the meetings with representatives from various key institutions, I felt very happy for my colleagues as they were treated to the best experience of my hometown.

11538161_831734223583289_5182214614738363872_oI arrived in the afternoon at Washington D.C. after concluding my study abroad program on June 14, 2015. With haste, I reloaded my luggage at my home in Vienna, Virginia and was on the way in the evening to my accommodations, provided by the Thai Embassy Office of Educational Affairs, I started my two-week professional development as a congressional intern at the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (SPFUSA), a US-Japan Think Tank, under Jessica Santana, the congressional and media relations manager. My brief stay at SPFUSA has been very influential on my life. The assignments that Ms. Santana gave me were all in support of her current projects. For example, I visited the relevant congressional hearings and wrote a summary on remarks exchanged by and the testimony of Congressmen and panelists. I also looked for important daily news about Japan and sent it to all the staff. I felt being in SPFUSA made me really close to the political process, which was both the Thai-American National Internship’s goal and my own personal one.

11709696_397006700510293_4849181985173155960_nAs I reach the end of the program on July 5, 2015, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the Thai Embassy Ambassador His Excellency, Mr. Pisan Manawapat and his staff; US-Asia Institute Vice President, Mrs. Mary Sue Bissell and her staff; and Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA CEO, Admiral Dennis Blair, -and his staff for their support and guidance throughout my time in the internship. They have helped me realized one of my dreams and have given me a better understanding of how the U.S. government functions. This program has been really beneficial for me and I highly recommend for all Thai-Americans to take advantage of this one of a kind opportunity. I will now use this experience to reach my ultimate, career goal: to help the people of the country I love, Thailand.

By Chakapong Soundara from Vienna, Virginia
โดย นาย จักรพงศ์ สุนดารา จากมลรัฐ เวอร์จิเนีย

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