Lisa Guagliano: Reflection from Thai-Americans in the Thai American National Internship Program
My name is Lisa Guagliano and I graduated Summa Cum Laude from Palm Beach Atlantic University; majored in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics with a minor in Computer Science. Currently, I am an incoming graduate student at the George Washington University studying International Affairs.
First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Royal Thai Embassy and the US-Asia Institute for hosting a once-in-a-lifetime experience, the TANIP program. I’m especially grateful for Mary Sue Bissell, Zev Moses, Christina Durham, Temi Adeyemi, Alec Bohlman, Khun Aing-On Sliwa, Khun Charubhumi Ruangsuwan, Joelle Lawrence, Congresswoman Lois Frankel, and all the staff members.
We started off our journey with a virtual orientation where we were introduced to many new people from different organizations such as the Department of State, the Department of Defense, EPA, CSIS, Hill staff members, embassy staff members, and many more. I was able to meet my cohorts in the program virtually, and I’m glad to have the chance to get to know them in person. We were all placed in different offices and it has been educational hearing about their experiences with their internships.
I had the honor of interning at the office of Congresswoman Lois Frankel (FL-21) and I happen to live in her district as well. My experience working for the U.S. House of Representatives was exceedingly insightful. I had the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of Congress, the legislative process, and witnessed how a bill becomes a law. Our district is diverse and the needs of the people who live in it require a lot of special attention.
I had no idea what to expect and did not realize how much voting every Congressperson has to do on a day-to-day basis. I observed public hearings, mark-ups, and learned how a Congressional office navigates through various legislative duties. My tasks in the office included answering the phones, sorting the mail, batching constituent emails, attending meetings, and writing short memos for the senior staff members in the office. I find that being from the district has helped me to understand and empathize with the concerns of the people who live in my district. Congresswoman Frankel and her staff members truly care about the people in her district and work hard to address the concerns of her constituents.
The Congresswoman was kind enough to allow me to sit in on her meetings with ambassadors from different nations. Being an incoming International Affairs graduate student, those meetings have been the highlight of my time working on the Hill. It was incredibly educating to learn about the current issues that those countries are facing and how the U.S. can be of assistance. It has truly inspired me to work on my aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer.
Congresswoman Lois Frankel and all the staff members in her office treated me and my fellow interns with great respect and valued our opinions. The Congresswoman took the time to talk with us and invited us to have lunch with her at the Members Dining Room. We were encouraged to ask questions and she was forthcoming about the problems we face in South Florida. One of the biggest issues is climate change and the rising seawater. It’s not just an issue for the southern part of our state. but one that we will all need to deal with in the not-too-distant future.
At the end of my internship, I was given a rare opportunity to tour the U.S. Capitol, even though it is currently closed to the public. Seeing historical artifacts and learning about the construction of the building was an informative experience.
During my internship, the US-Asia Institute hosted a reception that allowed me to meet many professional people in D.C., and I was able to practice my networking skills which are essential for any profession.
In the final week, we had the opportunity to intern at the Royal Thai Embassy. It was very generous of H.E. Ambassador Manaswi Srisodapol to invite us for lunch at his residence. H.E. Ambassador Manaswi was very kind and hospitable. He took the time to welcome us and asked the cohorts about their experiences as interns.
Prior to this program, I had a few Thai friends and was feeling disconnected from my Thai roots. I am thankful and honored to be a part of the TANIP program. The program has made it possible for me to meet other Thai-Americans with similar interests and I have established new friendships with my cohorts. It is important for Thai-Americans to become more involved with the government so that we can have a louder voice in the legislative process. I hope that my experience can empower and inspire other Thai-Americans to mobilize. This was a memorable experience and I’m glad that I was able to share it with a dedicated and dynamic group from TANIP.