Perry Srisawat: Reflection from Thai-American in the Thai American National Internship Program

My name is Perry Srisawat and I am a first-generation Thai-American. My parents immigrated to the United States from Thailand in the late 80s and raised me in the San Francisco Bay Area in California, where I recently graduated from UC Berkeley. Today, I would like to express my immense gratitude for the amazing opportunity that was provided to me by the Royal Thai Embassy, the US-Asia Institute, and Congressman Dan Kildee’s office in allowing me to participate in the Thai-American National Internship Program.

Growing up, I spent more of my time at my parent’s Thai restaurant than I did at home. The restaurant surrounded me with my family’s culture and served as a Thai community for me. I couldn’t be more grateful to have that as such a prominent part of my upbringing. Because of this, my interest in Thai politics, foreign relations, and the interests of Thai-Americans in the United States developed from a young age. I was incredibly honored to represent Thailand through my internship, and I wish to thank the staff at the Royal Thai Embassy and the US-Asia Institute for accepting me into this amazing program. First and foremost, I would like to thank Mr. Ambassador Manasvi, P’Aim, P’Mo, and P’Gift for all they have done to create this program and to serve Thai people all over the world. They acted as my family while I was in D.C. and always made the additional effort to take care of us.

Additionally, I would also like to thank the staff at the US-Asia Institute, Mary Sue, Kathi, and Alec for all they have done to help us during our internship and on top of our internship. Through this program, I have been given access to unbelievable political opportunities and have met and befriended other Thai-Americans my age, something I had never previously had the chance to do. I would also like to give a special thanks to my fellow interns Aoy, Rosie, and Jenn in the Thai-American National Internship Program and all the other participants in the IMPACT and MUNCEP programs. I value their friendship and could not have picked better people to go on this journey with. Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for acting as an amazing support system for me, sacrificing so much for me to get where I am today, and always keeping our Thai culture as a part of my life.

Before coming to Washington, D.C., I didn’t anticipate a career path on the Hill since that didn’t seem like an accessible professional goal for someone with my background. However, during our orientation, after listening to speaker after speaker discuss how they all started as interns, I became extremely excited about the potential opportunities that could arise from my time in D.C. It was hard to imagine that everyone started in the same position as I had and ended up in the successful positions that they are in now. After the first day, I immediately gushed to my mom over the phone about my newfound hopes for my future. And while, after orientation week, I did not expect that my time would be spent having coffee chats every day and running around the Hill trying to squeeze out every resource and opportunity available, that’s how it seemed to be spent.

My time in D.C. wouldn’t have been as incredible without the extremely rewarding and enlightening experience I had in Congressman Dan Kildee’s office. I want to thank all of the staff for welcoming me into the office with open arms and providing me with so many learning opportunities. During my time working in a Congressional office, I was given the chance to write cosponsor recommendations and constituent letters, attend briefings and hearings, and much more. The work that I was given further fueled my passion for public service. All the work I did felt extremely rewarding which made me excited to complete assignments, whether big or small, to the best of my ability. I especially want to thank Alexandra, my amazing supervisor, who really broadened this experience for me. She always provided me with the chance to explore my interests and dive deeper into policies that were significant to me. Furthermore, she has continued to support me, even after I have left the office, and has enthusiastically been helping me to seek new job opportunities. I am extremely lucky and honored to call her a mentor and a friend.

During my final week, which I spent interning at the Royal Thai Embassy, I had the opportunity to meet with the different Embassy departments and learn more about Thai relations with the United States. Additionally, I spent the week researching economic policies between Thailand and the United States, and I was able to dive deeper into agricultural trade and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework and its impact on Thailand. While, I know I have much more to learn regarding Thai politics, my week at the Embassy has opened my eyes to so many more issues and interests that I had not considered before.

The Thai-American National Internship Program has had a significant impact on my life and I can say that this has been one of the most life-changing experiences I have had. And although I entered into this internship with high expectations, I ended it with even more than I could have ever asked for and it can all be attributed to the amazing people I met. From the new friends who made D.C. feel less lonely to the supportive Hill staffers who were so helpful and eager to share their knowledge about the hill so I could make the most of my time. Hopefully, this won’t be last D.C. sees of me but nevertheless, I could not be more grateful for everything this summer has given me.