Rosalyn Bejrsuwana: Reflection from Thai-American in the Thai American National Internship Program

My name is Rosalyn Bejrsuwana and I was born in Bakersfield, California, but grew up in Bangkok, Thailand. I’m a rising sophomore at Pasadena City College majoring in Political Science, but I’m currently in the process of transferring to a four-year college by next fall.

I would like to start by thanking members of the Royal Thai Embassy who have devoted themselves to building more Thai-American representation in politics, on top of strengthening bilateral cooperation between our two nations.  Ambassador Manasvi, thank you for welcoming us to the Hill, sharing your advice, and for coming to this event – it is a great honor. I want to thank P’Gift, P’Aim, P’Ep and staff at the Royal Thai Embassy for their endless support and for making our time here a great learning experience. I still remember exchanging emails with P’Gift and her insistence that I apply despite me feeling like I wasn’t qualified. Perry, Aoy, and Jennifer thank you for the endless love and care. My DC experience couldn’t have been this incredible without all of you.

I would like to thank the USAI team, especially Mary Sue, Alec, Kathi, and the USAI team for coordinating, collaborating, and making the TANIP program happen. This would not have been possible if not for their tireless work and care.

I would also like to thank Senator Duckworth and her office, including Alli, Hope, the staff, and my fellow intern friends who have all made my first time on the Hill the memory of a lifetime.

The fact that I grew up in Thailand meant that I am quite Thai in terms of my exposure to popular culture and my feelings towards political issues. To be honest, I was a bit wary of applying to the program, because I felt that I wasn’t ‘American’ enough, and certainly not enough to know about the US government. My fears and doubts vanished when I arrived here in DC, where I was warmly welcomed and supported by the TANIP fellows, Impact fellows, MUNCEP fellows and the USAI team. That first week had some of the most important moments for me on the Hill.

USAI brought in incredible speakers and representatives from both the private and the public sector, and being exposed to such a variety of perspectives upon setting foot in DC made me understand so much more not only about domestic issues, but also foreign ones as well. My favorite speaker was Mrs. Piyachat Terrell a thai American from the Environmental Protection Agency where we had a heart to heart conversation on environmental justice. She shared her personal experience with a victim of human trafficking where she expressed her grief and pain through art. This taught me that there are more ways to advocate for the causes we believe in than what we usually think of.

During my time in Senator Duckworth’s office, I got to taste three sides of politics. The first was being on the frontlines, responding to phone calls from constituents, and talking to people who needed our help. This is work that is underappreciated and frankly so vital to the survival of our democracy. What I realized from being stationed on the front lines of politics is that the greatest form of democracy is one where authority figures engage regularly and earnestly with the people. The second was probably the most challenging of all – writing vote recommendations. It was grueling work that involved adapting to a new writing style and performing in-depth research on short notice and against tight deadlines. The learning curve was steep but I believe that I have come quite far in my eight weeks here. The third, and final flavor, was the informal coffee chats, where I got to know the people behind the campaign banners. I’ve had over fifty coffee chats with various people on the Hill in my time here, and meeting them taught me something. Republicans, Democrats, Independents – most of us want to solve the same problems, but we see the world through different lenses. This strengthened my core belief that despite growing polarization, we must find common ground and push for bipartisan solutions, no matter how difficult negotiating and deal-making may be. It ignited a passion in me – a desire to bring people together and solve the most pressing issues of the day.

Because of my time here, I plan to take with me the valuable knowledge I’ve gained and use it to give back to the communities that supported me, whether it’s my local community in Bangkok, the Thai-American community in Southern California, or right here on Capitol Hill. Whether or not I end up pursuing politics as my main career focus in the future, I believe that one thing will always stick with me: the desire to change others’ lives for the better through policy or any other means. Thank you once again to the Royal Thai Embassy, the USAI, and Senator Duckworth’s office. You have taught me what it means to be a public servant, a diplomat, and a  citizen who strives to improve the happiness of people in my community.