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Thai-American National Internship Program (TANIP) Alumni Experiences

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Tasha J. Boyer

TANIP 2018, Yale University

I have immense gratitude for the Royal Thai Embassy and the U.S.-Asia Institute for collaborating to create the TANIP program that made last summer possible. It was an unforgettable experience that Rachel, Ginger, and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.

My name is Tasha Boyer and I’m from Chugiak, Alaska. I’m a candidate for a B.S. in Psychology at Yale University. I applied for the TANIP program to reinvigorate my interest in the policymaking process and engage with other second generation Thai-Americans. Most importantly, I hoped for an opportunity to befriend other second-generation Thai Americans, an opportunity I didn’t really have growing up in my small Alaskan town where other Thais were few and far-between.

However, as this summer approached, I worried that my experience here would again be that of an outsider. I didn’t grow up speaking Thai, but Spanish. I only started learning Thai last summer, living with my mother’s family outside of Bangkok. I can understand the language to a degree, but I find conversation to be intimidating. Given these reasons, I worried that I was in no position to provide a Thai perspective.

However, I couldn’t have been more mistaken. Never have I ever met people who I felt I could relate to as much as my partners-in-crime, Ginger and Rachel. I feel lucky to have shared my summer with these two intelligent, capable, and resilient women who coincidentally happen to also be biracial, female, luk kreung, Thai-Americans. Throughout our time together, the three of us have had many chances to talk about our backgrounds and the intersectionality of our shared identities. TANIP has been an indelible experience made even brighter thanks to my two fellow participants.

During our first week, we had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face with some of the most influential people in Washington. These individuals represented organizations and corporations such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Refugee Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. State Department, and more. These introductions were a fantastic way for the TANIP interns to see what life could look like in both the private and public sectors.

In many of these meetings, we discussed U.S.-Thailand relations and how even our conversations alone served to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. I also learned that there is no single trajectory one needs to take after graduating from college. Each person we met had a different pathway that led them to where they are today, which was reassuring as a rising senior with no clue about her future plans.

Though I have worked in D.C. before for Senator Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, this was my first experience working on the House side of Congress. From the start of my internship in Rep. Bob Brady’s congressional office, staffers entrusted me with responsibilities such as attending briefings and writing memos, researching policy, giving Capitol tours, engaging with constituents, and crafting tweets and Facebook posts. One day, Congressman Brady even called me to his office to ask for my input on a bill dealing with salmon habitats, as he knew it would affect me in Alaska. I felt privileged to have had to the ability to do such important work and felt as though my contributions were valued by staffers and the congressman in my office.

Beyond the Rayburn House Office Building, I had the pleasure of attending the CAPAL, APIA Vote, and Women’s Congressional Staff Association conferences on the hill. I was honored to meet several iconic leaders such as Rep. John Lewis, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, and Senator Tammy Duckworth, who referred to the three of us as “her people, her posse, and her squad.”

During the last week of TANIP, the girls and I worked at the Royal Thai Embassy’s consular office. We shared consular duties, such as taking passport pictures, approving visas, and engaging with Thai community members. We also helped organize donations for Horton’s Kids for the King’s Birthday charity events. During my time working at with the Embassy, I was able to make my own Thai passport, which had never been possible without a consular office in Alaska. It was a great honor to work in a place most would never get to experience firsthand, but given my connection to Thailand, my time was even more memorable.

As I reflect back on my experience, I think about how special it is that I was able to be in this position. The only way for Thais to advocate for themselves is to ensure they have a seat at the table. This work further helps me understand how much room we have left to grow in advocating for our Thai brothers and sisters and how much more I hope to do to further the bilateral U.S.-Thailand relationship. I feel deeply honored and grateful to have had this opportunity this summer to be in our nation’s capital, watching the political scene unfold right in front of my eyes. Thank you to everyone who helped to make this possible and above all else, thank you to Rachel and Ginger for their endless love and friendship.

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Rachel Forrest

TANIP 2018, University of California - Los Angeles

Participating in the Thai American National Internship program was such an amazing and rewarding experience that I am extremely grateful for. Experiencing this internship with Ginger and Tasha was so fulfilling as we bonded over relatable Thai-American experiences,  and were able to meet our common role model Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Meeting Sen. Duckworth alongside Sen. Durbin and Rep. Kelly at an Illinois constituent coffee event was definitely one of the highlights of the internship. Sitting in the front row about three feet away from Tammy, she described us to the room as her Thai-American, posse, squad, and her people, and we couldn’t keep back tears.

Speaking of Illinois, this program provided me with invaluable professional experience through interning on capitol hill for Rep. Bill Foster of the Illinois 11th District. As this was my first time in D.C., I wasn’t exactly sure of what to expect while interning for Congress, or living in D.C. in general. But once I stepped into that office, I met amazing interns and staff who warmly welcomed me. I immediately started writing legislative memos, attending congressional briefings, and leading capitol tours even when I still felt like I could get lost. Overtime these tasks began to feel more automatic, but every day still remained equally exciting as the first.

Being able to gain first hand experience in the legislative process and life in the capitol was incredible and I greatly enjoyed all of the work, both inside and outside of the office. Having the privilege to attend briefings on important policy issues, volunteering for the Women’s Congressional Staff Association Conference headed by one of Tasha’s staffers, attending networking events with other AAPI Interns, and spending a week at the Thai Embassy all contributed to a wonderful internship experience that I will remember for years to come.

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Ginger Slentz

TANIP 2018, Boston University

A few days before starting TANIP you could ask anyone at home, I did not want to go to Washington D.C. and had no plans on working in Congress post grad. However now reflecting
on my summer with TANIP, as cheesy as it sounds, I can say it was an experience that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
During my time with TANIP I was able to meet with professionals all over D.C. in many different areas of politics and hear the stories of how their careers got to where they are now. This opened my eyes to the variety of jobs there are to pursue after graduation. During orientation week we were able to become more comfortable with the city and learn about the impact that USAI has. For my congressional internship portion of the program I interned at Congressman Tony Cardenas office. I was lucky and Congressman Cardenas’ district was right next to my home district which made understanding constituents issues easier. CA 29 has a very high population of Thai people and it was important to me to see how other minorities were reaching out in their district so I could bring back these ideas to the Thai Community in Los Angeles. During my time in the office I was able to communicate with constituents from the district and hear what issues and problems were directly affecting them. I was also able to work on issues that I was passionate about while having a supportive staff to guide me along. My staff became mentors giving me great advice on projects I worked on in the office but also on school and career plans. During my time at the office I was able to attend many briefings and talks but by far my favorite experience was getting to meet Senator Tammy Duckworth. As someone who is half thai and half caucasian very rarely do I see someone in the media or position of power that looks like me. Meeting someone one of my role models/idols was a life changing experience especially
when she called us part of her “squad”. Overall my time spent in Washington D.C. thanks to the Royal Thai Embassy and USAI
was a life changing experience. Without TANIP I would lack the skills and knowledge to pursue a career in a field I want after graduation.

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Balin Kird-in

TANIP 2017, Florida Atlantic University

Read about Balin’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Grace Namchaithotsaphon

TANIP 2017, University of North Florida

Read about Grace’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Nattacha Munakata

TANIP 2017, George Mason University

Read about Nattacha’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Mancherie La Mere

TANIP 2017, Thammasat University

Read about Mancherie’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Lennox Chaiveera

TANIP 2016, University of California - Berkeley
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Apisra Ann Srivanich-Raper

TANIP 2016, College of Idaho

Read about Annie’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Alit Ponkaew

TANIP 2016, Northern Illinois University

Read about Alit’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Sophiaya Chacon Hyder

TANIP 2016, Los Angeles City College
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Charles Tantakool

TANIP 2016, Chulalongkorn University

Read about Charles’s experience with the Thai-American National Internship Program here.

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Justin Cobkit

TANIP 2015, University of Georgia

Read about Justin’s experience as a second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C. here.

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Ella Duangkaew

TANIP 2015, University of Pennsylvania

Read about Ella’s experience as a second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C. here.

Read about Ella’s impression of the first Thai-American National Internship Program here.

Read Ella’s reflection on the Thai-American National Internship Program 2 Years Later here.

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Surapoj Pochanatwong

TANIP 2015, University of North Texas

Read about Surapoj’s experience as a second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C. here.

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Chakapong Soundara

TANIP 2015, George Mason University

Read about Chakapong’s experience as a second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C. here.

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Natchaya May Vutrapongvatana

TANIP 2015, New York University

Read about May’s impression of the first Thai-American National Internship Program here.

Read about May’s experience during her first week as a second-generation Thai-American in Washington, D.C. here.