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Ella Duangkaew participated in the 2015 TANIP Program and recently accepted a job at the US-ASEAN Business Council where she interned during the program. Here, Ella looks back on her TANIP experience and how it helped her along the way.

The Thai-American National Internship Program was an exceptional experience that has led me directly to my current position.

It is a groundbreaking program for mobilizing young Americans with either citizenship or ethnic heritage from Thailand, and leveraging their unique bi-cultural perspective in strategic internships in both the Embassy and key partner organizations of the Embassy, to advance US-Thai relations.

Firstly, it is a fantastic introduction to US foreign policy stakeholders, particularly for young Thai-Americans who may have had little previous exposure to this complex world. Prior to TANIP, I only had policy experience in the Thai government’s Ministry of Public Health, working mainly on domestic Thai mental health policy. The one-week orientation at the beginning of the internship thoroughly exposed us and introduced us to key stakeholders in US foreign policymaking, from congressional offices, including the only Thai-American representative in Congress, Senator Tammy Duckworth, to government agencies, think tanks, trade associations, and the Embassy itself. We gained a thorough understanding of how these organizations work together to advance US-Thai relations, and why it is important for Thai-Americans to be in these spaces.

This led perfectly into our rotational placements, in which we were placed in internships with one of the organizations we had encountered in the orientation, prior to our final placements in offices at the Embassy. I had the privilege to be placed at the US-ASEAN Business Council, where I learned how the US private sector was an important stakeholder in the US-Thai bilateral relationship, particularly for building the economic relationship between the two countries and generating growth and opportunities for both economies. I also gained key skills in writing and reporting for multiple stakeholders, and high-stakes program planning and execution, which were critical for a fresh college graduate at that time.

Finally, the internship wrapped up on a high note during my final placement in the Office of the Air Force Attaché in the Royal Thai Embassy. This final placement showed me how the Thai government worked directly to build the US-Thai relationship through its diplomatic postings, in this case the defense relationship specifically. Most importantly, this placement opened my eyes to working within a nation’s foreign service, and how that is impactful in the foreign policymaking world.

The multitude of unique and enriching experiences I had during TANIP certainly made me an attractive candidate for future opportunities in foreign policy. Following TANIP, I obtained my Master’s degree in Policy Practice and International Social Welfare from Columbia University, and interned with both the United Nations Secretariat and the United Nations Development Programme during my  graduate program.

Having graduated from Columbia this past May, I am now a full-time Manager at the US-ASEAN Business Council. I can directly credit TANIP for introducing me to the Council, an organization that I was enthusiastic to return to following my enriching and enjoyable experience at the Council during my time at TANIP. TANIP also provided me with important foundational knowledge and networks that I have built upon to be successful in my current role.

I’m proud to say that in my role as a Manager on our Thailand portfolio, I feel I am fulfilling TANIP’s mission to bring more Thai-Americans into the foreign policymaking world, specifically to strengthen US-Thai relations.

In fact, I recently had the responsibility, and honor, of planning and executing a farewell luncheon for Ambassador Pisan Manawapat, the visionary behind TANIP. It was deeply moving when, at the luncheon, the Council’s President and CEO, Alex Feldman, praised the Ambassador for creating TANIP, and stated that my hiring was a direct result of the program.

As this goes to show, TANIP is a program that can create invaluable opportunities for young Thai-Americans who want to work in foreign policy and build the important relationship between the two countries we call home.