Nattacha Munakata is currently studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-Med) at George Mason University. This summer, she interned at the office of Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL) through the Thai-American National Internship Program.
The following is the speech she gave at the concluding reception of TANIP, held at the Thai Embassy in D.C., edited for clarity.
My name is Nattacha Munakata and I am honored to have participated in a the TANIP program. I am from Alexandria, VA, just across the Potomac River. As a child, I always thought of Washington D.C. as the neighbor with historic monuments and lots of traffic, but rarely had the chance to see the political and business sides of the city. The orientation week of TANIP, however, gave me the valuable opportunity to observe many parts of DC, from the federal institutes to non-profit. The most memorable moment was our meeting with Senator Tammy Duckworth. I was able to talk to her about her interest in Southeast Asian public health and was inspired at her work, both domestically and internationally. Thank you to the US-Asia Institute, Mary Sue, Joycelyn, Megan, Jacob, and the many speakers who gave their time to meet with us.
During the following six weeks, the other interns were placed on the hill. However, I was placed at Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership, or CAPAL, a non-profit organization focused in providing Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders public service position opportunities through their internship program and many events. At CAPAL, not only was I doing basic office work, such as emailing sponsors and board members and managing documents for the CAPAL Scholars and Interns, I was also given several projects to lead. For example, this month, I led a Congressional Budget Information Session and Resume Writing and Interview Workshop. Every day at CAPAL was very busy. I learned that events as small as 20 attendees takes months of planning and hard work. Juggling projects in our small office, which had two full-time staff and two interns, required very good time management. From a third person perspective, this may sound like a terrible job, but it was not in any sense. I was so excited to start work that I voluntarily came in at 8:30AM every morning. My small office was like a second family where I knew that I was going to be cared for. I still remember us going to 7-11 to grab free Slurpees on 7-11 day and laughing so much talking about our weekends. Thank you to Liz, the best boss, Felicia, and Camille. I definitely miss you all and the office and will put Justin Timberlake’s “Lovestoned” on repeat. I would also like to thank the board members, the CAPAL Scholars, and the interns for their generosity and support.
Reflecting back on this internship, I noticed that I was different from the other five interns. They were placed in Congress, while I was at a nonprofit. They were interested in political science or the economy, and I am a community health major. They can speak fluent Thai. I can understand Thai, but find it difficult to hold conversations in Thai. I could keep on going about all these difference. But during my time at TANIP, I never felt like an outcast. Instead, I appreciated the fact that I was able to develop a different perspective. I learned about health and government at the domestic level, but also became aware of the importance of public health in Southeast Asia. I also felt proud of my Thai heritage thanks to Thailand’s advanced state of public health. I would like to thank the other TANIP interns for including me regardless of my lack of Thai skills, as well as teaching me more about Thai politics and history.
Thank you to Ambassador Pisan and his staff members for giving me this extraordinary opportunity. I will make use of my experiences to become the next Thai-American leader in health.