Alumni Spotlight: Thailand

This month we feature two alumni from Thailand who had different UGRAD semesters.

Pharinya Auttho (James) | Fall 2019 | Keuka College

Pictures of James volunteering.

My name is Pharinya and I go by “James”. I was a UGRADer back in the fall of 2019 at Keuka College, New York. My major there was Political Science and History, and I took classes in International Relations and Globalization. When I saw my name on the list that I had been selected as one of four UGRADs from Thailand and I would be placed in New York State, I couldn’t be happier (because I believe most people perceive New York as “New York City”). However, the New York state is huge and the New York I was placed in was surrounded by nature (cornfields, lakes, and farms). But it was indeed a money-cannot-buy experience. Keuka College is indeed beautiful and located next to the Finger Lakes. Ultimately, I saw the snow for the first time. It was one of the greatest experiences I ever had in life.

After I came back to Thailand, I kept on volunteering for my university in my senior year. I inspired other students to apply for the UGRAD scholarship and one of them made it to the United States the next year. Moreover, I applied the knowledge I have learned from the United States to assist the Openmind Projects Foundation, an NGO I have been volunteering with for many years, in getting through the rough situation of COVID-19 by managing fully online learning programs called “Openmind Projects Open House” for young students in need, including students with disabilities in Nong Khai province.

My initial dream was to become a diplomat, but when I arrived in Bangkok I realized that the tourism industry is bigger than I imagined when I was at home in the countryside. Therefore, I chose to work in the hospitality and tourism field in hostel businesses. I have endless opportunities to meet people from all over the world. The experience I gained from the UGRAD scholarship helped me a lot such as understanding different cultures and backgrounds, and learning American Sign Language (ASL) and Spanish allowed me to impress and be able to assist those who do not speak English or those who use ASL. 

Global UGRAD opened the window of opportunities for me. It granted me the opportunity to learn and embrace different cultures and gain knowledge to integrate with my studies and career. I encourage everyone to apply for it.

Pongtham Khiaosakhu | 2010 – 2011 | Maryville College

Participating in the Global UGRAD Program at Maryville College in Tennessee from 2010 to 2011 stands as a pivotal chapter in my life—a period that not only enriched my academic journey but also cultivated a profound sense of cultural understanding and personal growth.

At Maryville College, I delved into a diverse array of English literature and language courses, broadening my academic horizons and enhancing my understanding of the subject matter. The interactive classes and engaging discussions fostered a deeper appreciation for the nuances of language and literature, laying a solid foundation for my career in English studies.

Picture of Pongtham (left) interpreting at a conference.

However, my UGRAD experience extended beyond the classroom. Alongside my academic pursuits, I engaged in diverse professional endeavors that contributed significantly to my personal and career development. Serving as an interpreter for various esteemed companies and events—Isuzu, IDP Expo, and the Autism International Conference—allowed me to hone my linguistic skills while navigating the complexities of different industries.

My roles as a Technical Translator for RWS Moravia Thailand and Star Translation and Software provided invaluable insights into the technical aspects of translation, sharpening my proficiency in the field. Moreover, my tenure as a part-time English lecturer at Sripatum University Khon Kaen Campus and as a TOEIC tutor at various schools not only solidified my passion for education but also allowed me to impart knowledge and guidance to aspiring students.

Beyond professional engagements, I embraced leadership roles that challenged and empowered me. As the Tournament Director for the 9th European Union – Thailand Intervarsity Debate Championship, I coordinated a successful event that fostered critical thinking and communication skills among participants—an experience that honed my organizational and leadership abilities.

Moreover, being selected as the Thailand Representative for the Young Southeast Asian Leader Initiative in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was a defining moment. Attending the President Obama Town Hall Meeting as a delegate provided a platform to engage in discussions on critical global issues, fostering a sense of responsibility and inspiring me to make a positive impact in my community.

Reflecting on my multifaceted experiences during the UGRAD Program, I am grateful for the myriad opportunities that have shaped me into a versatile professional. The blend of academic excellence, cultural immersion, and diverse professional engagements has honed my skills, broadened my perspectives, and instilled in me a profound sense of global citizenship.

Today, as I navigate my career path, I carry with me the invaluable lessons learned during my time in Tennessee—a commitment to excellence, a passion for cultural exchange, and a fervent desire to contribute meaningfully to a diverse and interconnected world. The UGRAD Program at Maryville College stands as a testament to the transformative power of international exchange, shaping not just my academic journey but also my outlook on life and the global community.