6 Thai Graduates Discuss Future And Optimism
Arnisa Gin Burapachaisri
Having earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and human rights from Barnard College at Columbia University, Gin, as Arnisa is fondly known, is about to complete a master’s degree (on scholarship) in diplomatic studies and diplomacy at the University of Oxford. The daughter of diplomat Anuwat Burapachaisri, Poland’s honorary consul in Thailand, it’s no surprise Gin aspires to follow in his footsteps. “I chose these areas of study specifically to become a diplomat one day,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to become an ambassador for Thailand.”
Understanding the need for experience and to further cement her career aspirations she completed an eight-month internship at the permanent mission of Thailand to the United Nations in New York before returning home to work at the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs for four years. “During my stint at the ministry I was assigned to the Department of International Organisations as a desk officer and worked on human trafficking and labour migration issues for two years and sustainable development for a year,” she says. “Prior to pursuing my master’s degree at Oxford, I also worked at the Office of Policy and Planning and the Asset Procurement and Management Bureau.”
Gin speaks enthusiastically about the future that awaits her but also understands there will be challenges. She highlights the changes brought on by the fourth industrial revolution led by the introduction of 5G and advancements in AI and its impact on global diplomacy. “The world is becoming increasingly competitive for graduates about to start a career so it’s about staying positive. Maintaining a sense of optimism is a source of motivation.”
The 27-year-old encourages fellow graduates to consider a career in the public sector because there is an increasing demand for civil servants and the reward is two-fold. “I think the public sector is a great avenue for those joining the workforce to hone their knowledge and skills and contribute to the development of the nation,” she says, adding that whatever you chose to do, the recipe for success boils down to determination and passion, open-mindedness, an innovative outlook and a sense of compassion.
Jirasit William Chatamra
Will is the only child of Dr Kris Chatamra and British-born Khunying Finola, the driving forces behind the Queen Sirikit Centre for Breast Cancer and Thailand’s first hospice for terminal-stage breast cancer patients, Pink Park Village. Having recently earned a bachelor’s degree in law at the London School of Economics, Will is hoping to gain some work experience before pursuing a graduate degree. “I’m interested in studying public policy or international relations,” he says, although right now he is hoping to be accepted on a training programme at investment bank Goldman Sachs.
Much like his parents, the young man has a philanthropic streak and is keen on doing his bit to help the less fortunate. He has often participated in his mother’s slum outreach project funded by the QSCBC. “My parents raised me with a sense of service and duty. They are walking examples of both,” says the 24-year-old adding, “So while my short-term goal is to get as much work experience as I can and become financially independent and stable, ultimately I see my future in Thailand helping my country. Wealth disparity is a real issue here. I could envisage a career doing something to redress that balance, something sustainable with a lasting effect.” The polo and rugby enthusiast says a foundation or charity to help those in need might be possible in the future. “Why not? I’m also keen on animal welfare. There’s much room for improvement in that regard here and it’s something else in which I could be involved.”
A feeling of anxiety when thinking about the future is common and the successful pursuit of one’s career goals can seem daunting but like Arnisa, Will says keeping a positive mindset helps him to cope. “It’s important to stay optimistic,” he smiles. “You have to be resilient in the face of challenges, it’s the only way you will grow. You just have to work hard and always give it your best. The world is passed down through the generations and it’s important that those in each generation with the ability to make positive change stand up and act, so that they pass on a world better than the one they found.”
Manintorn Elle Sawamiphakdi
Psychology graduate Manintorn, or Elle, has only just earned her degree from University College London and the daughter of Krisda Sawamiphakdi, managing director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Bangkok, admits she is undecided about her future career. The 21-year-old says, “I’ve been interested in mental health issues since high school, hence my bachelor’s degree. I would like to do a master’s degree, perhaps in clinical psychology. However, at the moment I feel I need to get some work experience. In the short-term I’m hoping to return to the UK soon and work at a school with students with special educational needs and disabilities before my graduate degree.”
No stranger to the lack of awareness surrounding mental health issues in Thailand, where conversations about psychological illnesses remain largely subdued because of the stigma attached to them, Elle hopes to one day contribute to shifting people’s attitudes. “I feel there needs to be broad change. It starts with education and first we need to teach the teachers. But we all need to be able to recognise when someone is not feeling in his or her right mind. It’s not a weakness to feel depressed and there are many factors—clinical, social and environmental—that contribute to mental illness. If the signs of a problem exist we need to be able to recognise them and offer constructive support.”
Another issue close to Elle’s heart is that of social inequality, particularly when it is reinforced based on historic, racial and gender prejudices. “It is prevalent in the different strata of Thai society—a kind of ‘know your place’ mentality and don’t aspire to rise any higher—but man or woman, we should all be afforded opportunities to get on in life, whether we come from a remote farm, an inner city slum or a comfortable suburban estate.”
Like many young adults, Elle is concerned about her future and is uncertain about where it might lead. She is also aware of societal pressures to do well but stresses the importance of never comparing yourself to others or compromising on your dreams. “The key is to do what you love,” she says. “The hard part is discovering what it is that you love.”
Panit Poon Potisomporn
More commonly known as Poon, Panit holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in engineering science from Oxford University. Unsure of what he wanted to do after high school, the 22-year-old admits he eventually followed the engineering footsteps of his father Gridsada Potisomporn, owner of Sriracha Construction. “My dad has a very structured and logical way of thinking, which is something he attributes to his degree,” Poon says. “His influence is such that I felt drawn to the field. Like father like son I suppose,” he laughs.
Somewhere along the way the young man discovered a particular passion for the field of energy production. His master’s thesis on wind turbines and the energy they generate is soon to be published in an academic journal and has even triggered the interest of the UK government. Poon is currently pursuing a PhD in engineering with emphasis on wind energy and energy storage in Southeast Asia. “My goal is to make a contribution to the renewable energy sector in Thailand. Anything to help the country—and the world—move away from the use of fossil fuels,” he says.
Ultimately the ambitious youngster intends to establish his own consultancy company, “a bridge between the private and public sectors,” he explains. “Thailand’s energy industry has a lot of potential but the country still depends heavily on non-renewable energy and there is a significant lack of a clear road map for both public and private entities to switch to renewables. It requires a lot of research to develop an effective road map and to convince policymakers to guide the nation in the right direction. I truly aspire to make a contribution to developing this industry further and leaving a positive footprint.”
Like most people, Poon simply wants to be happy in life and for him that means financial stability and a good work-life balance. “My mother always tells me to wake up every morning with a goal and I always try to start my day with a positive feeling of optimism. I hope I’m still doing it years from now,” he smiles.
At 31 Viria, the daughter of Dr Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, founding dean of Thammasat University’s School of Global Studies and Public Health Faculty and Vivatong Vichit-Vadakan, former engineer at NASA and founder of drone imagery specialists Skyviv, is the oldest of our interviewees. Having participated in benevolent work from a young age the Stanford University and Harvard Business School graduate has had more time to develop a clear vision of what she wants to do in life. “There’s so much poverty and inequality in Thailand and across the globe. I’ve always known that I wanted to do something with impact,” she says, “which is why I decided to pursue a degree in urban studies with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship and really got to learn more about innovative solutions and sustainable business models.”
It took Viria several years after her time at Stanford to earn her master’s degree, years in which she was able to broaden her experience working with companies such as non-profit design studio Ideo.org (where she managed a Gates Foundation grant) and education technology company Learn Corporation. She also helped create a four-year global studies and social entrepreneurship undergraduate programme at Thammasat University. “My dream is to start a vocational skills school that helps connect people with sustainable jobs and income,” she says. “I think it’s important to focus on things like English literacy and technological and digital literacy given today’s exciting opportunities. I think ‘up-skilling’ is the right way to reduce inequality and help lift families out of poverty.”
It takes an optimistic nature to acknowledge all the darkness in the world and still have hope. “The reason that I keep working on education improvement in terms of economic mobility is because I am so optimistic about the world,” she smiles. “We have everything to tackle the most challenging social and environmental challenges. There’s the excitement of technology and so much talent and will to do good. It’s a matter of how can we can harness that and work together more and cross-share resources.” Nelson Mandela once said it always seems impossible until it’s done and this is one of Viria’s mantras. “If you don’t believe then nothing will change,” she says. “You have to see the possibilities in the biggest challenges. And sometimes, you find inspiration in the darkest of places.”
Panukorn Poom Sriorathaikul
The eldest son of Suriyon Sriorathaikul, managing director of high jewellery manufacturer Beauty Gems, Poom is in the process of finishing his bachelor’s degree in economics at Boston University in the US. Although he is still uncertain as to what extent he will become involved in the family business, he is planning to enrol at the Gemological Institue of America in New York so as to be able to help the company if and when needed. “To be honest, growing up I didn’t really have any interest in jewellery,” he says with a laugh. “It wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly understood and learned to appreciate the craft.”
Being born into a family of jewellers, Poom is grateful his parents have always encouraged him to pursue his own passions, whatever they may be. That said, he admits the idea of establishing his own line of men’s jewellery is an appealing one. “I am a big fan of golf too though, so in addition to doing my bit for the family business, one day I would love to build a dedicated golf village here in Thailand,” he says. He may have doubts about a fixed career path but he isn’t letting them pre-occupy him. “My parents are firm believers that one should do what one likes. That’s how you develop the drive to go at it to the best of your abilities. I don’t want to end up regretting missed opportunities or getting into something that doesn’t make me happy, so at the moment I’m in no rush.”
One thing is clear—much like his mother Mega and father Suriyon, the young man is keen to give back to society. “I want to become successful so that I can help others,” he explains. “I was born lucky in a world full of inequality. Poverty and lack of equal opportunities really get to me so I hope to have my own charitable foundation that can assist people in the future. I know there will be challenges ahead but I feel like it’s the struggles in life and how you cope with them that actually make you who you are.”
- Photography Chaiwat Kangsamrith