GW OIE hosts State Department (YSEALI PFP) Thai Fellow

June 3, 2024

Picture of Khwanjira Ponsree

The OIE hosted Khwanjira Ponsree, a fellow from Thailand through the U.S. State Department's Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Professional Fellows Program (YSEALI PFP)  during May.

A lecturer of international entrepreneurship at Khon Kaen University International College (KKUIC), Khwanjira took part in the YSEALI program to understand the ways student and startup founders are supported to pursue their ideas in the U.S. and what resources are in place to help them along the way.

Throughout the month, Khwanjira participated in GW and OIE organized events such as joining the Georgian cohort from Caucasus University and Samtskhe-Javakheti State University to tour university innovation centers around the DMV and watching the World Bank Youth Summit pitch coaching sessions given by Bob Smith.

Her favorite experience during her stay was attending the final presentations given by GW medical students studying in the Clinical Practice Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CPIE) track and listening to their startup ideas. Khwanjira said it was very insightful hearing them find the solutions to problems specific to their field and seeing how Bob guides the students through the exploration process.

“Here you are not exactly leading students to see the solution, but instead you are getting students to see the customer insights, which is what I will have to adapt to my startup ecosystem as well,” Khwanjira said.

Khwanjira participated in the YSEALI program to learn about how the U.S. molds an entrepreneurial ecosystem at an early phase and apply that to Thailand’s current approaches. Currently, she noted there are similarities in the start of the student journey at GW and KKUIC but differ by the end. At KKUIC in the beginning, students are highly encouraged to understand and interview their customers but don’t have the sufficient time to dive deep into their research as they are only given a semester.

“One thing I would love to bring back to my country is the way you give a bigger amount of time to students to go out and meet the actual customer,” Khwanjira said. She also mentioned in the U.S. there is easier access to meet and connect with investors who are passionate about investing in startups.

Khwanjira encourages anyone eligible and interested in the program to apply to YSEALI, emphasizing it was a great experience.

“This is a big thing the state government provides for us, as it benefits both our society back in our country and ourselves. We get to learn, we get to be open-minded…this is an opportunity that you are never going to get anywhere else without this scholarship,” Khwanjira says.

According to their website, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, including U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges and seed funding, YSEALI seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, and strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia.