Outbound Project Highlight – Meeting the Deputy Minister of Education in Thailand

by Tanes Rianglaem, Fall ’18 YSEALI PFP Fellow from Thailand


General Surachet Chaiwong, Deputy Minister of Education, received a courtesy visit of Mr. Bradley Rickelman, U.S. Department of State exchange participant, endorsed through Professional Fellows Program, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Mr. Rickelman is on a mission to support a series of tailor-made trainings in “Advanced Entrepreneurial Education” for 51 vocational colleges nationwide and “Accelerating Tourism-based Enterprises” for 16 vocational colleges in Surat Thani, Phuket and Phang-nga.  These training are hosted under collaboration between Office of the Vocational Education Commission (OVEC) and U.S. Department of State Professional Fellows Program with primary objectives to strengthen management skills of OVEC incubator administrators and to promote creative networks among these administrators in different regions throughout the country. This reciprocal project is supported through Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), which builds the leadership capabilities of youth in the region and promotes cross-border cooperation to solve regional and global challenges.  Mr. Tanes Rianglaem from Office of the Vocational Education Commission was an active participant of YSEALI Professional Fellows Program in fall 2018.

TH Brad Rickelman meeting Dep. Minsiter of Education


Fingertalk Team Won Grand Prix for Daigaku SDGs Award in Tokyo

written by Dissa Ahdanisa, Spring ’16 YSEALI PFP Fellow from Indonesia

The Fingertalk team, represented by the founder Dissa Ahdanisa, won the first prize, Grand Prix, of Asahi Shimbun annual Daigaku SDGs Action Awards in Tokyo on 20 February 2019. After passing the first round of document application, Fingertalk, representing Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, was selected to be one of 12 finalists.

As suggested by its name, the competition was open to undergraduate, graduate students and researchers from universities all around Japan to come up with ideas that will help achieving any of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. The goals cover areas such as poverty eradication, high quality education and social justice. Accordingly, finalists ideas ranged from providing educational program for young Japanese students to creating affordable and portable toilet for underprivileged communities in Southeast Asia.

Dissa presented Fingertalk most recent project, Plushindo. It empowers underprivileged Deaf community by creating creative products to support endangered animals in Indonesia. The project was born from the collaboration with Hijrah Saputra from Piyoh Design, who designed the creative product, plushies, modeled after several endangered animals in Indonesia such as orangutan and Komodo dragon.

Last year, supported by New Zealand Embassy, while training the Deaf, the project was able to produce up to 600 plushies and provide educational program to young school children all around Indonesia. Dissa, Hijrah and Fingertalk team hopes by winning Daigaku SDGs Award, the project will be able to expand and create opportunities for more Deaf people in Indonesia.

The award was given by Mr. Ishida Ichiro, Marketing director of Asahi Shimbun as the lead judge. He mentioned that the project has a potential to expand globally and to sustain in the coming years. Dissa dedicates the win to all of the Deaf crew who has worked hard and hoped that it can act as a bridge for Japan and Indonesia. “It is definitely a step to eradicate social inequalities. We will work hard to create more impact in the world. Ganbarimasu!”

dissa and hijrah fingertalk

Volunteering Experience at Elijah’s Promise

written by Stephen Michael Co from the Philippines

The YSEALI professional fellowship program requires us to complete at least 3 hours of volunteer work. I’m not used to volunteering back home, as I consider myself an extremely busy entrepreneur who had no time to “waste” outside of business. I felt uneasy looking around for volunteer opportunities. I don’t consider myself having any particular skill, nor do I like talking to people in unfamiliar settings.

I must admit I was a little too happy when I found volunteer work as a dish cleaner at Elijah’s Promise, a soup kitchen in downtown New Brunswick with a mission to “harness the power of food to break the cycle of poverty, alleviate hunger, and change lives.” This is perfect! I did not have to speak to anyone; and, as a fully domesticated husband I am trained to enjoy washing dishes.

I came in early at 4pm on a chilly October Wednesday, totally clueless of how things work in a soup kitchen. I was fumbling about when an imposing lady, who was clearly in charge, told me to sign in, wash my hands, wear an apron, and put on gloves, all in the most curt and perfunctory manner. This would be a long surly night, I thought to myself.

My first task was to dice onions. Those big, pungent, red onions had me crying in no time, just as the other volunteers started trickling in. We came from different walks of life. Most were students, others were retirees. Some regularly volunteer, while others, like me, did so to fulfill a requirement.

After what seemed like an eternity I finished dicing the onions, and he kitchen lady lead me to my main assignment – the dish room. I was quickly taught how to work the sinks and the commercial dishwasher. My one task for the night was to wash everything brought to me and to store them properly afterwards.

Within a few minutes of figuring out my routine the kitchen opened for the night. Through the small opening of the dish room I saw the stream of hungry, homeless people come in. In a very orderly line they approached the serving area. They were of different races, of varying ages. They have different stories to their plight.


In between scrubbing the trays and loading the dishwasher, I had a revelation. My whole fellowship has revolved around food! From food innovation to serving food to the homeless, I saw how food, or the lack of it, has the power to change lives. As I saw tonight’s customers leave the door full and content, I thought about my worksite at Rutgers Food Innovation Center. The director for operations and my supervisor, Nolan Lewin, has never failed to remind potential clients and me of the center’s mission – to help businesses accelerate their growth, promote economic development, and job creation in the state of New Jersey.

When I return to my hometown in a few weeks’ time, I will fondly remember my fellowship and take its lessons to heart. Most importantly it was working the dish room in a soup kitchen that enlightened me for whom shall we innovate. Responsible innovation is for empowering the hungry, the powerless, the voiceless; it shall be used to make the world a better, kinder place for every person.

Professional Takeaways from the Fellowship

written by Afiq Mohammed from Brunei

How has participation in the Professional Fellows Program helped develop you professionally and how will you be able to apply that once you return home?

The Professional Fellows Program has been beneficial for me. With the support from American Councils & San Diego Diplomacy Council, I was placed at Startup San Diego where I was supervised under Jarrod Russell, the Executive Director of Startup San Diego. Being in a new environment is always an intimidating thing with having to struggle to keep up and adjust to the new culture, you need to strategize and figure ways to blend in the culture. At San Diego, it is no different, working from 9 – 5 in a competitive environment can be challenging where you need to learn to present yourself well, deliver and just keep moving. During my time here, I figured and took notes from my new role model and friend, Jarrod and I am excited to share the few take away that I learnt from him.

  • Stay humble & be more empathetic

I admire how humble he stays whilst being under stress. Everyone is struggling at their own pace so take a step back. What amazes me is that he strives to be on the same page with everyone, you name it, clients, students, partners and directors (and even the clueless me). The patience, sense of empathy and effort to understand makes it so much easier to work with him. He also ensures that the everyone’s voices are heard. After taking notes, he successfully shared his own views that can work well with their ideas. Sounds easy right? Well it is and you can do it too! One thing we keep forgetting is that we work with people who bears many problems and pressure from many angles. What we want to avoid is adding more of that to someone else.

  • Learn to prioritize

With so many tasks and work that needs to be done, it can be hard to keep up. One tip Jarrod shared with me was to find out 3 important task you need to do daily and ensure that you carry those out first. We all share the same 24 hours and within that 24 hours there’s so many that you can do. Target 3 things, be realistic, adopt SMART and once done, you may add and strive to do more in your checklist. It is also good practice to share this tip with your colleagues so they can focus and maintain a positive energy throughout the day. Make sure to also give credit to yourself for the effort you have done, because small achievements lead up to big accomplishments.

  • Take care of your personal health and others

Personal health comprises of many things from your own mental health, relationship with your family, colleagues and friends, your girlfriend back home and any pets you have. Imagine that popular PC game, THE SIMS, it is a good representation of life in a certain sense. You neglect one thing aspect and it will definitely take a toll on other people or things. Do things that make you happy. To ensure that you’re keeping the bar on the favorable end, make it about the people around you. Start a conversation with them, spend time with them by taking them out for a movie or a walk in a park. Share a joke with them, go food hunting to that new café. Appreciate them and they will appreciate you. A happy person is infectious! Share the positive vibe and your body & mind will thank you later. If that is fulfilled, it can help you become more productive and HAPPIER!

  • Be innovative with your life and cherish those moments

San Diego is rich with culture, history and innovation that you have a lot of room to explore. Jarrod drives sometimes but he prefers to cycle to work. He gets to experience the fresh air from the valley and great weather. The tip here is to take advantage and be creative of what you have around you. I enjoy the BIRD app that allows you to just scooter around the neighborhood. The last time I took a ride on a scooter was when I was 10! Sure brings back memories. Not far from our office is also the Santa Fe Train Station. Although we don’t have the privilege of having a train in Brunei as we travel mostly by car, it is great to just be in the moment, experience and absorb everything you feel, see, listen, taste and smell. The city is home to many amazing beaches with clear water and activities that you can try and that’s something to be grateful about.

I hope the article is beneficial for the readers in a fun way. I hope you can see things in a new light because I definitely value my time and moments when I’m in San Diego.

Fellowship at Ventureprise, Charlotte, NC

written by Rabia Tas from Turkey

I’ve been working at a technology transfer office and wanted my professional fellowship to be in the fields of technology transfer, entrepreneurship, research, and innovation. Therefore; my placement to Ventureprise which is the entrepreneurship and innovation center at the University of North Carolina Charlotte is a really good match. I’ve been participating in various events and meetings since I started my fellowship.

I’ve been a part of different activities such as learning about the programs of Ventureprise, having meetings with UNC Charlotte offices like Office of Technology Transfer and Proposal Development Office, joining workshops and seminars on business model canvas and career building. Some of the things that I’ve seen are quite similar to the models we use at my own institution, but there are some models or tools that we don’t use frequently. Therefore; seeing them here and making observations give me the inspiration to start new programs or practices once I return home.

Ventureprise provides me a good networking opportunity both in UNC Charlotte and in Charlotte city in terms of my areas of interest. But there was such a nice coincidence here at Ventureprise that it helped me not only to make new acquaintances from Charlotte but also to 7 different entrepreneurs from different European countries. Ventureprise was hosting European entrepreneurs for U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative and I had a chance to meet the 7 participants of that program here in Charlotte. They were all founders of startups from the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Ukraine, Italy, Norway and the United Kingdom. I joined in some events together with them and even participated in their pitching event. This global networking was a good surprise and opportunity for me. Because I talked to them and learn about technology development and innovation ecosystems in their countries as well as sharing my knowledge on Turkish innovation ecosystem. I helped one of the entrepreneur to contact with a potential partner in Turkey and created a draft Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership proposal about entrepreneurship with another.

I’ve come here to cooperate and collaborate with US institutions and entrepreneurial ecosystem and ended up with developing a global network with fellows from Eurasia Professional Fellowship Program, from Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative and from Young Transatlantic Innovative Leaders Initiative. This opportunity will be among the most memorable experiences of my fellowship.


Everyday Conservationist

written by Koranis Tanangsnakool (Gig) from Thailand

To be honest, it has been a while since last time I got up early to catch sunrise on the weekend. Somehow I feel an extra sleep on the weekend could potentially help alleviate tiredness from working days, and just recently the research has suggested that sleeping on weekend could compensate lost of sleep during weekday. With a strong determination, I got up early to join my host family for their morning activity which is walking up the hill picking up garbage.

Volunteer 2

Their daughter, Christina, started it 10 years ago. She went out every morning with a strong passion of ‘do-what-she-can’ and make it at least one less trash to keep the neighborhood clean. She has moved to the mainland years ago, the retiree couple decided to continue her mission and what makes this activity interesting is that the neighborhood they are trying to keep clean is the forest. Their house is located at the edge of reserved area, a 5-minute walk will lead you to Mount Tantalus part of Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve, one of seventeen forest reserves on Oahu Island.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, is authorized and responsible for land management for multi-use that incorporate a variety of public uses and benefits. Though each reserve requires individual management scheme for its unique natural resources, the same philosophy is applied for the entire forest reserve. This includes the conservation of biological integrity of native ecosystems, watersheds protection to secure fresh water supply for public uses today and in the future, provision of recreational opportunities, and economic empowerment through high quality forest product and sustainable forest industry.

Interestingly, stuffs thrown out on the edge of Mount Tantalus range from common trash like bottle lids, cigarette, plastic package to bed mattress, umbrella, drugs package and MONEY. Nice weather with fresh air, cool breeze from the pacific and morning light make this community service a very enjoyable activity. Besides seeing scenic view of Honolulu downtown and Diamond head is a marvelous feeling of getting close to the nature.

A’ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia
No task is too big when done together by all.

Celebration of Diversity

written by Nataliia Zaitseva from Ukraineoak

From the very first orientation meeting in DC I understood how different all the fellows are. 68 totally different fellows from different countries came to the US to learn about best practices of governance, business and education. Ethnic diversity is one of the main aspects which differs the US from my native country Ukraine.

Every year US Government gives around 50,000 green cards for immigrants who decided to live and work in the US.

I was happy to see the unique ceremony in Macomb County, Mount Clemens, MI on November 2, where I was a fellow at the Macomb County Executive`s Office. It is called the naturalization ceremony.

The naturalization ceremony created to recognize the rights, responsibilities, and importance of citizenship and provide access to services for new citizens. It is the culmination of the naturalization process.

Each year a group of people from the Macomb community become naturalized and get their American citizenship. Macomb County executives try to make administrative naturalization ceremonies positive and memorable moments in the lives of the citizens.

The first naturalization ceremony in Macomb County was held in 2014 and now is annual. Most of naturalized citizens came from Middle Eastern Countries.

This year 24 individuals from 16 different countries including: Albania, Bangladesh, China, Croatia, Germany, India, Iraq, Jordan, Korea, Lebanon, Liberia, Peru, Poland, South Korea, Tunisia and Yemen become naturalized. During ceremony immigrants become U.S. citizens by taking the Oath of Allegiance. For some of them the whole process lasted for 6 years.

Pam Lavers, Deputy County Executive, started with remarks and mentioned that Macomb County is a multicultural community and new citizens are highly welcomed to participate in the community life.

County Executive Mark A. Hackel in his remarks highlighted that diversity of Macomb County is incredible and it is very important for county authorities to enlarge the population, so Macomb is open for all!

After remarks, a keynote speaker, Inge Zomboreanu Boettcher, a Macomb County Community Mental Health employee that shared her own citizenship story. She went from Romania in 1990 and was naturalized in 1996. She pointed that they didn’t have such ceremony and it is a great idea to host the ceremony in Macomb county.

Following Inge’s story, the ceremony proceeded to the Oath of Allegiance led by the Honorable Judge George Caram Steeh from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Multicultural diversity is an integral part of American life. Participating in the naturalization ceremony was a unique experience which I never seen before.