Nguyen Ha Phuong’s trip to the USA boosted her relationships with regional and international peers and gave her a new perspective on the role of ASEAN and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Over five weeks in September / October 2015, the Bachelor of Business graduate joined others on President Barrack Obama’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at the University of Nebraska in Omaha, USA.
“Around 21 participants came from 10 ASEAN countries,” Phuong said.
“I was selected by the initiative’s local embassy, based on background, experience, leadership record, and commitment to service.”
The trip included an academic residency, leadership development, an educational study tour, local community service activities and opportunities to engage with American peers, concluding in Washington, D.C., so the students could meet policymakers, governmental representatives, businesses and think-tanks.
Participants spent 75 per cent of their time in the Nebraskan University of Omaha and Scottsbluff, visiting Portland (Oregon) and the USA capital Washington DC in the last week.
“The vibe in Portland and DC is totally different. I love how DC is one of the most liberal cities in the USA, as well as how Portland people care about the homeless,” Phuong said.
“But what I love the most is my newfound friendship with the academic fellows. Coming from different political and cultural backgrounds, they taught me so many things I haven’t thought about before.
“Their perspectives broadened my mind and made me understand ASEAN much better.”
To Phuong the most memorable thing in the trip was to building regional and international relationships.
“I met so many interesting people and gained valuable contacts - not only with friends but also professors and mentors.
“They are super cool and awesome people who do great things in the congress and give TEDx talks all the time!
“I think knowledge about the ASEAN region is critical because in coming years we won’t be only citizens and leaders of our country but also of the whole region, especially with the ASEAN Economic Community and TPP happening.
“I feel thankful to have been part of this wonderful YSEALI trip.”
More recently, Phuong attended President Obama’s November town hall meeting at the YSEALI Summit in Malaysia.
- Launched in 2013, (YSEALI) is U.S. President Barack Obama’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia.