Alumni spotlight: Pam Sinprasong

P. Sinprasong

Pamela Sinprasong graduated from the Urban Environment, Sustainability & Climate Change master's track of the Urban Management and Development programme this September. After graduation, she flew straight to Thailand and started interning at the UNDP Bangkok Hub where she is currently working for a project that aims to lower the carbon footprint of four cities. During this internship, she became really passionate about sustainability and wants to help the world to become more sustainable for future generations.

What was your study experience like?

There are so many words to describe how my experience was like, but the best one would have to be “unforgettable”. From learning so many various contexts of the urban world - which was totally new for me since I came from an International Relations background - to meeting people from all over the world, there really is nothing that I can forget about my study experience. I was genuinely very surprised at how diverse the master's programme was, and it is because of that that I now have connections with people from over 40 different countries. I still remember trying so many different cuisines from the weekly Asian dinners that I would enjoy with my friends, teaching dance choreographies to my classmates, and sitting for hours and hours at the library just to write my thesis. Being a part of the UMD rigorously challenged me in many ways, but it was this reason that made the year unforgettable.

How was life after graduation? What was the biggest challenge you had to overcome?

Life after graduation was definitely different. From being a student surrounded by friends 24/7, I sort of went back to my old life, except for the fact that I was leading a working life. My biggest challenge came halfway through the program when I realized that after a few months, I would already be graduating and the thought of that did frighten me a bit. No, not a bit… a lot. Unlike a lot of my other classmates who came to IHS after gaining work experience, I decided to continue my studies right after my undergrad just because I had no clue what I wanted to do afterwards, except for the fact that I wanted to do something about sustainability. Studying urban management and development was totally unplanned. I never actually thought of going into this realm of studies. Since I originally came from the States, I was internally debating whether to search for jobs there or go back to Thailand where most of my connections were, or even somewhere else in the world. With that fright in mind, I consulted a lot of my friends to ask them any questions or doubts I had in job searching. An opportunity showed up for me during my data collection period for my thesis when one of my friends working at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Bangkok sent me a link and told me to apply for the internship for this particular project dealing with low carbon cities. I was interested, but also a little hesitant at first because the job required me to know Thai and my Thai is pretty iffy, but he told me to try applying anyway because the project is related to what I was studying at IHS so I did. To my (and everyone’s) surprise, I got accepted! I guess you could say unlike a lot of other people, my biggest challenge actually came before I graduated rather than after because right after I graduated, I flew back to Thailand and started my internship at the UNDP in Bangkok right away.

What is your current occupation? Why did you choose to do this job/activity?

Although not an actual full-time job, I am currently interning at the UNDP Bangkok Hub in Thailand. I work for a project that deals with low-carbon cities. The project covers four different municipalities around Thailand – one in the North, one in the South, and two East of Thailand. The aim of the project is to reduce the four cities’ carbon footprint through various means like waste management or re-designing public transportation routes to make it more efficient. This goes in-line with the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

I didn’t have a specific reason as to why I chose to do this internship, but I saw that it was related to what I was studying and I was interested in learning more about the project and how they were implementing it, which was why I chose to apply for the position. Despite all the Thai that I have to use (thank god for Google Translate), I don’t regret my decision in choosing this job. If someone were to ask me where I think I would be in 2 years during my senior year at my university, the phrase “city planning” would’ve never popped up in my head. Never did I imagine myself working for projects dealing with city management, but now that I am, I actually became pretty passionate about helping cities become more sustainable. This internship has made me realize where my passion lies and how I can help the world to become more sustainable with my skills.

Did your studies help with finding your current occupation and if yes, how?

I’d say yes and no. Yes, in the sense that I obtained a lot of knowledge about urban development and management, from a sustainable perspective. Prior to my studies, most of the knowledge I had on sustainability was geared towards the environment and climate in general, rather than applying the sustainability concept into city-making, so in that sense, my studies did help me find my current internship. And no, in the sense that even if I were to have studied a number of concepts regarding urban management, applying some of the methods to developing countries like Thailand would be rather difficult. 

What do you see yourself doing in the next few years?

I actually can’t say with certainty what I can see myself doing in the next few years, just because life can take so many unexpected turns, just like me studying in the Netherlands. Never in my life would I have imagined ending up in the Netherlands for my postgrad. However, I can say for certain that I would like to continue doing something similar to what I am doing now in my internship – helping cities become sustainable for a better world.

What would you advise current and future students?

Don’t just focus on studying and learning the concepts and case studies through the classes in during the master's, but go out and explore as well! It’s important to not only learn through texts but through experiences too. Upon arriving in the Netherlands, I travelled to over 10 different European countries over the year and I have learned so much through seeing the amount of diversity within each country and city. Enjoy travelling, but also learn to observe the environment around you, because I can say that that experience is something you will never forget and can always look back to for references. A lot of the content we learn from class stays short-term only, but the experiences we get by actually being and seeing a place will forever be engrained in our minds.