My Fulbright Mission Statement
Published Date : Jun 19, 2018
‘M Y F U L B R I G H T M I S S I O N S T A T E M E N T’
Speech by Mr. Ronnakrit Rattanasri-ampaipong
2018 Fulbright Thai Graduate Scholarship (TGS) Grantee
Vithes Samosorn, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangkok
June 6, 2018
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Standing in front of you tonight is my great honor.
Thank you Khun Supawaree, Pi Katie, for another week of headache in thinking what I should say here.
First and foremost, I would like to thank Fulbright Thailand for this life-changing opportunity. I still remember the day that Ajarn Pum told me that I am awarded a Fulbright scholarship through a phone call. It was the 25th of July 2017, almost one year already.
My name is Ronnakrit. In short, I am an ultra-trail runner – which means I mostly run any race that is farther than a marathon distance (42 kilometers). Also, I am a petroleum geologist, responsible for finding oil and gas from underground. And obviously, I am now a Fulbrighter who is going to pursue a PhD in Paleoclimatology and Paleoceanography at Texas A&M University – which basically means I will study about how hot the earth’s atmospheric temperature was during the time that dinosaurs were walking around, using geochemical data from rock formation and sediment cores.
Tonight, I am going to tell you about my Fulbright journey from a trail runner standpoint. Before I can enjoy a spectacular view on any mountain top, it requires many hours of uphill running. That running part resembles all the mentally-demanding tasks that I was coping during the time I completed my university applications. Besides my regular duties, I had taken several attempts to pass the TOEFL and GRE score requirements. I also had to find my potential faculty advisors, reading a number of scientific papers outside of my field, writing hundreds of emails to introduce myself, expressing my research interest, and making the professors being interested in me. Those few months seemed to last forever to me. Anyway, if I were to do it all over again, I would willingly do it the same.
After my careful consideration, I decided to make this speech as my first task of being a Fulbrighter; to promote peace and mutual understanding between individuals, institutions, and future leaders – all of you. As I mentioned, I am going to explore our earth’s environment in the past. Thus, I would like to bring the environmental concerns closer to all of us.
I believe that all of us have already known or heard about climate change. I also believe that most of us are not really sure what to do with this global issue – as it might seem too far from ourselves, or it should be solved by climate scientists, and so and so. I was the one who thinks like that; being less concerned about what’s happening outside the glass windows while sitting in the chilled, cool, air-conditioned office.
Until October 29th, 2016, I ran my first 70K ultra-trail race in Hong Kong as my 26-year-old birthday resolution. Imagine that I was running on a crest of the mountain. How should the weather be like during late October in Hong Kong? Google would show you a range of 23 to 28 degrees Celsius, which might not be the most perfect weather for running, but it’s not too hot. Though, on that day, it was very, very hot. I was running while the temperature was reaching 36 degrees Celsius, which was about 5-6 degrees warmer than the average range. That was my first direct experience with the abnormal weather conditions. Then, I started thinking, “What would happen if the atmosphere were 2 degrees warmer?”
Not so long, it was like adding fuel into a log fire after watching “Before the Flood”, the National Geographic’s Climate Change documentary. It was such a great film that uncovered the threat of climate change occurring around the world, and talked about many alternative actions to prevent the disruption of our planet. One footage that really hit me hard was about how we extract oil from tar sands. I realized that such processes have heavily polluted our environment. After this insight, I asked myself – “Do I really want to do what I am doing right now – finding more oil and gas?”. My answer was so clear – No, I do not. I want to do something better, something more environmental-friendly. Our world is still relying on the fossil fuel – that’s the fact. Yet, I believe that we can make a greener oil and gas industry.
That’s why I am here, being a Fulbright grantee. As I know that only a good will is not enough to shift my career. I am just a “no one” in the climate community – which means if I were applying to the university on my own, it would be very difficult to get an offer. But mentioning “Fulbright” in my resume was a totally different story.
Today is just the beginning of my adventurous future. To keep myself being on track, I have set up my Fulbright mission statement as follows: “Within the next 5 years, I will be a paleoclimatologist who promotes climate change advocacy through a strong network of Fulbrighters. Besides research, I would like to support international collaboration in paleoclimate studies, and makes scientific findings more digestible to the public.” I know that we could not be able to eliminate climate denials, and we never will. Nevertheless, I strongly believe that there are so many things that we can do at the personal level – like saying no to plastic bags from the supermarket or bring a personal tumbler to a coffee shop. I urge all of you to change the way you see “Climate Change” problem, by making it as close to you as your personal issues, and handling it as careful as planning your children’s future. Our actions today will impact their lives in years to come.
It’s never too late to follow your passion. So, don’t be afraid of taking a risk, or making a change in your life. As Khun Jeremy Osterstock said during his session at the Pre-Departure Orientation, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Lastly, I would like to encourage all of you, the 2018 Fulbright awardees, to begin your Fulbright journey with the clear end in your mind – by writing your own mission statement – and make it come true.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Ronnakrit Rattanasri-ampaipong is a 2018 Thai Fulbright grantee under the Fulbright Thai Graduate Scholarship Program. He is going to study for a doctoral degree in paleoclimatology and paleooceanography at Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.