What it’s like to do a summer internship abroad

Cityscape of Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh CityBeing an International Business Management (IBM) student, going abroad has been on my wish list since the moment I applied for the course. However, having not met the target marks in first year for a year of study abroad, I had to look for other options to help me realise this goal. On a whim, I decided to apply for a summer placement via the University of Bristol Global Opportunities team to work in Vietnam. Being the usual pessimist, I didn’t expect anything to come of it – so naturally, I was ecstatic when the confirmation e-mail came through.

The company, accommodation and transportA street in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Working abroad in a country with a completely different sphere of influence is an illuminating experience. I was matched by my programme directors to a General Marketing internship for TRG International, a global IT solutions and services firm based in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). I was assigned to an accommodation building with fellow students in District 2, known as the international district of HCMC due to the plethora of expat workers and tourists residing there. The office happened to be in the same district, meaning I could order a motorbike off the ‘Grab’ app for ~30p and begin the daily work transit journey of dodging hordes of mopeds while desperately clutching my work bag for about 15 minutes (arriving ideally in one piece).

Drinks in a Vietnamese coffee shop A cat in a Vietnamese coffee shop Work-life balance

Despite the short distance, I didn’t travel to the office very much because the internship was as remote as I wanted it to be. In the words of my supervisor: “Some days, you might go into the office and find it completely empty”. This was my first time experiencing a remote, ‘choose-your-hours’ type of job. While it was liberating to not have to wake up at a certain time and do work on my own terms, it did require a lot of discipline to stay on-task – discipline which I did not have at the time. I could do the work… or I could go to the ‘Phở 24’ across the hotel, have a full meal for the equivalent of £2, and then go see the tallest building in Vietnam around 20 mins away (Landmark 81). After a few weeks of trial-and-error, I got into the healthy middle ground of travelling to select areas I wanted to visit and finding a coffee shop there to work in for a while, as there was nothing better than drinking a Vietnamese drip coffee while working on my weekly tasks, and it meant I could sightsee afterwards.

Work tasks and transferable skills

My main task was relatively simple: work with a team to help launch a new social media page for the company designed to advertise career opportunities. I got to use the lessons I learned from the Consumptions & Consumer Behaviour unit of my BSc International Business Management degree to assist me with this. I got to familiarise myself with HubSpot, which gave me easy access to market analytics based on the company’s other social pages. The difficult part was the communication of ideas, something which the supplementary culture/language lessons from TDTU University helped with immensely.

Main takeawaysPerson riding a motorbike through Ho Chi Minh City Restaurant in Vietnam

To conclude, I highly recommend for everyone to try working abroad. Not only has this experience been directly beneficial to my course material, but being able to say I’ve worked in a completely different environment for two months has improved my career prospects exponentially, and being able to travel so far away from home (an opportunity I would have never received if it wasn’t for university funding) has – as cliché as it is – been life changing. If I had to give one piece of advice, it’d be to do as much research on the host country beforehand: currency exchange rates, costs of medicine/general supplies, mobile top-ups, etc.

Oleg Prigodin, 2nd Year BSc International Business Management student.

*All photos belong to Oleg Prigodin.

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