An online magazine of news and opinions from the Asia New Zealand Foundation

Business intern jumps into life in Vietnam

Coming to the end of her three-month internship with KPMG in Vietnam, Paige Hennessy reflects on the experience and what it's taught her about work, Vietnam, and herself.

Page standing in front of a canal

When I came across the opportunity to do an internship overseas, I didn't hesitate to apply. At that stage, living and working in Vietnam was distant dream; when I was offered the internship, the dream suddenly became a (slightly daunting) reality.

Working for KPMG in Ho Chi Minh City has been a life-changing experience. From work, food, travel and life in general, I have learnt and experienced so much. I have mastered crossing the road in crazy traffic, can use chopsticks like a pro and have even jumped on the back of a scooter a couple of times.

I work in the Advisory Function in the Internal Audit, Risk and Compliance Team (IARCS for short) and have been involved in a number of pretty exciting projects. I have written consumer surveys, created research documents on a number of topics and even helped create proposals for clients.

Paige standing in front of a KPMG sign

This period is KPMG’s busy season, so my colleagues are often busy and I find it important to take the initiative and find work for myself.

My colleagues are great and have made my transition to living and working here much easier. All the staff I work with speak excellent English, which is helpful because my Vietnamese skills are extremely poor, to say the least.

As well as helping me at work,  they have introduced me to some incredible hidden food places that I would have never found alone, or would never have dared to try.

My current go-to meal is a banh mi and Raspberry smoothie for 45,000 dong, which is about $2.70 NZD. Other favourite meals include pho (pronounced ‘fuh’) and bun thit bo, a tasty combination of salad, rice noodles, pork and spring rolls.

If you are eating these meals on the street, none will cost you above 50,000 dong; it is a poor students dream. I know once I am back home living in Wellington I will balk at the costs of living.

One of the best things about Vietnam is that travel is cheap and the variety of places to travel to is vast.

A key recommendation I would make to future interns is to make the most of the weekends. Almost every Friday I jump on a flight to another part of the country and pack as much adventure as I can into those two days before returning for work on Monday.

If planned in advance, return flights on low-cost airlines such as Vietjet and Jetstar run to $80. So far, I have been lucky enough to travel to Hue, Da Nang, Hoi An, and twice to the beautiful Phu Quoc Island.

Closer to home, I have visited the Mekong Delta and the Cu Chi Tunnels, both are must dos!

Homestays and guesthouses are a great way to immerse yourself into the culture and meet some locals. They are super helpful and usually have some great recommendations that you would not find otherwise.

Page standing on a white-sand beach

The Lunar New Year, Tet, is almost upon us and as work shuts down for over a week, I’m taking the opportunity to travel further and see Angkor Wat in Cambodia as well as Bangkok and Phuket. I don’t know when I will return to Asia, so I am definitely making the most of it!

I live in a modern apartment complex in the Binh Thanh district, which is about a 15 minute taxi from work. Luckily the taxis are so cheap because I don’t know how I would get to work otherwise, I’m still not sure I could brave the Ho Chi Minh peak traffic on a scooter.

I have battled with language barriers a few times, but I always get there in the end and everyone goes out of their way to be helpful.

Vietnam is an ever-changing country with a unique culture and incredibly welcoming population. The opportunities are endless and there will always be someone to help you if you lose your way.

I can’t wait to see how Vietnam transforms itself within the next 10 years, it has changed me completely in just three months.

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22 February 2018