New Zealand students kick-start their careers in a city of 10 million

Two top scholars have chosen to spend their summers working in the hustle and bustle of one of Asia’s fastest-growing economies.

Lucy Hamnet and Seamus Barnett in Wellington's Cable Car Lane

Seamus Barnett and Lucy Hamnett are spending three months in KPMG’s office in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, on Asia New Zealand Foundation internships. The internship is one of eight the Foundation offers to students and graduates to help build the long-term capabilities of New Zealand companies to engage in the region.

Barnett grew up in Dannevirke and was head prefect of Palmerston North Boys’ High School in 2013. He has just completed the second year of his conjoint commerce and law degrees at the University of Auckland and is undertaking his internship in KPMG Vietnam’s tax and international services team.

“My work has been straightforward thus far, providing basic tax advice for individuals and proof-reading documents being sent to larger clients.”

He initially found Ho Chi Minh’s noise and population overwhelming but has adapted and is thoroughly enjoying exploring a new country and his interactions with colleagues.

Barnett, New Zealand’s top scholar in Year 13 English in 2013, says they have found the tones of Vietnamese a bit of challenge.  “Adjusting to the language is a gradual process. The different tones make learning phrases very difficult – to our ear, what we are saying sounds perfectly accurate, to the locals it’s incomprehensible. As a result, we have been limited to the most basic of phrases but most people’s English is pretty good, so we get by.”

Hamnett has just completed her fourth year of study at the University of Otago, with a double major in accounting and international business, and will continue her studies as a postgraduate in 2016. She is working in KPMG’s auditing team, reviewing financial statements and proofreading. She will soon be going out to see clients for other auditing tasks.

She has been surprised by the sheer size of the city. “With approximately 10 million people, that’s 2.5 times the size of New Zealand. The city is divided into 18 districts and each one has something different to offer. I have figured out that shops are conveniently clustered… They don’t call it Tailoring Street for nothing!

“I am finding myself always busy, whether it is in the office, trying new restaurants on lunch hour with people from the office, or exploring the city after work.”

The office environment is less hierarchal than she had expected. “I have felt welcomed by colleagues of all ranks and even had lunch with a partner and sang karaoke with my boss at our department meeting and dinner.”

In the weekends, Hamnett and Barnett have been enjoying the chance to travel, including to the mountain town of Da Lat, to Phu Quoc Island and Nha Trang beach.

“Most of all, I’m looking forward to being amongst the crowds on the streets and counting down to welcome the New Year Vietnamese style,” Hamnett says.

Asia New Zealand Foundation business programme director James Penn said the foundation appreciated the ongoing support from its business partners.  “Professional development opportunities for young people are a key pillar of our business programme.”

Over the summer months, other New Zealand students and graduates will be undertaking internships at BECA in Indonesia; at Gung Ho! Pizza and at Digital Jungle in China; at Kyushu Railway in Japan; and at Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan.

December 2015