By the Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre
Teeming with culture shaped over thousands of years, Vietnam has established itself as a gem within Southeast Asia (SEA) and ASEAN. From the resplendently picturesque UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Halong Bay and Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, to the ever-friendly Vietnamese people, the country boasts a culture-rich experience for all who would visit.
Beyond its people and its sights, Vietnam’s economy is also in a golden era — its twin growth pillars of manufacturing and engineering talent have established Vietnam as the new manufacturing hub. Google and Temasek described Vietnam’s internet economy as akin to “a dragon being unleashed”, with others predicting that Vietnam will be one of the top 20 economies by 2030. The predictions are proving accurate, with Vietnam experiencing record growth even in the post-Covid world. It is by no accident that discerning jobseekers looking to immerse themselves in the thick of the action now clamber for work in one of Vietnam’s many start-ups.
And that’s exactly what two SMU Lee Kong Chian School of Business students did, amongst many others. Through the ASEAN Internship Programme offered by the Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre, Bachelor in Business Management students Sarah Ang and Lim Ji Xuan went on a summer internship to Vietnam. Read on to find out what they had learnt and experienced in this up-and-coming gem of ASEAN.
Where were you interning at? What did you do and learn?
Sarah (left) with her colleague at JLDD Group
Sarah: I had the opportunity to do an internship at JLDD Group, which consists of The Lamp, a marketing agency; District BKK, a Thai fusion diner; Quickie, an outdoor bistro and padel club; and Wine-now & Liq9, a wine and liquor e-commerce platform. As an Account Intern in The Lamp, I liaised with international clients, pitched to potential clients, and handled internal marketing activities of JLDD.
In JLDD, it is a norm for everyone to wear multiple hats and stretch their capabilities. As I worked on different projects, I learnt that being flexible and open-minded are very important when it comes to working in a fast-paced environment. As a result, I grew to be more adaptable and meticulous.
The best part about working in JLDD was being constantly surrounded by creative minds that support and inspire me. I am thankful to have gotten this opportunity to expand my worldview, forge new connections, and develop my soft and hard skills.
Ji Xuan: I got to intern at Earth Venture Capital, a climate impact venture capital (VC) firm based in Vietnam seeking to empower innovative digital solutions to climate change around the world. I was drawn to this programme as it allowed me to explore the intersection of finance and sustainability in one of the fastest growing economies globally.
Working alongside experienced industry professionals hailing from diverse backgrounds, I was able to gain deep insights into the nuances of early-stage start-up investment due diligence and decision-making processes. Although my role as a research and partnerships intern was not directly involved in investments, the team was very approachable and open to my interests in the area, often bringing me onboard for introductory meetings with start-ups, seeking my support in due diligence for their investments and even inviting me for networking events in Vietnam’s startup ecosystem. Through these experiences, I have been able to meet inspirational individuals and forge connections with like-minded individuals while also gaining exposure to the vibrant start-up landscape in SEA and beyond.
During your internship, what was the one key moment where you felt you grew the most?
Ji Xuan: One key experience was when I was encouraged by my colleagues to represent my VC by participating in a local start-up seminar and networking event. Although I was initially nervous about going alone and having to network with locals who might not converse well in English, the experience turned out to be really fun and enlightening. Through the event, I was able to chat with many interesting industry professionals and learn their stories – and it was through this experience that I was able to step out of my comfort zone more confidently.
Sarah: In my role, I was given ownership and autonomy over the tasks I was doing, which involves liaising with so many people and handling multiple clients daily. When I first joined, it was overwhelming to deal with so many brands and campaigns happening all at the same time. It required a lot of multitasking, which was the most challenging part, especially with the language barrier.
When I could manage multiple brands and campaigns with greater ease, that was when I felt like I grew in my time management and communication capabilities. Taking ownership of my work pushed me to perform better.
Beyond your internship, what was one of your favourite memories in Vietnam?
Ji Xuan (2nd from right) travelling with his friends on a sleeper bus
Ji Xuan: Throughout our summer, my friends and I often spent our weekends travelling out of Ho Chi Minh City to explore other cities across the country such as Dalat, Mui Ne and Nha Trang. One of the most fun aspects of the experience was travelling by sleeper bus, which are specially adapted coaches with rows of double-deck flatbeds that travel between states and often through the night. Sharing a cramped bus with 30 other mostly local travellers was really eye opening and surprisingly cosy — and the experience of falling asleep and waking up in a different city (without having to take a plane) was truly unforgettable.
Sarah (2nd from right) exploring the Vietnam nightscape
Sarah: Saigon streets never sleep! One favourite memory in Saigon was exploring the city at night with my colleagues, who brought me to places I wouldn’t have discovered myself. In particular, I enjoyed the city’s bustling street food scene. We could find many vendors selling delicious treats at every corner, from fruit teas and banh mi sandwiches to grilled meat skewers and rice paper snacks.
The locals love going to places with outdoor seating by the roadside, where they chit-chat, drink egg coffee and enjoy the cool night weather. I grew to love that very much too. Night time is also when many street performances come alive, and I enjoyed watching the talented artists show off their craft to the crowd.
Would you encourage your fellow SMU students to attempt an internship in ASEAN?
Sarah: If change excites you, then the ASEAN internship is for you. It’ll definitely be an adventure that broadens your perspective on the world!
Ji Xuan: The ASEAN internship has allowed me to develop myself both personally and professionally and is truly an eye-opening and unforgettable journey that all SMU students should have the chance to experience!
The ASEAN Internship Programme (AIP) is part of the offerings provided by Dato’ Kho Hui Meng Career Centre (DKHMCC) to encourage students to build up an international network and be Global Citizens. Apply for an ASEAN Internship via OnTraC now.