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The Student Insider

Learning, culture and friendship in Vietnam: my business placement experience


Written by
Fong Junn Yiow

In 2019, Fong travelled from Singapore to Vietnam to complete his business placement with Grant Thornton (Vietnam) Limited. He shares his journey of spending time in a country he had not been before, the new friends he made and of course, the valuable work experience gained.

Fong, a young man, standing next to a purple sign which reads 'Grant Thornton - An instinct for growth'

My business placement experience in an advisory role at the Hanoi office of Grant Thornton (Vietnam) Limited was truly enriching and memorable. I learnt so much in my time there, both professionally and personally. Not only did the company impart a number of skills and knowledge but I also rose to the challenge of adapting to the Vietnamese culture and way of life. 

The workplace

Grant Thornton Vietnam’s advisory team had a multitude of nurturing and outgoing colleagues. They spared no effort in guiding and teaching me on areas such as financial model creation and due diligence conduct. They would even take time out of their own tasks to ensure that any doubts I may have had were assuaged. As time passed, these colleagues transformed into unofficial tour guides and friends, showing me what this vibrant city had to offer. Additionally, their recommendations for food and nightlife post-work made the experience that much more memorable.

The best bit: advisory team training week

I had the unique opportunity to join the team in their annual advisory training event with fellow advisory teams from Grant Thornton’s Ho Chi Minh City, Thailand and Singapore offices. The seven-day training event was held in a coastal resort city in South Vietnam called Nha Trang, known for its beautiful beaches and offshore islands.

On the first couple of days of the training week, we hired a local guide to take us to various attractions in the city and participated in team bonding games. It allowed the advisory teams from the four cities to break the ice and work more efficiently for the rest of the event. 

For the next five days, training officially started as partners, directors and managers took turns to give lectures on topics such as financial modelling, due diligence and finance transformation. These lessons helped improve our understanding and technical competencies and I gained great knowledge and insight into the work that is being performed in transaction advisory services. 

I felt extremely fortunate that I was allowed to attend this annual event, especially as it isn’t usually open to interns. It became the highlight of my business placement experience! It was useful and enjoyable in so many ways. Firstly, I was exposed to knowledge and skills that interns are not usually exposed to. Secondly, I was able to explore yet another beautiful city in Vietnam and lastly, I met new people and forged bonds with colleagues from Ho Chi Minh City, Thailand and even Singapore, which was a huge bonus for me - one of them might even be my employer in the future!

How my University of London degree prepared me for success

Studying the BSc in Accounting and Finance at the University of London prepared me with concepts that were frequently used in my role as an advisory intern in an esteemed accounting firm. I found myself constantly relating back to the theoretical knowledge learnt from the core modules of accounting and finance, namely Financial Management, Financial Reporting and Management Accounting. I realised how such knowledge could be applied in a real scenario related to mergers and acquisitions of companies. I am definitely glad to have taken the lectures seriously!

The people

If I had to select my biggest personal takeaway from all the valuable lessons learned in my three-month business placement, it would be the opportunity to befriend amazing people in Vietnam. Living alone and away from home in a country that was new to me and in which I could not speak the local language, initially posed a big problem for me. Things that I took for granted in Singapore such as ordering food or giving instructions to the taxi driver were things that I found immensely difficult to accomplish in Vietnam. However, the waiters were patient and more than understanding, while strangers would often voluntarily help to translate my orders. While the food, culture and heritage of the city were impressive, it was the people I met along the way who made me fall in love with Vietnam; I still miss them today. 

A bright future

I have recently accepted a role in the Audit department in one of Singapore’s Big Four firms. However, through this business placement my interest in transaction advisory has definitely heightened. Hence, I am extremely excited to see how the skillsets I have gained through this business placement and those that I will be learning in the audit department will complement each other in the future, akin to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. 

This placement made me step out of my comfort zone and become more independent. This experience boosted my confidence and I firmly believe that I will be able to handle living and working in any country. I am grateful for being able to participate in the University of London's Business Placement scheme.

Who knows, I might just ring a friend up from Vietnam or Thailand for a job recommendation when I’m craving a change of environment!