Reflections on the first month of my summer internship in Vietnam

Crystal Truong

“Hi Crystal, we can confirm that we’d like to offer you a place on the Durham University Internship Programme – congratulations!”

At the start of the year, I had applied for one of the funded internships offered through Durham University, and I knew that it would be a highly competitive application process, so receiving this email was pretty amazing. The internship, through host company Pagoda Projects, was originally meant to be in Taiwan, but by what seems to be fate (yes, you can cringe), the internship was changed to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

First morning in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

What a stroke of luck!

You see, as a British-born Vietnamese raised in London, it has always been a dream of mine to be able to live, work and study in Vietnam. Gratefully, I have holidayed in Vietnam a few times at a younger age, but I have always wanted to go back without the safety net of my mum translating everything for me and telling me whether or not I like to eat certain things. I have always desired to independently experience my native country, immerse myself in my culture, and regain fluency in my mother tongue. And by fate, luck, whatever you want to call it, with Durham’s support, I have been able to do this all now, and not the few years into a stable career I thought that I needed (moving across the world is not cheap, you know!).

Too many travel vaccinations later, a teary-eyed goodbye from mum, and twenty-two hours of flying, I had arrived in Vietnam – a country that was all too familiar and unfamiliar to me. Exhausted after all the travelling, all I wanted to do was get into bed, but that first night, the excitement (with a smidge of jet lag) kept me up. I watched it go from dark to light outside, and I looked forward to the summer I was about to have.

My first month

Looking back on this month, I have absolutely adored every single part of it. I intern at a biotech company, translating scientific-technical information into more accessible language for public consumption, among other things, and on Fridays, I attend Ton Duc Thang University for lessons, including language and cultural lessons. There are around 50 other UK students on the internship programme through Pagoda Projects, with four of them being from Durham! It has been great to get to know everyone and it makes me proud to see them fall in love with Vietnam and everything this beautiful country has to offer. With unbelievable views, scrumptious foods and the kindest of people – Vietnam is truly remarkable.

Chuoi nep nuong, my favourite Vietnamese street food dessert – a grilled banana in sticky rice, served with a rich coconut sauce and nutty toasted sesame seeds.

I am proud to be Vietnamese, and I am also proud to be a Durham University student. Durham’s commitment to offering fully supported overseas internship opportunities has meant that I have been able to gain not just invaluable work experience, but also a whole lot more. So, I encourage you all to check out the opportunities available, as although incredibly cliché, this really has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience! Roll on the next month…

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Crystal Truong

I'm Crystal and I'm a Bioscience student at South College! I love travelling, eating delicious foods and getting involved in college and University wide activities. I'm currently doing a summer internship in Vietnam, and in the upcoming year, I will be a content creator for @thedurhamstudent as well as a commercial staff for the SU. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about Durham, South College and Biosciences.

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