In December 2022, 23 students from the University of Melbourne travelled to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, to participate in the International Business Experience (IBUS) subject as part of the Bachelor of Commerce. The program was run in collaboration with FPT University.
Jessica Yang and Ryan Dieu, Bachelor of Commerce students at the University of Melbourne, joined the program with support of a New Colombo Plan (NCP) Mobility Grant.
Jessica said the first thing she noticed when arriving in Ho Chi Minh City was the blazing sun and humidity which felt strange after being grounded in Australia during the pandemic.
“The culture was also different. Rather than having shop assistants that let you browse at your leisure, street entrepreneurs were all over the place, trying hard to make a sale,” she said.
Ryan said the program felt daunting at first, but he felt more comfortable after meeting classmates.
“With 22 new university colleagues, the beginning was slightly overwhelming. However, everyone was highly approachable, and we soon began to be able to connect, find common ground and have fun,” he said.
Students joined classes at FPT University and gained experience studying in a new educational system. Jessica enjoyed the interactive style of the lessons.
“Their university system reminded me of high school where we had set lunchtimes where everyone could socialise, an open cafeteria to sit outside, and having compulsory classes for music and martial arts. This type of community spirit and connectiveness between university students was an element that I really enjoyed,” said Jessica.
Ryan observed FPT University ensured students learned about Vietnam’s culture alongside their degrees.
“We would walk past groups of students practising martial arts every day, and we were fortunate to listen to a fantastic performance played by the students with traditional Vietnamese musical instruments, which is part of their curriculum,” he said.
During the IBUS program, students completed a business-related project with a company in Ho Chi Minh City. Jessica and Ryan were in a team that worked on a project for Whammy Tech, a business technology provider, gaining real-world experience in a professional work environment.
Jessica said having clients who cared about the project was satisfying and encouraging.
“I learned the most important aspect of a project is to hear what a client is really looking for. It requires discussion to reach a common understanding and it is important to understand the members in your own team,” she said.
Ryan said presenting work to a foreign company within a short deadline was challenging but very rewarding.
“Our host company made us feel very welcome during our time at their office. With the help of Professor Jennifer Grafton, we developed useful skills on how to conduct thorough research and present our findings in a tailored and concise manner,” he said.
While busy during the days, students had free time for exploring and fun after classes and on the weekends.
“The nights were filled with walks, discovering the streets of Vietnam, watching street dances and performances, exploring street markets, and eating delicious and cheap food. We explored the Cu Chi Tunnels, and pampered ourselves with the cheaper manicures and massages,” said Jessica.
Jessica and Ryan were thankful for receiving a NCP Mobility Grant. They said they would not have been able to participate in the program without it.
“I didn’t have to worry about flight costs and accommodation and was able to enjoy spending time in Ho Chi Minh City comfortably. I highly recommend anyone considering this program to apply and give it a go as this was definitely a highlight of my time here at the University of Melbourne,” said Ryan.
Ryan said he is glad he participated in an overseas program before finishing his studies with the pandemic preventing him from taking the opportunity earlier.
“I am very grateful to have been able to go overseas and experience such a wonderful city with a diverse group of people which made the subject as memorable as it was,” he said.
Jessica said she greatly valued the opportunity to reflect.
“My favourite times on the trip were not the exquisite tours on the Mekong River nor the cooking classes, even though they were amazing. Rather it was just sitting by the lake at FPT University and talking with students in the reception. I learnt work and study only becomes enjoyable when you surround yourself with the right people and appreciate what you have,” she said.