The following blog is written by our previous Virtual Internships intern, Sacha Grégoire. Sacha served as an International Placement Manager in both a remote role, as well as in our Vietnam office, from March to October 2020.
Like many students around the world, I took part in multiple internships while working towards my degree, yet they never managed to meet my expectations. Over-reliance on personal connections and other traditional means of finding internships led me to accept positions that never truly fit my own professional objectives. So, when it was time to start planning my end-of-degree internship, I decided to try something different, something that would truly expand my horizons and satiate my curiosity towards Asia – an international internship!
I quickly decided on relocating to Vietnam because of its record-breaking economic growth, dynamic startup scene, as well as its amazing people, culture, and food. At first, searching for internship opportunities on the other side of the world was very intimidating and it took me several weeks of sending emails left and right to simply secure my first interviews. Then over the next month, I kept slowly improving my CV, my cover letter, and my list of online resources until I was finally able to secure interviews with promising companies.
At first, Virtual Internships did not seem like the ideal prospect, but I quickly changed my mind after talking with each of the two founders because their vision for the company was very exciting and perfectly aligned with my own interests. They were also eager to integrate me into the company and make use of my personal skills.
Finally, I loved the concept of remote internships and thought it had tons of potential; even more so when I learned of the impressive track record.
My experience at Virtual Internships
Fast forward two weeks and I had just arrived at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. I was very excited by the prospect of living in a foreign country, meeting new people, and starting my internship. My initial role was very broad and included a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. Apart from helping to ensure a smooth running of operations, I was also asked to help the company become more scalable in order to help secure future investment.
Unfortunately for me, I started working at the same time that countries all over the world started to shut their international borders to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. This made me feel a little afraid, but soon different senior members of the organization (Founders, COO, Managers, etc.) all started to dedicate some of their time to personally train and onboard me.
The following two months were super interesting as I took part in many projects, such as interviews for junior and senior positions at Virtual Internships. I was also given the responsibility of helping to organize the internship program of one of our university partners, and onboarding another amazing intern! I helped draw and improve our processes with our directors, I collaborated with the UK team on different UX projects, and so much more!
Then in April, Vietnam entered a national lockdown which I found quite challenging. The issue I initially encountered was that working alone from my room felt alienating and made my productivity and motivation drop. After some time and thanks to advice from my colleagues, I was able to quickly overcome this issue by setting clear work-life boundaries, by structuring and organizing my communication, and by practicing better time-management.
Around the same time, the company initiated a massive transformation to offer remote internship opportunities. This is definitely one of my personal highlights because I was given new responsibilities and promoted to the position of International Placement Manager. Finally, it provided me with incredible insights into what it takes to lead, transform, and grow a startup.
The last five months of my internship felt a lot smoother than the beginning as I started to become more and more comfortable with my new role. Being able to focus on the little things at work helped me make massive improvements to various soft skills like work ethic, communication, and discipline.
I also got to practice a variety of hard skills by working on projects like creating our monthly host company newsletter, developing a network of around 200 partner host companies, and helping to place a record-high number of over 1000 interns during the summer months.
If you are currently wondering whether an internship is for you, then you should really ask yourself a series of questions. Are you looking to push yourself out of your comfort zone to gain in maturity as well as confidence? Do you want your CV to stand out from the crowd? Are you interested in discovering new horizons and increasing your cultural awareness? Finally, do you want to build an international network of contacts working in your dream field? If you answered yes to these questions, then you should definitely consider taking part in an internationally-focused internship.
Personally, I am sure this internship experience served to massively boost my employability and my CV. Practicing so many of the things I learned at university allowed me to better identify my strengths and weaknesses, while the mentoring I received from senior members of the organization helped me draw a concrete plan of action for my future career. All-in-all, I am super happy with my internship at Virtual Internships and I’m truly going to miss everyone at the company. Still, I am left with so many amazing memories like the pizza nights we organized on our office’s rooftop, the monthly global company Zoom calls where I would get to talk with everyone in the world at the same time, or my personal favorite, the time the entire office traveled south of Vietnam to attend my awesome colleague Anh’s wedding.
Finally, I wanted to share one of the best pieces of advice I received during my time at Virtual Internships in hopes that it may inspire other students to make the most out of their current situation. Whenever times are difficult and a crisis is looming, you should not adopt a pessimistic mindset. Instead, you should be courageous by preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. Complicated times are always full of unique and life-changing opportunities. If the global pandemic negatively impacted your professional self-development and you are currently stuck at home looking for job opportunities that will never materialize, then you should not hesitate to sign up for an amazing experience at Virtual Internships!
Content contributed by former Virtual Internships International Placement Manager, Sacha Grégoire.