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Interning Abroad: One Student’s Experience

 One of the greatest opportunities UW-Whitewater offers is the chance to have an internship.  The accounting program specifically does a great job with helping students land winter/spring internships and still allow students to earn credit.  That’s where my journey begins…

Brandon Price inside the Saigon Post Office.

Being a double major in accounting and finance, I plan to follow more of the accounting route, and what better way to gain real world experience, and a potential job offer for when I graduate then with an internship?  The internship planning started happening the spring semester of my junior year, and over summer I networked with as many accounting firms as I could.  I can say with confidence that it was this very networking (talking to as to many accountants and firms as I could at career fairs, going out to lunch or coffee, attending office visits, etc.) that led to my internship at KPMG Milwaukee, and more importantly, my global internship with the firm that landed me in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam for a month.

My internship with KPMG’s Milwaukee audit department started this past January, and what an adventure it has been.  Training started off with all the interns nationally being flown to Orlando, Florida for a week of training.  While I may not have gotten to experience the warm weather as much as I liked, I had a refresher course on audit and learned how to use the KPMG software.  From there, I flew back to Milwaukee and worked on audits of three different clients in varying industries.  I’m thankful as to have started interning in the Milwaukee office as it helped build a strong foundation for when I would start my global rotation in Vietnam.  Overall, my experience in Milwaukee was great, and it was nice to see what it was finally like to be on an audit! 

As for my KPMG global internship, I am one out of 11 interns selected nationally for the program.  I essentially beat out people from much larger schools, from UW-Madison to Penn State, from Notre Dame to Texas A&M.   Again, I was able to accomplish this because of my networking and the rapport I built up with one of the Milwaukee partners.   All that was needed was for me to fill out another application and write a few short essays.  From there I had one phone interview and then found out I had received the internship.  This had all happened last November after I received my internship offer.  Jump ahead to February 15th which quickly approached, I was on a plane headed for Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam.  The 16 hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong was a little rough, but thanks to my 13 hour flight to China this past May on a faculty led travel study, I felt well prepared. 

Monday morning in the office started out very similar to any “new” job with some orientation/overview information of KPMG Vietnam.  From there, the day became more unorganized (which for an accountant still isn’t too unorganized, but you hopefully get the idea) as we weren’t really given any instruction after we received our work laptops.  I started to quickly notice differences between KPMG US and Vietnam.  Differences such as “hotel-ing” (sign up) a desk in the US versus hot seating (sit basically wherever you want) in Vietnam, working at a client for a few weeks in the US, versus only a week here, and in the US the teams meet at the client whereas here the engagement teams still meet up in the office and take taxis together to the client.  The more specific audit related differences are smaller, or are at least for the areas I have been working in here compared to the US, but I will say that the US does do much more substantive testing. 

Outside the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.

Besides specific office or audit knowledge, the language barrier has been more challenging than I expected.  First, there are many different audit areas I cannot even work on due to the clients work-papers being in Vietnamese.  Most KPMG work papers had to be done in English though, which made it much easier for me to at least draft a majority of the needed work papers.  Communicating with my actual engagement team was also difficult at times, but I have learned to type or write out the needed information, and that often works out better then only speaking with the team and allows for better understanding. 

Besides interning though, I’ve also been quite busy seeing as much as I can.  The first weekend was spent in Saigon and going to some places that aren’t open by the time I get out of work, such as the War Remnants Museum and the Zoo.  I also went to a water puppet show which was pretty neat, and had dinner on the Saigon River.  I travelled to the Mekong Delta about two and half hours outside of Saigon to see a floating market, a coconut candy “factory”, and even a brick/pottery factory where each item is hand-made.  The second weekend was spent in Hanoi (quite a different experience from being in Saigon) as it’s a much “colder” atmosphere and Ha Long Bay which was quite beautiful. 

My last weekend in Asia was spent in Bangkok and Pattaya (Thailand) to soak up some sun and see that sites that those two cities offer.  In Bangkok, I visited the KPMG office, went to the Grand Palace and home of the Emerald Buddha, saw many different temples and pagodas along the river, and did plenty of shopping! In Pattaya, I was able to get a tan, while also strolling down the “Walking Street” which is where the night life is in the city. 

Riding an elephant in Pattaya, Thailand.

As my internship wraps up in Saigon, I am so grateful for this experience.  While this is not my first time abroad, each and every time I travel out of the country I learn so much more about myself and about the world in general.   As I’ve said above, the key to getting both the internship in Milwaukee and the global piece, was networking, and not being afraid to take risks.  Put the doubts aside, and talk to as many potential employers as you can, because you never know what could happen in the future.

I hope everyone is surviving the snow back in Wisconsin.  I won’t bore with you how hot it is here, but I will just say in Hanoi I ended up buying a North Face to keep warm and it was only 65 degrees there.  It makes me nervous to come back to WI in less than week!

Cheers,

Brandon Price

About Jolene Check

Marketing Specialist for the College of Business and Economics.
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