UTC’s Summer 2024 Vietnam Business Research Internship Program, open to any UTC student—regardless of major—is now accepting applications. The application deadline is Wednesday, Nov. 1. Click here for program information and to apply.
An information session about the internship with Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, will take place at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 11, in Fletcher Hall Room 109. Lunch will be provided. RSVP to COBInternational@utc.edu.
Michelle Gragg planned to graduate in May 2024 with a degree in exercise science from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Then she worked in a Vietnamese hospital on a study abroad trip in summer 2023.
“I worked on each floor, and I was in the ICU one day,” she recalled. “I shed some tears because I had to work with the patients, and they were close to death and it was really sad, but it was very much, ‘This is what I’m meant to do.’
“So I am going to apply to the accelerated nursing program now, or I’m going to see if I can double major and not graduate in May,” she said.
A native of Franklin, Tennessee, Gragg was one of four UTC students who traveled to Vietnam for eight weeks on a trip organized by the Gary W. Rollins College of Business, the Center for Global Education Study Abroad program and the Office for Undergraduate Research and Creative Endeavor (URaCE). While in Vietnam, the students lived in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Hanoi.
It was the University’s first study abroad trip to Vietnam since 2013, said Dr. Robert Dooley, dean of the College of Business, who has taken more than a dozen trips to Vietnam. He stayed in the country with the UTC students for the first week to help them acclimate.
“They were brave,” Dooley said.
While in Vietnam, Gragg worked for a delivery service. Accounting majors Madeline McKissick, who hails from Franklin, Tennessee, and Corrine Finger, a native of Brentwood, Tennessee, worked with a startup finance firm. Isaac Hendren, an accounting and finance major from Chattanooga, worked with a business that provides coconut oil and products made from coconuts grown in Vietnam.
“I learned a lot about myself and that I’m resilient in a lot of ways,” said McKissick. “I think adaptability was something I really worked on and it was really cool to be able to be working in this country completely different than my own.
“I’m making it my mission to go back to Vietnam after I get my master’s. I want to go there for one or two months and just travel the whole time. I loved it. I really loved it.”
Hendren had a similar feeling about the trip.
“Vietnam was one of the most amazing experiences in my life and I will never forget it,” the UTC junior said. “I learned better cross-cultural communication and abilities to adapt to cultural differences and still keep in touch with one of the Vietnamese friends I made.”
Those kinds of experiences are the plan for students on study abroad trips, said Dr. Lisa Piazza, executive director of URaCE.
“The ultimate goal for many of the study abroad programs that we’re running now is to give students a great bang for their buck,” she said.
“All of these programs are intended to help students develop those career and life skills that are really, really essential to telling their story to future employers, to grad schools, to med schools. That’s the purpose and the goal. That’s our job. To prepare students.”
Elizabeth Bell, director of International and Specialized Master’s Programs in the College of Business, said international trips give students “a different perspective of the world.”
“My whole interest in trying to get students to consider study abroad is just to broaden their experience base and to get them outside their comfort zone a little bit,” she said.
Gragg said she suffered some jet lag for the first week or so while working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, “but we did it and we learned a lot and they gave us lots of tasks.”
“I’m really glad that I did an internship,” Gragg said. “It was my first one and I got to experience the work-life environment. I did learn a lot about what I wanted and what I didn’t.
“I don’t think I would’ve ever thought Vietnam would’ve been on my radar to travel to, so being there and seeing how beautiful it is and how amazing a culture it is exceeded all my expectations.”
Hendren said the company where he worked was more like a family than a business.
“I had a home-cooked Vietnamese meal every day at the company. It was the CEO’s house and the employees and I also contributed to cooking or cleaning dishes,” Hendren said.
When asked if any information would be helpful to students who travel to Vietnam in summer 2024, Gragg had an instant response.