Internships Abroad, GRIP Exploring Vietnam, One Weekend at a Time

July 2, 2024
By Vivi Sankar, CAS '27

GRIP: Sustainable Development in Ho Chi Minh City 

Hoi An Memories IslandVietnam, with its breathtaking landscapes, rich culture, and mouthwatering cuisine, is a destination that beckons travelers from around the world. My recent journey through Da Nang, and Hoi An was nothing short of extraordinary. Accompanied by friends, each moment became a cherished memory, despite being a short weekend trip.

Flying in from Ho Chi Minh City, we began our adventure in Da Nang, a city famed for its pristine beaches and captivating natural beauty. The beaches of Da Nang are a slice of paradise, featuring soft, white sands and clear, turquoise waters stretching as far as the eye can see. 

The tranquil sound of waves lapping against the shore provided the perfect backdrop for relaxation. We spent hours sunbathing, swimming, and taking leisurely strolls along the shore, enjoying the serene escape from the city's hustle and bustle, and our busy lives at work.

Vivi at the Da Nang Beach
Me at the Da Nang beach

A short drive from Da Nang's beaches brought us to the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills named after the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. Exploring these mountains was a highlight of our trip. Climbing the steep stone steps to the top of Thuy Son, the water mountain, rewarded us with panoramic views of Da Nang.

The mountains are dotted with caves and tunnels, each housing ancient Buddhist sanctuaries and statues. The Huyen Khong Cave, with its mystical atmosphere and sunlight streaming through natural openings, was particularly awe-inspiring. Exploring these beautiful locations with friends made it even more special. We shared laughs, took countless photos, and supported each other during the challenging climbs.

From Da Nang, we journeyed to Hoi An, an ancient town that feels like a step back in time. Hoi An’s charm lies in its well-preserved architecture, a blend of different cultures that have influenced the town over the centuries. The lantern-lit streets at night and beautiful Thu Bon River create a magical ambiance, perfect for evening strolls.

Vivi and other GRIP students
Me and friends (other Vietnam GRIP participants) at the top of the marble mountains

The local cuisine in both Da Nang and Hoi An is a gastronomic delight. We savored dishes like Cao Lau, a regional noodle dish with meat and greens, and White Rose Dumplings, which are dumplings made of rice paper that resemble a flower. Each meal was a symphony of flavors, reflecting the region's rich culinary heritage. Street food stalls and local markets offered an array of treats, from fresh seafood to sweet desserts like Che, a Vietnamese sweet soup. Sharing these meals with friends added to the joy, as we sampled each other's dishes and discussed the unique flavors.

Lanterns in the Thu Bon River and decorating the streets in Hoi An
Lanterns in the Thu Bon River and decorating the streets in Hoi An

One of the most memorable experiences in Hoi An was riding the traditional coconut boats in the water coconut forest. These round, basket-like boats, steered by skilled local rowers, navigate through the dense mangroves. It was a unique way to see the local ecosystem and enjoy some light-hearted fun with boat races and fishing demonstrations.

Coconut Boat photo stop in the middle of the coconut mangroves
Coconut Boat photo stop in the middle of the coconut mangroves

Experiencing the culture in Vietnam is about more than just sightseeing. It's about engaging with the friendly locals, participating in their customs, and embracing the vibrant traditions that define this beautiful country. From the bustling markets to the tranquil temples, every moment in Vietnam offered a new perspective and a deeper appreciation for its rich heritage. This journey through Da Nang and Hoi An has been an unforgettable adventure, filled with discovery and wonder, especially with friends by my side to share in the memories.

Vietnam's beauty and charm captivated us, leaving a lasting mark on our hearts. Traveling with friends made the experience even more enriching, as we shared the highs and lows, laughed together, and created memories that will last a lifetime. This trip was more than just a vacation; it was a journey of exploration, connection, and cultural immersion. I’m already looking forward to our next weekend trip!


The Global Research and Internship Program (GRIP) provides outstanding undergraduate and graduate students the opportunity to intern or conduct research abroad for 8 to 12 weeks over the summer. Participants gain career-enhancing experience and global exposure that is essential in a global workforce.