GRIP, Internships Abroad A Two Month Recap

September 7, 2021
By Gigi Lam, SEAS '23

Van Aelst I Nguyen & Partners - Vietnam

The past two months as a virtual GRIP internship has been an incredibly valuable experience, for growing my professional interests and allowing me to learn a lot about myself through the internship and interacting with the other local students from Vietnam. I had the pleasure of working closely with the company director Steve Van Aelst, company members Ngoc, Vi, and Thien, and another intern, Justin, throughout the past two months on several different projects. The experience has strengthened my skills in architecture and design, and the VANG team has taught me much more beyond the scope of just architecture.

Steve and the rest of the company were incredibly supportive and welcoming. The team environment was at times playful, but still respectful and professional. Most of my contributions, unlike some internships, were not insignificant busy work, but active parts of the projects. This was refreshing to see as this was my first official internship, to actually be a part of the team instead of an expendable intern. We frequently met multiple times a week, which allowed us to strengthen connections with the team and actively communicate with each other. The virtual setting made certain aspects of communication through language and different time zones difficult, but we worked together to overcome these.

We worked on several different projects throughout the two months, and as such, I was able to hone my skills in several different programs, such as AutoCAD, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop, and a little bit of SketchUp. Along with these technical skills, I also learned how to effectively communicate and prepare presentations for clients, which is a very important skill that is transferable beyond this internship. I also learned a lot about the creative process within the professional world, where finding the balance between adhering to client wishes and not losing creative freedom is extremely important. Steve frequently conversed not just about the technical aspects of the projects and our tasks, but in general about important lessons that I will carry with me in my future career.

As an engineering student who is interested in architecture, this was a great experience that gave me a little insight into the professional architecture career. It is still a field that I am highly interested in and may pursue further education as a master’s in my future. Steve and the rest of the company at VANG were wonderful to work with and taught me not only about different aspects of architectural design but also about how to be a well-rounded individual.


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.