Summer internship lays the foundations
THE GRADUATE: With a BSc in risk management science from CUHK, Jacky Lo was as ready as any graduate trainee could be when he arrived for his first day with international bank RBS in August.
He had already learned the ropes during a 10-week internship the previous summer, but early in his university years, Lo had realised the truth of the maxim that the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.
He made a point of throwing himself not just into his academic studies, but also extra-curricular activities and exchange programmes that took him overseas.
"I felt it was really important to explore the world, make connections and have experiences to talk about," says Lo, who spent the first semester of his third year at Brown University in the United States.
"The good thing about an exchange is that you can take any courses you want. I took economics, as well as some English and philosophy classes, but the best part was making new friends, and we are still in touch."
Lo also took part in the St Gallen symposium, organised by a top university in Switzerland and attended by many senior executives, and joined CUHK's special leadership development programme. This covered topics such as art appreciation, politics and management theory, and gave him a whole new perspective on life.
"There was additional workload because you take 15 to 18 extra credits, but it was definitely worth it," he says.
Course prepares for life in the real world
THE FRESHMAN: First-year architecture student Katherine Lau Nam-wei didn't take long adjusting to life at CUHK. What made it easy was the knowledge that her distant career goal is a step closer, and the feeling that the course is already preparing her for life in the "real world".
"We have reviews, like exams, where a range of people come in to critique your work," says the 19-year-old who grew up in Hong Kong and the United States. "They point out what a client might prefer and why, which can give a completely different perspective and makes sure you take a realistic and practical approach."
Lau's thoughts first turned to architecture during high school when she realised the importance of getting a degree, but wanted to find something that combined arts and science.
"I became very definite about this a few years back and chose CUHK because of the sense of community and because the education you get here is perfect for being an architect in Hong Kong and the mainland, where so much is happening," she says.
Students are also encouraged to plan and organise trips overseas to gain hands-on experience, so they could potentially find themselves building bridges on the mainland or putting up houses in rural Cambodia.
Extra classes offer choice of opportunities
THE LEGAL EAGLE: Final-year law student Ng Ling-ling is quick to pinpoint the reason she has enjoyed her studies at CUHK.
"It is the style of teaching," she says. "We don't only focus on our major; there are a lot of general education programmes and things are flexible enough to do a double major if you want to enhance your competitiveness."
While planning to join the local office of an international law firm after graduation, Ng appreciates the chance to have more than one string to her bow.
She has found it illuminating to take classes in everything from Chinese culture and public affairs, to social science and languages, and has jumped at the chance for both long- and short-term stays overseas, which have seen her in San Diego, Yale, Hunan province and St Gallen in Switzerland.
In terms of preparing for the next phase of her career, Ng is particularly grateful for the practical advice and assistance that has been so readily available. There have been workshops on writing a resume, talks by lawyers invited to speak on campus, and internships to get a feel for day-to-day legal work.
"We do have to worry about employment because places are limited, but with my all-round training, there are always other options," she says.
Support of alumni network proves invaluable
THE SENIOR: With a job offer from an investment bank already in the bag, Christine Yuen Lok-ting has one less thing to worry about during the final year of her BSc in quantitative finance. A 10-week internship completed last summer not only confirmed the feeling that banking was right for her, but also led to a place as one of next year's graduate trainees.
"I liked the environment and found it challenging and exciting," Yuen says. "Our course gives us financial knowledge and we use Bloomberg terminals to do real-time analysis, but it is demanding and very different when you are really on the job."
She credits CUHK's career support service and the alumni network for helping her know what to expect. They had put her in contact with mentors who work in investment banking and were ready to give advice.
"We also have banking professionals teaching some classes in things like foreign exchange and investment strategy," she says. "That means we know about market developments and why certain decisions are taken."
Keen to capitalise on exchange opportunities, Yuen has spent a year on a full scholarship at the London School of Economics and a semester at Notre Dame University in Indiana.