[Sponsored Article] With normal face-to-face student support services disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Student Development Services of City University of Hong Kong (CityU), under the leadership of Professor Horace Ip, Vice-President (Student Affairs), has risen to the challenge by moving student services including employability initiatives, counselling, service-learning programmes and sports training online. Online Employability Initiatives for Career Development and Job Landing As the consequences of Covid-19 persist, Alice Leung Kirkwood, Section Head of Career and Leadership Centre, says online services provide flexibility for CityU students to enhance their career training and development opportunities. "Online career consultation and career preparation workshops remove health and safety concerns, but still enable students to follow worthwhile career opportunities," Leung Kirkwood says. Building on a range of online employability initiatives, including the successful Career Month, which took place during late May to June 2020 with the participation of over 2,000 students, CityU is organising an E-Career Success Fair 2020 from late September to October 2020. The online career fair will feature new initiatives including Job Expo with “Live Sessions — Connect with Employers”, Job Search Skills Sessions with Executive Chatrooms, Thematic Workshops and Student Sharing Sessions. Same as Career Month, via Zoom and applicable online platforms, students will be able to join Career Preparation Workshops with CV polishing service and Recruitment Talks. CityU has unveiled Career Launch Scheme (CARLS) in June 2020, which is designed to maximise the employment opportunities of Class of 2020 by matching job-seeking graduates with employers who can offer employment opportunities for at least three months or more. About 1,500 job opportunities from different industry sectors were solicited for fresh graduate jobseekers. CityU career consultants also conducted more than 1,400 one-on-one online career consultations with Class of 2020. Leung Kirkwood says, Career Month and CARLS serve as platforms to identify market trends and address employers’ expectations and students’ needs. CityU would continue to explore ways to support students with their job landing and career development opportunities in future. With Covid-19 responsible for the cancellation of overseas summer internship programmes, CityU transferred Global Work Attachment Programme online for the first time, which connected more than 20 students with employers in Berlin, Munich, Sydney and Taipei for 6 to 8 weeks of work experience. Participating students used video call, project management software and email to communicate and interact with the employers to complete assigned tasks. With enthusiasm, some students had expressed interests in extending their internship period to gain more global exposure. With remote working likely to be one of the lasting legacies of the pandemic, students benefited from the experience and appreciated the first-hand opportunity to participate in an important "future of work" trend. Ease Students’ Psychological Burdens with Online Counselling Meanwhile, although the pandemic has disrupted the face-to-face interactions with CityU students, Counselling Team swiftly adapted its services to provide professional psychological counselling through Zoom or by 24-hour hotline, under the guidance of Professor Eric Chui, Dean of Students. "We adjusted our service format to ease students’ psychological burdens," says Holly Wong, Senior Counsellor. This included providing counselling services to CityU outbound exchange programme students who were unable to return to Hong Kong due to quarantine and travel restrictions. To help students learn to understand and manage their emotions, CityU also strengthened the information provided on the counselling service website. Furthermore, CityU has been providing online individual consultations, training workshops and social gatherings to students with special education needs since February 2020. As students face many uncertainties, Wong stresses it is important for counsellors to be vigilant and sensitive to the changes in the students’ "counselling environments". "They need to be prepared to respond to their needs promptly and appropriately," Wong says. For example, students sharing a home with parents and siblings may have difficulty finding a private space to talk to a counsellor. Wong explains on one occasion, a family member suddenly entered a student’s room when he was talking with his counsellor. The counsellor noted the change in the student’s facial expression and knew that he did not want his family to know that he was receiving counselling, so quickly changed the topic. "Same as face-to-face counselling, students need to feel comfortable and reassured to speak openly with their counsellors about their concerns or causes of anxiety," Wong says. It is encouraging to receive positive feedback from students who say they can feel the genuine care and support provided by counsellors. Help Low-income Families with Online Community Services Recognising the challenges low-income and underprivileged families face when children are unable to attend normal school lessons due to the pandemic, Kathy Lai, a Social Work student who is participating in a work placement in a social welfare organisation, with assistance from CityU's Community Engagement Programme (CEP) (which provides a platform that enables students to engage with the community through service-learning experiences), gathered other student volunteers and designed three types of bilingual "Experiment At Home" science kits. "Student volunteers helped prepare the experiment kits for children from low-income families to relieve their boredom and learn science in a fun way," says Lai who adds that CityU staff helped buy materials for the kits and assisted in contacting different social welfare groups to help with the distribution of the experiment kits to low-income and underprivileged families. "The biggest challenge we faced was conducting and planning our service online for our first time," says Lai. While families were able to enhance parent-child relationships as they worked together to conduct the various experiments, the student volunteers were able to increase their awareness and understanding of the society. They were also able to nurture a caring spirit and an empathetic mindset for the needy. "It was a great opportunity to foster personal growth and self-reflect on the consolidated learning experiences," says Lai. Keep Fit and Fight the Pandemic with Exercises To encourage the CityU Community to exercise regularly at home or in the office, CityU produced a series of exercise videos which also help to release stress. "Through exercise, members of the CityU Community can maintain good physical and mental health at the same time," says Sunny Chau, Principal Physical Education Officer. When designing the videos, one of the main challenges was to ensure that exercises could be performed in small areas. It was also important to design the exercise videos of varying levels of intensity. For example, participants can choose different levels of Tai Chi relaxation exercises, workout and yoga exercises. "We hope that members of the CityU Community will keep up the good exercise habits," says Chau who explains that CityU will continue to produce a variety of exercise videos to cater to the needs of different people.