When a virtual water cooler chat is the boost you need
When a virtual water cooler chat is the boost you need
When a virtual water cooler chat is the boost you need
Sarah Titford headshot

By Sarah Pearl, Assistant Director International Student Transitions


I met with a colleague last weekend for a day trip, and, of course, our discussion turned to work.

As we chatted about some of the challenges faced across our community—mostly emerging from the pandemic—we threw out ideas about what we could do to address them.

A couple of ideas seemed to ‘have legs’, and we felt energized by the fast-paced work chat.

I realised afterwards that this kind of interaction would more commonly happen at the office water cooler in a pre-pandemic world—a casual discussion that produces enlightening information that can foster new ideas. Rather than a planned meeting.

Impromptu chats often enable us to address challenges and find solutions quickly; they can foster creativity and generate connection. But I also recognise that the last two years have taught us that, with some effort, we can nurture aspects of this spontaneous discussion dynamic in a virtual format too.

I’m lucky enough to work with a community of professionals who consider relationships with each other to be vital.

And I’ve seen this dynamic play out in our 60-minute virtual Live Member Connection video calls.

These casual video calls bring together guidance counsellors and university admissions reps from our CIS member schools and universities. It’s one of the ways we create opportunities for connection and camaraderie that can be so useful for our members.


Can virtual chats really emulate water cooler chats?

Photo of a woman in an online meeting

Ok, they’re planned, so they’re not spontaneous, but they do seem to be working as far as virtual connections can imitate real-life energising in-passing interactions.

During these 60-minute chats, we’re appreciating this new space for connection, brainstorming, and collective problem-solving.

Naturally, these sessions must be planned into our agendas to make them work for as many of our members as possible. But the absence of watercooler spontaneity doesn’t detract from their usefulness.

These chats were born out of a necessity to connect members together during the pandemic.

They, and we, wanted an open space to network with no set agenda or expected outcome.

We wanted to unite our members and provide access to meaningful discussions without the need to travel.

For those who are new to international education, we wanted them to feel welcome and to learn from more experienced members.

We wanted to provide a place to connect, commiserate, brainstorm, problem solve, plan and laugh.


Hot topics in our university guidance community

So far, here are some of the broad topics the sessions have elicited:

  • assessment strategies
  • staffing challenges
  • job opportunities
  • tips for housing students in the Netherlands
  • travel plan coordination
  • coordinating online visits in China
  • changes in student behaviour post-pandemic
  • travel packing tips
  • opportunities for students who have taken gap years
  • brainstorming new models of recruitment online and in-person
  • how to build networks as a brand-new counsellor


Having attended a number of Live Member Connections, I was struck by just how relieved I felt to participate in live discussion with colleagues from around the world in this way. During the pandemic connecting with other professionals was limited due to all sorts of factors, and CIS really stepped up and provided a much-needed and much-appreciated channel to keep in touch. The discussions were cathartic as we were all experiencing and sharing about our particular situations, but also very productive. They were productive because we were thinking together about solutions to shared problems, and how we could assist each other and students—regardless of the side of the desk we were on. It was very informative to hear different perspectives on pressing issues, discuss new trends, make new connections, and re-connect. Each time I was in a LMC sharing a smile or a story was a highlight of my morning or afternoon.

Carolyn Barr, International Relations Officer, Leiden University


Join our next chat!

University guidance counsellors and university admissions representatives are invited to tune-in to our next chats on 18 October, 13 December, and 10 January. More 2023 dates will follow, and each date offers two different times to accommodate more time zones. Just log into the CIS Community portal > Events > Webinars & live sessions for links to register.



Related content:

When a virtual water cooler chat is the boost you need
  • University admission & guidance
When a virtual water cooler chat is the boost you need