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UCL Coffee Connect

Meet UCL’s community around the globe, have a cuppa and connect. Coffee Connect randomly matches you with another alum or student to share knowledge, build networks or just get to know someone new.

UCL Coffee Connect banner

UCL Coffee Connect is our version of Randomised Coffee Trials, developed by Nesta. UCL alumni and current students from across the globe are randomly matched with one another, and invited to connect to organise a virtual coffee together.

There are no requirements regarding the topics discussed, some conversations are spent entirely on professional development matters, others are a relaxed chat with someone new.

Coffee Connect gives you the opportunity to meet virtually, catch up and build connections with the UCL community. You can read stories from past participants below. Join us and meet someone new!

How does it work?

Applications for the current round UCL Coffee Connect are now closed.

If you are interested in pairing up with a UCL Coffee Connect buddy, all you need to do is: 

  1. Complete an expression of interest form by Sunday 28 March 2021.
  2. We will randomly match you with another participant, by sharing the email address you provide. You will hear from us about your match in early April 2021.
  3. It’s over to you to arrange a phone call, a Skype or Zoom call, or whichever platform works best for you and your match. We encourage you to connect within a month of being introduced. 
  4. After the introduction period, we will send you a short survey to see how it's gone.

There’s no obligation on you to form a relationship beyond the conversation: it can be a one-off conversation, or the start of something more (we hope it will be the latter).

What should I talk about?

These conversations aren’t prescriptive, you can talk about whatever you want. You can use them to find out about one another, your experience at UCL, your hometown and how you are coping in the current global pandemic, your respective job roles, what you are working on now, your challenges or successes: whatever you'd like.

The most important thing is to be curious and approach these conversations as a chance to learn more.

What previous participants think

Hundreds of alumni and students have taken part in previous rounds of UCL Coffee Connect. Read some of their experiences below.

Nive Raitz von Frentz (UCL Biology 1993)

Headshot of Nive Raitz von Frentz
 If I were to describe my UCL Coffee Connect experience in a single word it would be ‘serendipitous’.  

When I learned that my match had graduated in 2011, more than fifteen years after I had, I wondered what we might have in common.  I must admit to Googling her in advance of getting in touch! After a bit of ping pong, our date was set and it turned out to be one of the easiest conversations I've had with a stranger. We had so much in common! From our educational backgrounds to having cross-cultural marriages to our children.  

UCL Coffee Connect offered a totally random chance to ‘meet’ a totally random person, and I ended up connecting with someone with whom I shared so much. It was quite scary… good scary! In fact, our paths might literally have crossed, as it transpired that she had participated in the Berlin Art Fair last year and I had been at that same event. We could have been standing right next to each other and not known it.

In a year where words like “pandemic” and “unprecedented” became common parlance, silver linings were hard to come by. It felt right to do something different, something I might not have done had life been carrying on as usual. What a clever and quirky idea, UCL Alumni Relations, thank you!

Dr Sally Gadsdon (UCL Biology 2002) 

Headshot of Sally Gadsdon
I always enjoy meeting new people. I'd been meaning to get back involved in UCL life for a while. Towards the end of 2020 I had worked from home nearly the whole time since the start of the pandemic and therefore met very few new people during the year. UCL Coffee Connect was a brilliant way to inject novelty into my life and get involved with the university again.

Sally and I talked non-stop for about two hours, I felt like we had a head start on connecting given our shared first name! We discussed our respective experiences of UCL, 20 years apart, our scientific backgrounds and research, and our working lives and future plans. As Sally had recently graduated from UCL it was so interesting for me to hear what the student experience is like now.

Meeting someone completely new is a joy, and we shared enough of a scientific background that we could have a really good conversation about our fields. I really enjoyed learning about Sally's specialism and hearing her plans, she even helped me to better understand a work item I had been working on! Sally definitely lifted my evening and I hope our conversation lifted her too. 

Stephen Robin (UCL Bartlett 1973)

Headshot of Stephen Robin
 I’m based in Ferguson, Missouri in the USA. I graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture in 1973. My UCL Coffee Connect match was based in London and graduated from Anthropology in 2006. Despite the difference in time zone and generations, we found connecting easy! We organised a Zoom call, and being able to see one another made connecting easier still.

After graduating from UCL, I transitioned from architecture to broadcasting. Strangely enough, it transpired that we both had worked at the BBC. Despite not working there for several years, I was able to share some ideas about what to look for in different jobs, especially around engaging with different departments to gain experience. It was so good to hear their experiences, and how they had applied their time at UCL to their career.

We discussed our hidden talents – including drawing and painting – which are not anything to do with our careers. It was so interesting to meet someone of a completely different generation, with very different life experiences, and find commonality. I have always been grateful to UCL for the formative experience it offered me. My only regret is that I didn’t get re-involved sooner! 

Thomas Murthi (MRes Synthetic Biology 2015)

Headshot of Thomas Murthi
 I am always seeking opportunities to expand and enhance my network – especially to establish connections with fellow UCL alumni. UCL Coffee Connect gave us the opportunity to actively sign up to those virtual connections and I enjoyed the initiative. 

I connected with my match for what felt like just a casual chat. We occasionally leaned towards careers – my match leads an interesting career in the public sector and it was fascinating to hear his trajectory, as well as share my own. There are aspects of his career path that I could never have possibly known without his insight. 
I had not come across UCL Coffee Connect before, but delight in and welcome any initiative to connect people!

Natasha Winnard (UCL Geography 1994)

Headshot of Natasha Winnard
 When I signed up to take part in UCL Coffee Connect, I was aware that many UCL alumni and students were in lockdown around the world, as I was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It seemed like an ideal opportunity to connect with someone to show support and kindness during a challenging time. 

We connected initially via email and then via Zoom. We had a lot in common, despite being a few decades apart in age and from very different academic and career backgrounds and cultures. We talked about how we both maximised the wonderful opportunities and learning presented to us living outside of our passport countries, and some of the shared challenges we faced. For example, neither of us was able to get home to our families for the December holidays, because of the pandemic. So, we shared ideas of how we were planning to celebrate, incorporating some of our home traditions with our host country traditions. 

We also shared our love of yoga and pilates as a way of relaxing and disconnecting from work, which we both recognised was really important whilst we were working from home. We talked about how we both love, and currently miss, London's fantastic cafe, restaurant, arts and cultural scene and being part of a multicultural community.

It was a fantastic hour. In my opinion, one of the best ways to grow personally and professionally is to intentionally connect with people who are from diverse cultural backgrounds, who are not in your age bracket and who work in a different sector. UCL Coffee Connect provided that perfect opportunity!