Hear the first-hand experience of young Irish people living and working in the US in IrishCentral’s latest series on the J-1 graduate visa. We speak to recent Irish graduates working across a range of industries on their careers, motivations, and the highs and lows of their stateside adventure.
Ed O’Brien Hogan, from Dublin, studied Law and French in Maynooth University before moving to New York.
He currently works as an intern in the Consulate General of Ireland New York.
Taking the plunge
I spent two summers in New York during college and I knew that I had to come back. I graduated in 2013 and worked full-time in a restaurant in order to pay for the graduate visa before arriving in New York in September 2014.
Having been to America before on J-1 visas, I had some expectation of what was in store during the application process. It is certainly an expensive visa but relatively straightforward as long as you keep on top of things. Moving to a new country is a big change but is manageable as long as you give yourself adequate time to prepare and consider the practicalities.
I studied Law and French at University but knew I didn’t want to go into professional practice, leaving me uncertain in terms of career direction. I had little professional experience before arriving, but I quickly found an internship with an exceptional LGBT rights organization called Lambda Legal. My time there gave me great insight into fund-raising and development for a well established and dynamic organization. Ultimately, it focused my passion for civil rights, especially in the context of the recent referendum on marriage equality in Ireland.
I have since started an Internship at the Consulate General of Ireland, New York, which has been a phenomenal experience. I’ve had broad exposure to the work done by the Consulate – promoting Irish culture and pursuing opportunities to strengthen economic growth in Ireland.
I have gained great insight into the special relationship between Ireland and the US, which is particularly apparent with the strong Irish-American diaspora in New York.
There is such a large pool of opportunity here and the vast majority of J-1 graduates I have met are doing some really interesting work in their chosen fields. I believe being here has afforded me a skill-set and a stepping stone towards employment when I return to Ireland.
What do you wish you knew before coming to the US?
It helps to have a good buffer of money when coming over. Rent in New York isn’t cheap and often landlords require two months’ rent and a security deposit before you move in. You are limiting your options if you come over under-prepared financially.
It’s also vital to read your health insurance policy carefully and to check if you have other health insurance that will cover you in the States. Know your entitlements, as even basic healthcare can be prohibitively expensive here.
Network, network, network
I think the power of networking shouldn’t be underestimated when coming to the US. It’s definitely an adjustment from the Irish mentality, but if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
For instance, we found our apartment by asking around at a friend’s housewarming party. Other graduates are a wealth of information so I’d definitely recommend getting in touch with people you know who have already arrived.
There are some great resources for Irish graduates in the New York area: the Irish Business Organization, Irish Network New York City, the Irish Immigration centers and many more.
Don’t be afraid go to networking events and introduce yourself. People are extremely helpful and welcoming as they have often experienced immigration themselves.
Learning from New York
Being in New York has helped my confidence enormously as you really have to put yourself out there professionally and socially. It’s my first time living away from home while being completely financially independent and I have a real sense of pride that everything I’ve achieved here has been through my own efforts.
It’s not always easy to live here; winters are harsh and, of course, there are moments when you get home sick and wonder if it’s all worth it. Luckily, I have a great network of friends and family and it really helps to have other J-1 graduates around as everyone is in the same boat.
New York is a fantastically open city – a melting pot in the truest sense of the word – and there is always something going on, no matter where your interests lie.
It’s a fast-paced lifestyle but I’ve found you can integrate quickly and be who you are without any judgment. It’s exciting to become one of 8 million New Yorkers, each with their own story.
Have you taken the plunge and moved to the US on the J-1 Graduate visa? Tackled the visa process, the job and apartment hunt and lived to tell the tale? IrishCentral wants to hear from you! Share your J-1 Graduate visa story with firstname.lastname@example.org to take part in our series and advise the next batch of US recruits.