Tim O’Brien, working on a graduate visa, tells of his time in US in pandemic mode, and thanks Rian staff for making it happen

My name’s Tim O’Brien. I’m 23 years old and I’m from Dublin. I studied Commerce at University College Dublin, and I graduated in 2019. I had applied for a number of graduate positions based in Dublin during my final year, but I always knew that I wanted to take part in the J1 graduate visa programme because I’ve always wanted to work and live in the United States.

I knew a good few people who had gone on the Graduate Visa the year before me, so I reached out to them for tips for moving over to the US. The most important question for me was which company they’d used to process their visa. I obtained several J-1 programmes in the past with another company and I didn’t have the greatest of experiences with them. So I asked numerous people if they had knew of other sponsors and they all recommended Rian Immigrant Center, both for cost effectiveness and also the amount of effort they put into their interns.

I moved over to New York at the start of February and was anxious to find work as soon as possible because New York is expensive to live in, so my savings quickly started to dwindle as soon as I got over. I had no problem getting interviews for internships because at the time the economy was good and there was a huge amount of work out there. I was looking to secure a role in Business Development specifically in the Tech industry.

I managed to get a lot of interviews via LinkedIn in my first few weeks over here with some fairly large companies, however the main stumbling block in my efforts was the visa. Most companies were looking for individuals with visas that could be renewed, or that could potentially be extended, which my visa could not. The process was frustrating enough as it was, even before Covid hit, and then it seemed like all the jobs just disappeared. When New York City

locked down, many people went back home but my roommate (also on the visa with Rian) and I were adamant to wait it out. As the pandemic hit and everywhere began to shut down, Rian was very helpful, in particular Paul Pelan. He would organize weekly Zoom calls for all the unemployed J-1 students and also check in individually with us, too, which was a great resource.

I was lucky enough to find a job with a tech company in Manhattan in April, having been unemployed for two months, but the start date kept getting pushed back because of the lockdown. Eventually this position fell through and I was back to square one again in May, but fortunately I had been given a contact in a food business by Rian which I reached out to in May. They offered me a working from home sales role, which started off as a trial period. Since then I’ve been taken on full-time by Legally Addictive Foods and have been working in sales and also in other areas of the business as it is a really small food start-up.

This was not the role or industry I had imagined I would be working in here in the US, but I’ve really enjoyed working in the food business and also for a smaller company as you get experience in all areas of the company.

My internship experience has been bizarre to say the least. It was also a strange experience to start a new job from my apartment, with no one around. Thankfully it was very straightforward to get into the swing of things and I was able to Zoom my boss whenever I needed to. Things in New York have started to become more normal over the past couple of months as the lockdown lifted, and now I have the choice to work from home or in the office. Also the fact that I’m now working 40 hours a week, it has given me more opportunities to travel and experience the North East.

My overall experience has been a positive one and I’ve learned a lot in the 7 months that I’ve been here. My internship so far has highlighted my interest in the food business, and also has given me the idea that I’d like to run my own small business back home, which is something I might not have realized had I not chosen to take part in the graduate visa with Rian Immigrant Center.

Thanks to everyone at Rian Immigrant Center for all their help.