Home away from home: an unforgettable year in Boston

Orla relaxing at the beach


Orla McCarthy, a graduate from the University of Limerick reflects on her time in Boston while on a J-1 Graduate visa.


“After graduating from the University of Limerick, I was still unsure what direction I wanted to go in whether it be straight into employment at home in Ireland or taking a year to travel. My main goal when I decided to come to Boston was to have the best of both; to gain invaluable experience in an international role while incorporating my desire to travel to new and exciting places. Professionally, I have since built upon my knowledge from university while expanding my skill sets through my internship. Personally, I have become immersed in a vibrant and diverse city that provides many cultural and travel opportunities.

My day-to-day life in Boston is always different from one day to the next. Working at the Quincy Chamber of Commerce provides a lot of variety as the job is very events oriented. There is always something different each day whether it be attending our recent Annual Meeting, an After-Hours networking event, or our Leadership Breakfasts. I am now busy planning for our upcoming golf tournament and Summer Farmer’s Market! 

I also try to utilize my time after work to try something different and experience American culture whether it be going to a pumpkin farm or holiday market, sporting events like a Bruins or Red Sox game, or exploring Boston’s museums and sites. I even got to see Dermot Kennedy play a pop-up show one evening!

I began working at the Quincy Chamber of Commerce in October as the Membership and Events Intern. Something I love about my internship is that I am given a variety of responsibilities. I mainly do marketing, help plan and execute Chamber events, and assist in the membership department. I manage our Instagram accounts including our Presidents Trail and Farmers Market page. 

For events, I monitor our registration page and take payments while promoting them through social media, emails and our website. I also assist in membership billing, invoicing and money collections. This summer I am excited about beginning to oversee our Farmers Market, which involves communicating with and sourcing vendors, planning the market set up and promoting on social media.

My time at the Quincy Chamber has truly exceeded my expectations! From day one, I quickly learned that I am an important member of the team. It is an amazing work environment where I am gaining hands-on experiences and making connections whether it be working at events, managing our Farmers Market or networking with people from all types of industries. I was initially worried that working in Quincy wouldn’t give me the full Boston experience, but I am really happy I ended up there as it’s a beautiful, historical city (birthplace of two US presidents!) perfect for young professionals.

Besides working in Quincy, I have loved living in Dorchester as there is a tight-knit Irish community here which makes it like a home away from home. It is a great place to live if you are commuting to work whether it be into Boston or to Quincy like me. Living here provides the best of both worlds; you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of Boston while only being astone’s throw away from it all.

I wish I knew before arriving about how manageable Boston is and how inviting the city is. I was overwhelmed by the thoughts of trying to navigate and fit into a big city as I grew up in rural Ireland. However, part of the J1 experience is pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and I surprised myself by how quickly I adapted.

It helps that Boston is authentic and doesn’t feel like a tourist trap, but a place that both visitors and residents enjoy. Now when I have family and friends visit, they say I am a local! Boston really does feel like a small town with all the perks of city life.

Over the months I have left in my J-1 year, I am hoping to push myself further out of my comfort zone at the Quincy Chamber and soak up as much knowledge as possible. I am hoping to do a lot more traveling even if it’s just weekend trips away in and around Massachusetts; you would be surprised how much you can pack into a weekend here! I recently went skiing for the first time in New Hampshire and have a trip to Niagara Falls coming up.

My experience in the US has been an amazing way to grow and develop both professionally and personally. I will apply the initiative and can-do attitude I have adopted while living and working in the US. I will also apply the invaluable experience and knowledge I have gained from working at the Quincy Chamber to develop my career path. Personally, I will foster the confidence, resilience and focus I have gained since moving here.

The best part so far about Boston is the new people I have met, both professionally and personally. I have discovered networking is at the core of Boston’s professional world, and I know the connections I have made through work will stand to me when I move back home and seek employment. Meeting new friends has only heightened the already amazing experience that I am having and I already cannot wait for the many more activities and trips we will plan over the next few months!

To future J-1s I would say this: It is easy to be consumed by how fleeting a year is and worry it will go to waste, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just enjoy your time! Stay organized, network as much as possible, and say yes to everything! Moving to a new country is hard no matter what way you slice it, but just know if you can do this then you are capable of anything.

Lastly, the Rian visa programme was recommended to me by my cousin and I have not been let down! Rian have been instrumental in making my time in Boston as stress free as possible. They are always prompt with their replies and provide resources for every aspect of your time here. I moved here by myself, so it is nice to know I have a friendly and knowledgeable group looking out for me while ensuring I have the best experience possible.”