Claire enjoying a sunset cruise along the Charles River.
Claire Gorman, a law graduate from Queen’s University Belfast, wasted no time in getting her J-1 Visa to gain work experience in America, landing a job in Boston a mere three months after her graduation. Reflecting on this quick transition from university life in Belfast to working life in Boston, Claire expressed that it was definitely a big change, but that it is important to “trust yourself and know that you have that good education behind you.”
Breaking into the legal sector in Boston is no mean feat. Although she was coming in with an entirely different experience to the American law graduates around her, Claire secured a position interning with MetroWest Legal Services. Although this highly competitive area of work has its challenges, Claire has found a great opportunity to learn her way around a new legal system and bring that experience back to Ireland to improve her career.
Not only did she quickly obtain a job, but the work Claire is conducting in her legal aid role is also actively making a difference to those in need of legal help in the Boston area. Working primarily within the housing unit of the firm, she provides one-to-one advice, mostly to people in low-income brackets, or to elderly and disabled people who are facing eviction and other issues.
When discussing the importance of this work, Claire articulated how these issues have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Many people with whom she works are still feeling the repercussions of job insecurity and steady price rises that have been increasing since 2020, so the work carried out by Claire and her colleagues is more crucial than ever.
Aside from working life, Claire shared that she loves what the city has to offer and that it is “not just a big city” because you really can do a bit of everything in Boston. Although it is a massive change from her small town at home, she says, “having such a big Irish community and such friendly people definitely helps.” It also helps that the people of Boston are always friendly and willing to help you out, similar to the Irish at home.
Claire recently had friends over to visit, and was able to show them all around the city – and more. One of her highlights of the year so far was getting to take them out to Cape Cod for a weekend. It was an amazing experience, she said.
During the process of obtaining the J-1 Irish Work and Travel Visa, Claire said staff at the Rian Center were incredibly helpful because she was indecisive- she considered the option for a whole year prior to her departure. She shared that Rian were quick to respond and really reassuring.
“If I wanted to jump on a Zoom and talk things through, they were willing to do that as many times as I wanted.”
Rian’s presence in Boston has also been a big help to Claire in settling in, through organizing events to support her and her fellow graduates, “They have been great right from the beginning up until now, and they are still organizing things for us to do. It has been really good.”
When asked what is the one thing she would tell someone hoping to travel to the States on a J-1 Visa, Claire recommended putting lots of effort into researching accommodations before landing in the country. It is a big transition moving to a new city, with a new job and trying to find an apartment as well, “Try to be on the ball about housing and reaching out to people before you get to America.”
In terms of bringing her experience back to Ireland, both professionally and personally, Claire said the biggest thing she has learned so far is the importance of adopting the American attitude toward networking and marketing her skills. She has realized that the Americans she has met are really willing to sell their skills to potential employers and connections. That approach is not as much in the Irish nature, but it’s a big culture in America.
Claire has found it is really important to have that confidence in yourself for job interviews and even in meeting new people, “It’s about knowing what you can bring to the table and not being afraid to show that, because we don’t really like to do that at home.”
Overall, Claire indicated that her experience so far will be invaluable to her when looking for jobs back home. She has already learned so much in a few short months!