J-1 Experiences: Rachel Graham

Rachel utilized her J-1 experience to further explore the field of pathology

Hi! My name is Rachel Graham and I used the J-1 visa to gain experience in the field of pathology in Boston, Massachusetts. Having completed my Bachelors degree during the COVID-19 pandemic, I had limited opportunities to gain work experience relevant to my degree. I wanted the opportunity to work in a pathology lab to see if this area of work was something I would like to pursue in the future. I also wanted to experience working in a large company as most of my prior work experience is from small labs. The company structure and working relationships are entirely different with a bigger organization and it has been great to experience this. Due to the nature of my work, the facility I work in is open 24 hours. I work the 2nd shift from 10am-6:30pm Monday through Friday. I bike to work every day—I love the bike lane system they have out here! That has been a very interesting experience with the New England weather! At least once a week I will meet with friends in Davis Square, which is an area close to me that has bars, restaurants and cafes. 

I have really enjoyed my internship. While the work itself has been interesting, I have found that having the chance to talk to my work colleagues has been my favorite part of my job. The opportunity to learn from so many people who have been in the industry for a long time, many in different areas, and who are willing to give advice has been so helpful and valuable to me. Furthermore, I love living in Boston, it really feels like home! There is always something happening that you can get involved in and I’ve found the people to be really welcoming and friendly. I have found so many different groups to join on hikes, weekend trips, sports teams and everything in between! I find it great that although it is a major city, it isn’t super busy like New York. Even though there are a lot of tourists coming through, it has a slower pace and the opportunities are endless! 

Having visited Boston several times with my family, I was familiar with the city before I arrived. I have previously done all the stereotypical tourist attractions like the Museum of Science, the Duck tour, JFK library, the Freedom Trail, Quincy Market, etc. so I had a good general knowledge of what Boston was like. Having said that, living somewhere is a lot different than just visiting for a few weeks as a tourist. Before I flew out I wish I had more knowledge on the cost of living in the city. Rent and groceries are expensive! It took me a little while when I first moved here to work out the cheapest grocery stores and where the cheapest areas to live are. Things like deodorant are crazy expensive here! I ended up bulk buying them when I went home for Christmas and bringing them back with me!

One thing I learned during my time here was the importance of networking. There are so many more job opportunities available to you when you build up your professional and personal network in your field. Once I return home I will continue to build connections with people in my industry to give me the best opportunities to succeed in my future career. I am going to take what I’ve learned from my internship and from networking and use it to further my career. Personally I have built a lot of confidence from living and working in Boston. Knowing that I have been able to set up a life out here, from bank accounts, social security, ID cards, securing a job for myself and an apartment has proven to me that I am confident and capable and I will continue to build on this when I return home. My only advice would be to just say yes! A good friend of mine from home gave me this advice before I left. Say yes to any opportunity you get, to any invitation you get because you never know what will happen. Get out and do as much as possible when you get the chance because a year goes by so quickly and you will regret every missed opportunity!

Rian has been a great support for me throughout my journey from preparing my visa application all the way to preparing to go home. They have been invaluable in answering questions relating to all areas of life in Boston from setting up accounts to promoting networking events, assisting with job searches and giving J1s a chance to meet each other through hosting different social events. Overall, it’s so hard to pick a favorite memory from my J-1 year as I’ve made so many great memories here! I joined the Boston 1 Dragon boat team and competed with them at the Boston Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in June. One of my top memories would have to be winning a silver medal in my first race. It was such a fun weekend but that was definitely the highlight! Another highlight was spending a couple of weekends during winter up in New Hampshire and Maine. I tried so many different things for the first time including tubing, snowshoeing and cross country skiing! I’ve made so many friends through these trips and we’ve already got a reunion cookout planned to finish summer! My final top memory would have to be the trip I took to New York over a long weekend in May. It was so fun to be able to hop on Amtrak and be in New York in just a few hours. I loved getting the chance to explore the city and have lots of bagels and coffee! Looking back, this J-1 experience was vital for building up my confidence in both myself and my future career. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to do this, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!