J-1 has a ‘life-changing experience’ in a new US hotspot – Austin, Texas

Matthew Rooney, a third-year Ulster University student, started the process to obtain his J-1 Graduate Visa with excitement as well as nerves. On the one hand, he knew he wanted to work in the sports industry, as he’s currently working toward his degree in Sports Performance.

 “There’s not a lot of opportunities for that back home” he told us, so naturally he was excited about getting a chance to build his career with a year of real experience. In addition to his yearning for hands-on knowledge, Matthew also wanted to experience a different culture. He was able to fulfill all these wishes by working with Rian to get his visa, and then working in Austin, Texas as a PGA tour intern. 

On the other hand, although he was undoubtedly excited, Matthew was also nervous before coming to the United States. He knew he wanted to make the most out of his year. Luckily, thanks to Rian, his visa application process was seamless. His enthusiasm about the role he obtained did lead to some first-day nerves, but, after just a few days in Austin, he started to make friends, loved his job, and was excited to see all that the city could offer him.

At his PGA internship, he worked on both operations and their advanced management team. Matthew made sure that vendors were successfully set up before tournaments, and completed the many other tasks that ensured events ran smoothly. His workplace experience lived up to what he was hoping for, and he “loved every moment” of his time at the PGA.

While he was discussing Austin with us, his genuine love for the city and the people living there came across clearly. He explained how many of the people he worked with at the PGA were also new to Austin and even his same age, so it was easy to make close friends. With the help of these new friends, Matthew was able to seamlessly transition to life in the United States, starting with exploring the city and getting a taste of its different culture. Austin was such a hotspot of activity that he found new things to do throughout the whole year. 

He loved the social aspect of Austin, especially going to different restaurants and bars with friends. When he wasn’t soaking up the Southern food and music, Austin’s plentiful outdoor activities seemed to always keep him occupied, particularly boating and paddleboarding on Lady Bird Lake.

 Overall, he found living in Austin to be a surreal experience where he was never bored and new friends were always around the corner. Without a doubt, the city fulfilled his cultural expectations of the trip.

While Austin alone could certainly keep him busy, Matthew wanted to take advantage of his time in the US and see some other areas of the country, too. He traveled to west Texas and Dallas, which he described as more like the Texas he’d always imagined. Alongside his girlfriend, he visited Boston, Florida, and Hawaii, which he said was one of the best places he’s ever been. He thoroughly enjoyed the freedom to travel that his visa gave him. 

Matthew couldn’t say enough good things about his time in the United States, with help from Rian. His biggest piece of advice was to “give the experience everything you have.” He noted that by giving it his all, despite feeling nervous and intimidated, he was able to have an amazing experience in the US. His employers also recognized his incredible efforts, and they appreciated it immensely. 

Now, Matthew is taking what he learned in the United States and applying it toward his final year in university. His experience at the PGA was so beneficial and inspiring that he’s planning on using it as the basis for his dissertation. He can’t wait to share his new knowledge about his passion, and is very grateful to have this experience to put on his CV as well. Getting out of his comfort zone was one of the best things he could have done, and, in the end, he was extremely happy that he did it. 

Matthew’s year in Austin – what he called a “life-changing experience” – allowed him to gain important work experience, while spending time in a culture he will always appreciate, with friends he was grateful to have met.