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The Lowdown on the J1

Summer is slowly approaching, and if you’re thinking about participating in the J1 programme, I’m telling you book it now. I experienced the J1 last year, and I am again partaking this year with the new system. I’m going to highlight here the main dos and don’ts in my eyes in relation to the J1, and offer a little insight into my experience. These are my personal views and understand that every J1 experience is different.

So, the 411 on the J1 visa. First of all, minor change this year. Students now must have a job prearranged before they go. Honestly, no big deal at all. The companies who help students obtain their visas, USIT and SAYIT, have adapted to this change and are now helping students with interviews before they head over.

So first of all, organisation. It is an extremely difficult and nerve-wrecking thing to establish yourself in a foreign country for 3/4 months. If you haven’t booked it yet, do it now. By getting on the ball early you’re giving yourself more opportunity to find a good job and housing. I used USIT last year and am using them again this year, so I will only be speaking from experience with them. As a general rundown, once you pay your deposit, you obtain an online account where you will receive messages, book your flights and make payments. All in all, you’re looking at about 1,500 euro approx before you even head over, so it’s a good idea to start saving as soon as possible.

As for jobs, there is absolutely no need to wait for the company to do the work for you. This year I searched jobs in the area I wanted to go to and obtained a job myself. America is the land of opportunity and its much easier to find a job there, so take the initiative and do the research yourself.

Location, location, location. First of all, you want to figure out where exactly you want to go. The most popular destination is California. When deciding where to go you must consider various things; are you there to make money or mostly as a holiday? do you want to travel while you’re there? how much money are you going with? California is a very expensive state to live in, accommodation is going to be expensive and difficult to find, but you will also be making good money if you can find a decent job. Cape Cod is a holiday destination about an hour away from Boston. This is where I went last year and had an amazing time. If you want to be around a bunch of Irish people, California is the place. If you want to immerse yourself in the American culture, Cape Cod is a great destination and has a lot of beaches and things to do. I have not experienced or heard anything to do with any other destinations. Housing costs between 110-160 dollars a week and there is an abundance of restaurants, resorts and hotels in Cape Cod.

A lot of students travelling in groups do not try to integrate themselves with the American people and their culture I noticed last year. I personally made friends with a lot of American students and went to cultural things such as baseball games etc. which I definitely feel enhanced my experience. I went by myself but my advice would be if you’re going in a group, make the effort to throw yourself into the culture, you may never get that chance again.

The most important and dangerous aspect of the J1 is your housing. There are a lot of people out there who will attempt to scam you, so be very wary. Last year I lived in the hotel where I worked which attempted to scam me out of money. Advice, do not live where you work. When you organise your accommodation, make sure you receive a lease and read it thoroughly and keep a copy. Another thing, Irish students have gotten a bad reputation in many areas of the states for wrecking apartments and housing. Those who do this give the rest of the J1ers a bad reputation which I feel is very unfair. It makes it extremely difficult for future J1ers to find jobs and accommodation and could eventually lead to the discontinuation of the J1 programme. So above all else, my advice is be respectful, have fun but don’t ruin it for everyone else.

So that’s the general lowdown. I’ll conclude by saying the J1 experience will change you forever; you will grow as a person, you’ll experience things you never had the opportunity to experience before and you’ll have the best damn summer of your life. So, if you have the means, I recommend you go and have the summer of a lifetime. Good luck in your future adventures!