My J1 Experience

On the 8th of June last year, me and my two best friends embarked on what turned out to be the most amazing summer of our lives. We bundled into the airport at 6am, nine bags between us and the journey began. When I booked my j1 I said to myself, ‘No way are you slumming it Emma. You like your creature comforts. You’ll get a cute studio apartment in the city with the gals, it’ll be so sex and the city’. HAH. How wrong I was.

After a week of staying in a hostel in San Francisco, eating in the cheesecake factory and doing all the touristy stuff, the girls and I moved into a two bedroom apartment with nine boys, who were then strangers to us. We slept on air mattresses for the duration of our time in the US, at one point we even used a burst air mattress as a shower curtain. I’ll admit it was a little grim but the darkness actually made the shower strangely tranquil, unless of course one of the nine male roomies was tinkling while you rinsed and repeated. I can say now hand on heart, there wasn’t a single luxury you could have given me that would make me change my experience in any way shape or form; this coming from a girl who at one stage had nothing to use as toilet paper except for the napkin from her Aunty Anne’s pretzel that morning.

Living with that amount of people had its challenges. Mainly the influx of random socks scattered across the apartment floor, but it worked out fine. There wasn’t really any alone time to be had over the couple months, someone was almost always home. A positive if you ask me as we all became really close and took some great trips together.

The day before the 4th of July, 16 of us rented an RV, (13 boys, 3 girls; solid ratio I know). We travelled five and a half hours to Lake Tahoe and spent our first night camped in a CVS pharmacy car park. We got settled in a campsite the following morning and the weekend was hands down one of the best I’ve ever had. We saw the fireworks, went to the casinos, melted marshmallows like real campers, had barbeques, visited waterfalls and had a few drink fuelled sing songs that actually made us a big hit with the other ‘camper-vanners’. The sleeping arrangements were tough though. It was an RV made to sleep 8 people, 8 Americans to be fair but none the less it was quite a squeeze.

I can’t recommend doing a J1 enough, I enjoyed it so much I have one booked for this summer already – East coast here I come! Travel while you’re young and able. Don’t worry about leaving your part time job in whatever shop or café you’re in. You’re not going to work there for the rest of your life, and you only have that job so that you can do things, make doing a J1 one of these things.


Emma Dungan

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