Handling your first J1

Heading off to the States on a J1 is a rite of passage for most Irish students. In recent years more and more restrictions have been placed on the working visa and this year is the first year students are required to secure a job before they head off.  

Although searching for employment from Ireland may seem very stressful at the time, at least when you arrive in the US you have one major weight lifted off your shoulders.  

Within forty-eight hours of arriving you have to contact your US sponsor to let them know you have arrived and your current address. You can then apply for your social security number which I recommend you do early on as it can take up to two weeks to arrive and you may need it before you can start your job.  

The next major hurdle is finding a place to live. Accommodation can be a nightmare to find in popular J1 destinations like New York, San Diego and San Francisco. Sites like Craig’s List can be useful but tread carefully for hidden fees and visit the place before you pay out any money

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure you fully understand everything on your lease before you sign. If your name is on the lease and you happen to get in trouble with your landlord or evicted you may have your visa cancelled.

Once you have all the nitty gritty things sorted it’s time to start enjoying the summer of a lifetime. Every J1 location has so many different things to offer whether it’s sun and tanning or city life. Popular J1 locations have loads of J1 nights out which are great for the craic. At the same, venturing outside of your comfort zone makes for some even better experiences. Try and soak up as much as you can during your summer away, embrace your American side with a ‘cookout’ for the 4th of July and roast some ‘smores’.  

If you get the chance, travel while you’re in the states. Do it on the cheap if spare cash is an issue. Buses are cheaper than flights or if someone has a full license, rent a car. You’re already in the US so there is no better excuse to travel somewhere you’ve always wanted to go.

Jennifer Purdy

Image Credit: Darragh Culhane

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