For many people a J1 is synonymous with the college experience. The idea of three months spent in the US working and travelling appealed to me long before I started college. It wasn’t until midway through my second year of Journalism that I really started to look into it. Originally, myself and two friends from secondary school looked into going to San Francisco. However, we heard from a few people that it was really difficult to find jobs here and rent is very high so we decided to look to the East coast.
We decided to go to Ocean City, Maryland, which is about a five hour drive south of New York City. Through Facebook we found seven other people from Dublin to share a house with. After what felt like a lifetime, we finally boarded our flight to Washington DC. The feeling of sitting on a plane with no clue what was ahead of me was extremely daunting yet exciting. Once we arrived, we took a six hour bus ride to Ocean City. Initially the house we were renting at a steep $5,400 a month felt like a dive, but it wasn’t long before it became home. A major upside is that we each had our own bed, a rarity for J1 accommodation.
I worked as a server in a crab restaurant on the boardwalk called the Mug and Mallet. This gave me the perfect opportunity to talk to new people and was a good way to make tips. I didn’t expect to be working as much as I did, with only two days off as a week, but even so I still fit in going to the beach, which was only two minutes away, almost everyday. Ocean City itself didn’t offer much more than the typical touristic amenities as it is a resort town. However, we made the most of these, by experiencing things such as skydiving, paddle boarding, jet skiing and kayaking.
As idyllic as this beach lifestyle was, living in a house with nine other people in the heat for three months obviously had its downsides. Having to do my own laundry and cook for myself everyday came as a big culture shock as I live at home during college. There were days when I ate plain pasta with some soy sauce, a far cry from my mam’s corned beef and potatoes.
On August 23rd we left for New York where we stayed for four nights, then flew to San Francisco. After a week, we travelled down the West coast to Los Angeles. Being able to see so much of the US in one trip was incredible. Our final flight home to Ireland left LAX on September 15th, giving me very little time to adjust to reality before college. Overall, I would highly recommend a J1 visa to students. I feel it made me more mature and outgoing and has given me new lifelong friends and unforgettable experiences I would never have otherwise had.
Image Credit: Ciara Moran