The J1 visa programme has been a favourite among Irish students for decades. With so many options in both the USA and Canada, it can be difficult to decide on the right Summer trip for you. We look at two DCU students very different experiences working on a J1 visa.
After spending Summer 2016 working at home in Dublin, I knew I had to get away the following year. One of my close friends had just got home from working at a Summer camp in Connecticut in America. At first I couldn’t even imagine heading to the States solo to work at a kids Summer camp. However, the more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. He recommended the company Camp Leaders Ireland to me so I started to do more research.
The process started with an online application and a phone call, followed by an in-person meeting with a representative. After you’ve been approved and have paid the first deposit, you create an online profile expressing your hobbies and interests. The profile is then visible for hundreds of camps across the US to see. If they like what they see, they put you ‘on review’. This means they can reach out for a Skype interview without another company snapping you up.
About 4 Skype interviews later, I accepted an offer from a YMCA camp near Evansville in Southern Indiana. My friends and family questioned why I would choose a ‘random’ place like Indiana, but I wanted to try something different. I wanted to go somewhere I wouldn’t have necessarily thought of visiting. I was originally worried about the YMCA and Christianity aspect. As someone with no religious beliefs, I was nervous that everyone else working there would have a different mindset to me. This wasn’t the case at all!
There are so many different jobs available and so many different camps out there. My role was as a typical cabin counsellor. All counsellors taught an activity and because I’m a journalism student, I was chosen to teach radio. A typical day at the camp I worked for involved waking the kids up at 7am for breakfast, chapel and raising the American flag. We then had activities for 3 hours- this is when I taught radio. After lunch we had free swim in the lake and cabin activities. These ranged from baking and crafts to paint wars and creek hikes. Dinner was followed by an evening programme (an all camp game of some sort). Lights out was between 9pm and 10pm.
After camp, you have up to 30 days of travel before returning home to Ireland. I decided to stay for just 2 weeks, but I got to visit 5 different states in that amount of time. After spending 6 days in Chicago with my newfound camp friends, I flew to Connecticut to visit a friend. My trip ended in New York, a city I knew I had to visit before leaving the country!
I honestly couldn’t recommend the camp experience enough. Working at a camp taught me about responsibility, patience and knowing when to let go and have fun. I also made so many new friends from all over America (and the world!). There really was an aura of positivity there all Summer, something the American counsellors called ‘camp magic’.
Image Credit: Rachel Farrell