In the first of a two-part series, Colin Sweetman talks a little about heading to the south-coast corner of America for students planning a J1
Rather than give you a summary of “This is what I did last Summer” (which is what this article will probably turn out to be), I remain in the hope that I can impart some useful information for those of you deciding to hit America for Summer 2010 – in homage to the time-honoured tradition of the J1 Experience.
It turned out exactly as I hoped it would: brilliantly, subtly, totally ambiguous and never disappointing. It is true that J1ers find it as difficult to find a place to live as it is finding employment in Ireland. However, there are ways around this – most of them illegal.
When you land in San Diego, it’s not at all like going to a neighbouring European country. Contrary to a ‘culture shock’, you’d be surprised how similar the place is to Ireland. Many previous J1ers will agree with me in saying that, when they returned to Dublin after the work-holiday, they felt like San Diego was as distant in locality as Cork. In other words, it almost feels like it’s just around the corner, when in fact the Whale’s Vagina is 5,200 miles away.
Getting a job is no problem if you keep an open mind. San Diego to the rest of America is what Spain is to Ireland and Britain: a holiday zone. This means that it needs a large group of temp workers just for summer. The Irish speak the same language, are generally easy-going, and are desperate for cash-cows offering drink money (an activity you will be partaking in for up to and over six days a week).
The hardest part is getting a house. With rent the highest expense during the summer months, accompanied with a thirst for beer, fun and food, the only option is to squeeze as many pale-arsed ‘lerprechauns’ into an apartment dogbox as is possible. Also, because the Irish are so drunk and rowdy all the time, landlords are quickly becoming wise to our ways, and you’ll notice that the Irish are being forced to live further and further away from the coast every year. Expect no deposit back, many police knocking on your door, sleeping toe-to-toe with complete strangers (who you’ll soon befriend) and an apartment that is furnished only with beer-stains and empty beer-cans.
The police in San Diego have a strange attitude. Last year, many Irish were arrested for J-walking and giving cheek. But when we were drinking on the beach late at night with the majority under the drinking age, bonfires and all – did the police do anything? Not a thing. They probably thought it was sacrilegious to disturb any Irish partaking in their favourite pastime.
Applying for J1
Don’t listen to what any of the agents say – that “Free Visa” (which isn’t free when you realise that you can only fly on the most expensive airline going) is going to remain free until early May, because they’re generally desperate for your custom.
On a general consensus, Go4less are the cheapest and most helpful, but the others don’t fail in doing their jobs either. Once you sign up to one of these companies, every step is generally straight-forward – so easy, even a mature student could do it.
Also, don’t buy into their lies about having to buy a mobile SIM card and bank account before going over. These companies are just trying to make an extra bit of cash for themselves. A SIM card in America costs about $5 and setting up a bank account is free, takes about one hour, and is less stressful than doing it from Ireland.
Arriving in San Diego
I would advise to completely ignore your useless sponsors (but don’t ignore the forms they give you to fill out or else you’ll be deported). Instead, the most helpful agent is the Irish Outreach Centre, their mission being “to extend the hands of caring and guidance to the Irish” in the San Diego area.
These helpful folk will guide you directly to the Social Security office, even offering a quicker service than any other migrant in the city. They will also help you find accommodation and employment, as they generally know many people in the city who specifically want the Irish to work for them/live on their land. The greatest advice I can impart to you is to go directly to them the day after your debut piss-up.
So with that, I can honestly say that it is a completely worthwhile experience that I’d take again without hesitation.
If you would like to fully prepare for your J1 to San Diego, check out www.irishoutreachsd.org and have a hassle-free summer. More advice next week.