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Cara's Ocean City J1 Summer

Cara recently got back from her J1 experience in Ocean City, Maryland. Here's what she has to say:

"For anyone who is a bit of a space cadet and never really has a notion of what they will be getting up to next, give this a read!  I went on my J1 to Ocean City in Maryland [OCMD]. It was completely spontaneous as myself and my friends were on the fence about what to do that summer. We were busy with college, and despite all of us working, we still somehow were always broke (too many treat yo'self days). We left it quite late, and while I thought it would be impossible to save up in a short period of time, it was fine, because once we started to plan out the summer-to-be in the US, extra shifts and less nights out became so worth it.

Now, to tell you the truth, we all made a decision right away to not even attempt San Diego or California in general, as at a late stage it would have been too difficult to get employment and housing (both are scarce in Cali). I sense that there is a widespread notion that there's no point in going on a J1 if it's not to the West Coast which – I cannot stress enough – is not the case. Even if I were to do it all again, and register a little earlier, I honestly, hand on my heart would have still stuck with the East coast. Besides, you have plenty of time to travel West at the end, therefore getting the best of both worlds!

For those of you considering going to the beautiful, summery Ocean City, the first thing you will want to know is how to get there. I flew into Philadelphia airport and got a transfer to Ocean City organised for us by an internet café called E point. There are also Greyhound buses to OCMD from various neighbouring airports so do not fret. The transfer organised by E Point was affordable and comfortable. It was a little minivan with enough space for myself and the girls, so a nice snooze without drooling and snoring in front of a stranger was possible after the long flight! As well as this, they brought us right to the door of our motel, The Burgundy Inn, which was affordable and perfect to stay in until we found housing. Definitely worth looking into for those of you going to OCMD.

Now, probably the best thing to come from my J1 was meeting other students over there. Myself and my friends encountered a fantastic bunch of students from Meath and we house shared with them. If you are travelling to Ocean City in a small group, it is easier to find housing if you merge with another group. Suffice it to say, what originated as a necessary merging of groups to hold down housing turned out to become powerful friendships that will never cease. I would recommend leaving your comfort zones and embracing all the new people you will meet on your travels.

For those of you who are travelling to the US who are under 21, don't let this stop you! I myself was only 19 on my J1, and it was still the summer of a lifetime. There is so much more to it all than just going to bars, trust me. You'll have enough time for that when you return to Ireland, go and embrace a different lifestyle before returning to normality! It certainly allows you to focus on yourself and your own interests a bit more, interests you may not have even known you had.

There are always events happening, whether it be concerts or matches or air shows. There is also American Memorial Day, a day where the atmosphere in OCMD is nothing short of amazing. There are also activities for thrill seekers such as skydiving or paragliding! For those who are 21, there are endless opportunities for nights out – or even happy hour. OCMD is also home of one of the best nightclubs on the East Coast – Seacrets. Give it a google!

Now, of course the most important thing to mention is the beach and the endless boardwalk. Ocean City has an enormous, beautiful, clean beach with warm, safe waters. You will definitely return to Ireland tanned. For foodies, the boardwalk is full of incredible restaurants, the food was fresh and amazing – try to visit every restaurant on the boardwalk, you will not be disappointed.

Finally, it is a very popular holiday destination, and therefore is very busy. I worked as a waitress in a pizza place/ restaurant and made a bomb. Tips are insanely good. If you're smart about it, you can actually come back with more money you had leaving.

Overall, OCMD was the summer of a lifetime. I met and befriended people from the US, other counties in Ireland, the Dominican Republic and Nepal, among many other places. The boardwalk is a delight to work on as you can just take a couple of steps and end up right on the beach after work. Tips are great, the food is incredible, and there is ALWAYS something to do. I would strongly suggest heading there for a summer of a lifetime, where you will make lifelong friends, and as a whole, gain essential work and travel experience to give you confidence for your next destination. 

PS. For those of you travelling to OCMD, be sure to check out Irish Outreach on Facebook! They are the nicest people I have ever encountered and will help you with absolutely anything you need! They even supply free bikes to get around!

Read more blogs: Mike's Chicago J1 Experience5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your J1 Experience5 Useful Mobile Apps You'll Need On Your J1, J1 Jobs: All You Need To KnowRebecca's New York J1 ExperienceCiara's Long Beach J1 ExperienceMyrtle Beach J1 Experience By Shanice, Kate's Boston J1 Summer.

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