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J1 USA

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Cian's Ocean City Summer

Cian spent the summer working in Ocean City, Maryland, and travelled to Washington, Philadelphia, New York, San Francisco and San Diego before finishing up the summer in Las Vegas.

Going on a J1 was one of the most rewarding and worthwhile experiences of my entire life. Having the opportunity to spend so much time in an entirely new country, with so many new places and things to explore is incredible. I would recommend for anyone to try to go if they can, as it’s certainly worth the time and effort.

As I approached the end of my college experience, I wasn’t too thrilled by the prospect of staying home in Ireland and looking for work, for what could potentially be my last ever full summer off. I had turned 21 the previous August and had been working part time for years. Thanks to this, I had the money I needed to go to America on a J1, something I had been looking forward to ever since I was a teenager.

I wanted to go with my friends, as I thought sharing the trip with them would make my experience much better. Thankfully, a lot of them were in the same boat and a large group of us ended up heading over! This helped all of us to settle in to America more quickly in the first few weeks. We all knew each other really well so were easily able to help one another with any issues. We were all in the same boat so it was nice to know that we weren’t trying to adapt on our own.

We decided to stay in Ocean City, Maryland as a few of my friends’ sisters had been there before and loved it. This made it a lot easier to find information about it. It was also more affordable than many other big-name destinations in America, well suited for a student’s budget! We found accommodation by checking local rental sites, managing to find somewhere quickly enough. The earlier you decide on a location the better, giving you the most time to plan and find a nice place to live for the summer.

Ocean City ended up being an amazing place to be. The weather was usually fantastic, never dropping below 30 degrees during the day. The occaisional crazy storm threw us off guard at first, but you’ll get used to it eventually! Thanks to the way that Ocean City is laid out, you’re never more than a 4 minute walk from the beach. That was by far the biggest selling point of the area for me.

We went to the beach every day we could, for at least a couple of hours. There were loads of volleyball nets on the beach, and it was really clean, making it perfect for lounging around. Some of the volleyball games got quite competitive, and the heat made it hard to play for long, but it was still a lot of fun! The best part however, was the water itself. It was lovely and refreshing, and regularly had great waves to catch or duck under. Having the option to go for a dip in such nice water when it was so hot outside was amazing, and it meant we always had something to do. The beach became a great place to meet people too, as they were always up for playing some volleyball. It was also an easy spot to meet up with friends. I would definititely recommend staying by the coast for your J1!

As you can see, relaxing by the beach was definitely my favourite part of the J1 experience, and how we spent most of our free time. However, variety is the spice of life and you should definitely try out plenty of activities while you’re in America. We played basketball, took surfing lessons, went to a batting cage, played mini-golf, went to a gun range, visited a water park, took part in a skydive, went to the cinema and did too much shopping. If you’re looking, you’ll never run out of things to do on your J1.

Keeping busy with activities like the ones above will help you with the only negative part of the J1: homesickness. It can be really hard to leave families, pets, loved ones, and friends behind for a whole summer, especially if you’ve never lived away before. For me, homesickness sets in when you’re bored, so try to keep yourself active at all times. This will also help you to get the most out of your J1 experience. Thanks to the magic of the internet, it’s even easier to keep in contact with your loved ones at home. Make sure to take some time each week to keep in touch with those left at home. They’ll appreciate it, and it’ll make you feel less isolated from your home too!

I was lucky enough to have a really good job when I was in America. I worked in a surf shop, which had a really chilled vibe. It made going to work appealing and it didn’t feel like something I simply had to do. It helped that I was working with lots of young people who were also on a J1 visa. I got to meet so many new people through work and made loads of new friends too. Irish, Americans, Romanians, Dominicans and plenty more nationalities made up the workforce in my job. Due to this, I was able to talk to people from countries I had never been in before and learn about their experiences and culture too. My bosses were really kind too and allowed us time off if we wanted to go travelling or shopping in the outlets.

I had an amazing travelling experience during my J1 summer. While in Ocean City we managed to visit both Washington and Philadelphia, and also a state park in Pennsylvania. We rented cars and drove to both cities. It was amazing to visit such famous cities and see sights we had only seen on TV. I especially loved Capitol Hill and the Rocky Steps. We also visited Eastern State Penitentiary, which was so interesting and we learned a lot about America’s justice system.

Once my time in Ocean City was finished, I got to see even more of America. I managed to see New York for a few days, which was an unbelievable experience. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, with everything seeming to move at 100 miles an hour. After that, I travelled down the West Coast from San Francisco to San Diego, which was probably the best 2 weeks of my life.

California has a totally different vibe to anywhere else I had ever been, and I loved being there. The weather was beautiful and the views were consistently stunning all the way down. Driving for such distances was tiring at times but it was hard to complain with everything we were seeing! We finished up in Las Vegas, which was the perfect end to take any money we had left at that point! Time doesn’t seem to move there, it’s an unbelievable place to be. I feel really lucky that I was able to see so much, it was definitely a holiday to remember!

Finally, I have some advice for any students thinking about a J1. Firstly, learn how to cook! If you go over with 3 or 4 meals you can make quickly, easily, and cheaply, you’ll save yourself so much money. Getting takeaways a few times each week will eat into your money and you might find yourself tight for cash by the end. It’s definitely worth putting the time into cooking, and only ordering takeaway when you really need it!

I would also recommend keeping a good stock of water with you at all times. It can get really hot and its easy to forget to drink water, but it’s essential. You’ll need to drink a lot more water than you do in Ireland, and the tap-water is pretty poor. Water is really cheap in any big supermarket, so keep yourself healthy and drink plenty.

This next tip might be pretty simple, but it’s just as useful: don’t panic about packing. We all know the struggle of packing a suitcase, and it’s even tougher when you’re trying to plan for 3 months away from home. I love runners, so I ended up bringing 5 pairs over. I basically wore one pair for work, one pair for going out, and that was it. Shoes are heavy, so don’t stress if you can’t fit as many as you’d like! The same goes for clothes. America has a lot of great shops regardless of where you are, so you’ll always have options. You won’t want to pack both your suitcases going over anyway, as you’ll then struggle to bring new stuff and presents back with you. Everyone’s in the same situation, so you won’t be judged for wearing that t-shirt a few times!

Stay relaxed, and always focus on the most important thing: enjoying your J1. Do whatever you feel like doing (legally of course) and leave with no regrets. Your J1 summer is your time to have the best summer of your life, so do whatever you can to make that a reality. You’ll make plenty of friends for life, return to Ireland with a camera roll full of photos, and a head full of wonderful memories.

Read more blogs: 5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your J1 ExperienceCara's Ocean City J1 SummerHow To Source Your Own J1 JobMyrtle Beach J1 Experience By ShaniceJ1 Jobs - All You Need To Know

Start planning your own J1. Contact us in Cork on 021 4279190 or J1visa@sayit.ie, or Dublin: 01 608 0072 or dublinJ1@sayit.ie

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