We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. Read More Allow Cookies


In This Section

Emma's J1 in San Francisco

On her second J1 summer, Emma went to San Francisco. Check out her blog, reproduced here with her permission: 

(If you haven't read the blog about her first J1 in Myrtle Beach yet, click here)

"Back again with another J1 blog, this time on my 2019 J1 adventure in windy city San Francisco. If you’ve read my previous J1 blog post you’ll know that I spent summer of 2018 in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Looking back, I thought Myrtle Beach could not be outdone- but little did I know all that San Fran had to offer. I’ll just get stuck in because there’s lots to cover on what was one of the best summers ever!

Location, Location, Location

Okay so with regards to location, San Fran is situated on the west coast of America, i.e. the complete opposite end of the country compared to my previous J1! I don’t do things by half hahaha. If you’ve heard of people going on a J1 to San Francisco, then you will know that the majority tend to stay in the suburb of San Francisco called Berkeley. It’s known for being the main spot for Irish J1s in general.

Don’t get me wrong, some Irish do stay in the city for the summer but the vast majority stay in Berkeley and commute in and out of the city for work/ nightlife etc. My advice would be to stay in Berkeley as that’s where everything is happening and where you’ll have the most fun and meet the most people.


I much preferred the weather in San Francisco/ Berkeley to Myrtle Beach. We didn’t have that humidity like they do in Myrtle Beach. The weather was always sunny and warm, but a much more bearable heat- generally in the late 20s/30 degree Celsius. We also didn’t have a drop of rain all summer, bonus!! The only thing I will say is that it does get quite cold in the city at night time so definitely make sure to pack a jumper if you’re in the city for the evening.



Okay, so this is a tricky one because I got very very lucky and landed a job in Berkeley, which was super handy. Generally, J1s will have to commute in to SF for work.

I worked in the Claremont Hotel and Spa in Berkeley. I worked as a server at the pool with lots of other Irish girls. It was such a handy number location-wise and I saved on transport as it was within walking distance of my accommodation. Tips were also great in the job, which made a big difference to budgeting while over there. Shifts were also quite good as the earliest we would start work was 9am with the latest being a 7pm close.

I couldn’t have gotten luckier with my job because a lot of my friends worked on Pier 39 in SF and had a long commute to work. There’s pros and cons to both and jobs are definitely more readily available in SF along Pier 39 in places such as ‘The Charthouse’ ‘Buppa Gump’ ‘The Flyer’ ‘I LOVE SF’ and ‘Applebees’ so bear that in mind.


The transport is great in SF. The trams, known as ‘The Bart’ (Bay Area Rapid Transport), do what they say on the tin and get you from Berkeley and surrounding areas in to the main SF district called ‘Embarcadero’ in almost no time. The trams run very regularly and are the main means of transport to get you to the city. Uber is also a great option. however it can prove quite expensive for long journeys. Uber is a good shout coming home from a late shift in work or a night out in SF when you have a group to split the cost. You’re also guaranteed to meet the nicest people as Uber drivers. They all love the Irish so make sure to ask them for tips and recommendations for things to do/ see as it’s the best way to get a feel for a place.



My two friends and I lived in the official J1 Accom building in Berkeley. It was definitely one of the more expensive forms of accommodation over there, but it was very handy for meeting other J1 students and making friends easily. Other options for accommodation are frat houses which you can apply for ahead of the summer on Facebook or their websites.

Apartments are also a good shout if you have a big enough group to fill them and ensure they work out relatively reasonable in price. In all honesty, as important as accommodation is it’s definitely not the be all and end all as you’ll really only sleep there. On your days off you’ll be off exploring so you really only need a bed at the end of the day. Take time and consider your budget and what exactly you need from your accommodation and you’ll be able to work out the best option.


Berkeley has a great nightlife, however it is quite limited on late bars etc. or so I found anyhow. The main spots are Pappys, Spats and Kips. Each bar has a designated night or two that are best and get a good crowd. My personal favourite was Spats for a good bop on the dancefloor, but they all have pros and cons. One thing I will say is that drink is so so cheap so I wouldn’t worry too much about pre-drinking.

Another good shout is the ‘Tap Haus’ which is a late bar on Durant Ave in Berkeley. It’s located conveniently beside ‘Seniores Pizzeria’ which was probably one of my fave things about Berkeley hahaha. BEST PIZZA EVER! and probs the reason for 90% of my J1 tonne weight. If you’re feeling a break from Berkeley nightlife ‘Club X’ in SF can be a good one on a Fri/ Sat night. It’s a nightclub so it's nice for a bop and a change of scenery. Definitely check it out at least once just to say you’ve been!

General things to do

This is going to be a very long list and in no particular order. Before I went to SF I made a list of all the things I wanted to see and do and I ticked nearly every single one of them off the list… very satisfying haha.

 Lake Anza – On week one we headed to Lake Anza. It’s only a short Uber drive from Berkeley, but it’s worth checking out. Just don’t forget your suncream like me and my friend or you’ll regret it big time! Not a good look, red raw sunburn heading out to Spats hahaha would not recommend.

 Pier 39 – The tourist spot of dreams in SF. The best crepes you’ll ever try and any amount of SF keyrings and fridge magnets you can find.

 Ghiradelli Square – Ghiradelli is famous for chocolate in SF and the square is filled with the cutest shops and restaurants. The ice cream café is insane and a must if you can afford to pay $10 for an ice cream cone.

 The Painted Ladies – Famous pretty painted houses, ideal for an Instagram.

 Fisherman’s Wharf – Another must-see tourist spot.

 Lombard Street – A trek to get to the very top but worth the view. Can see over the bay for miles from the top. So good I went to it twice.

 Golden Gate Bridge – A MUST SEE. We rented bikes and cycled the bridge as far as Sausalito and got the ferry back. Insane views and definitely work the cycle.

 Six Flags/ Hurricane Harbour – You can visit Six Flags worldwide but we went to the ‘Hurricane Harbour’ Waterpark in Concord. I love waterparks anyhow but it was easily one of the funniest days we had in SF. A big group of about 15 went and we went on every ride possible. Some are not for the faint hearted but they make for good memories!

 Santa Cruz – We rented a car on one of our days off and set off to Santa Cruz. We actually ended up driving a mustang... so another one ticked off the bucket list. The beach was one of the most stunning I’d ever seen. There are great restaurants along the beach and some of the best sangria you’ll ever have.

 Shawn Mendes Concert – This one is optional but if you can get to a concert in Oakland arena it’s well worth it. It just so happened that Shawn Mendes was playing one night so we jumped on the bandwagon. Such a good night and a great way to have a night off from going out.

 Berkeley Swing – Located up in the hills, it’s a trek, but the views from then top make it all worthwhile. Make sure to take a designated photographer because you will want lots of photos at this one. As they say you’ll only regret the photos you never took!

 Napa Valley – Generally it can be quite hard for you and your friends to get the same days off, so when we did we decided to venture to Napa Valley. Known for its stunning vineyards it’s a good one for the wine lovers. We went to Stirling Vineyard and it was out of this world. I wouldn’t say it’s a must-do if you’re in SF as it is quite a distance away but I’m so glad we went. BTW: Don’t go to the outlets in Napa Valley unless you want to spend your life savings... been there done that haha!

 Twin Peaks – We sadly didn’t get to visit this landmark in the city, so it’s on my list for the future but lots of my friends recommended it. Make sure you go on a clear day though or you won’t see the incredible view at the top.

 Coit Tower – A cool one views wise if you’ve a spare hour or two but I wouldn’t say it’s a must.

 Lands End – A short bus journey from the city. Certainly worth a visit. Lovely walk around the water and makes for great photos.

 Dublin Shopping Outlets – You can get the BART to Dublin, then the outlets are a short bus journey/ uber ride away. These were some of the best I’ve been to in the USA.

 Strawberry Canyon Pool – Located in Berkeley. Sadly we didn’t get to go, but it’s a good one to pass a day relaxing if you want a nice chilled day.

 Bay Cruise – On our last week in SF, we took a bay cruise. It goes under and around Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge. This takes out you by Alcatraz Federal Prison, which I loved seeing as we never got the chance to visit it. Tickets sell out months in advance so pre-book these well before your trip if you plan on going. [SAYIT note: we can help book your Alcatraz and other excursion tickets before you even leave for the USA]

 Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe - These were among the Major Highlights of my J1, along with travelling to Los Angeles, San Diego & Las Vegas at the end of the summer.

So, I told you this one would be a long one and I wasn’t lying was I? hahaha. SF has so much to offer in terms of tourist attractions, so you’ll never be at a loose end which I love. I made the best memories and the best friends and wish I could just do it all over again. San Francisco is an unreal J1 destination with a huge Irish population in the peak summer season. If you’re thinking about it at all, don’t hesitate, get booking I promise you won’t regret it!"

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

Read more blogs: Emma's Myrtle Beach J1Laura's J1 in Newport, Rhode IslandMike's J1 Summer In ChicagoRebecca's New York J1 ExperienceMark's J1 Summer Of Sport In ChicagoCara's Ocean City J1 Summer5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your J1 ExperienceHow To Source Your Own J1 JobKate's Boston J1 SummerCiara's Long Beach J1 Experience.

Licenced by the Irish Aviation Authority, TA 0252

© 2024 SAYIT | Web design by Granite Digital