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Katie's J1 in San Fran

Last summer, Katie spent her J1 summer in San Francisco. Here's her first part of her blog, about the J1 experience:

Coming out of lockdown my friends and I could think of no better way to spend our summer than living in America for 3 months on a J1 visa.  At first it seemed daunting to move so far away from home and not know what was in store for us, especially in a world after a pandemic. But it is safe to say that it was the summer of a lifetime, full of memories I will never forget.  I have made friends both from Ireland and America and will always think of them when I look back on my summer of 2022. I’m not sure how we picked to go to San Francisco but I’m so glad we did.  It was the perfect opportunity for someone who has been stuck in Ireland for the past 2 years because of a worldwide virus to go out and make new friends and see how the Americans live.  

What to see in San Francisco:

San Francisco is full of different cultures and people, and this is evident by the many influences of the immigrant nationalities that live in this beautiful city.  There are so many iconic landmarks and things to see in San Francisco, so my friends and I made sure to sit down and plan our time off, to make the most of the time we had in San Fran before we went travelling at the end.   

Pier 39:

I got a job on the famous Pier 39, in a souvenir and clothing shop called SF City wear. It wasn't too far away from where my friends worked but I started on my own, which was nerve wrecking. But now that I look back, I’m glad I did. It forced me to interact and socialise with other,s and to make connections with people I never would have if I had worked with my friends. This was completely out of my comfort zone, but I really do think it helped me be more confident coming back to Ireland. 

It was nice to be able to go on my break and look out at the water in the sun, something you might not be able to experience in Ireland. Also, I got to learn a lot about San Francisco's native sea lions. You could hear them while you’re working, and they were especially loud towards the end of the day- which meant it was almost home time. It almost seems like a crime to be in San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate bridge, this was probably one of my favourite memories on my J1. 

Golden Gate Bridge:

We rented bikes, biked across the bridge and went all the way to Sausalito, which was just breath-taking. The views of the water and the bay area was just something you can’t describe or really capture in a picture. Some advice if you plan to go to Sausalito by bike- although San Fran might have a chill, Sausalito does not, so I would wear layers that you can take off. Also wear suncream or else you'll regret it. We were also blessed having a view of the bridge from our apartment in Berkeley.          



We booked Alcatraz a week before, when we knew we had the day off. It is best to book in advance as it can be booked out. We did have a few issues with the booking online, but it all turned out okay. We went early because we didn’t know how long it would take. But it was a cold but quick trip on a boat out to the island. Once we arrived it was no longer cold and was quite warm, which is why San Francisco weather is so hard to predict and often hard to dress for, so I was usually prepared for both.   


Berkeley was where we chose to live for the two months. Berkeley was full of character, and is the spot where pretty much every who is on a J1 in San Francisco goes to live. In Berkeley there is a beautiful university, and it is worth walking around to look at the buildings and see what’s on the campus.   

Berkeley to San Francisco:

The commute into San Francisco differs every day. One day you get there in 20 minutes, and then the next day it might take over an hour. It depends what’s going on in the city, like when the pride parade is on. When I was there, the city had a parade for the Warriors after being crowned the NBA champions. It was an amazing experience, but things did run a lot slower during it and took a bit longer to navigate my way around as streets were closed and I had to go a different way to work. Compared to Ireland San Fran had a lot of public transport, however it does have its downfalls when it comes to reliability. But being able to hop on the Bart at any point, and head into San Fran and explore the city seeing all the famous sites was amazing. 

There’s a few Muni [nickname for the San Francisco Municipal Railway & transport system] options around San Francisco, so I’m glad we went into the city before we started work to scope it out. After a few days and a few wrong trains, you get the hang of the public transport. There’s a Muni that you get in the underground, just the floor above the Bart, and there's this vintage tram that runs on the main streets that pretty much stops at any destination in the city. I was lucky it stopped at Pier 39. Especially on those cold mornings. We got the Muni app which was a lifesaver- not always reliable, but still helped with planning getting to work.   

Celebrations in San Fran:

There were so many events and celebrations we got to witness in San Francisco. Pride was like nothing I’ve experienced before. San Francisco is the city of pride so being able to be there for it was amazing. The atmosphere and the parade were breath-taking with so many people performing. After the parade everyone went to the civic centre to drink and party with so many stages of performers. It was an amazing day.  

We then had 4th of July. When I was booking my J1, my main thought was how cool it was going to be, being in the States for the 4th of July. You always hear about it on TV and on social media, but it doesn’t compare to being there for it. I was working that day, but I had a short day so got to go join my friends down by Ghirardelli square. There were people singing, and people selling flags and glowsticks- which of course we bought all of to get into the festive spirit. There were fireworks on later that evening, so we got a good spot on the grass and waited for the show.   

Baseball games:

Another thing on my American bucket list was to go to a baseball game and see if it was like in the movies. The atmosphere heading into the stadium was like everything I had imagined, full of excitement. Of course, you wouldn’t really be getting in the spirit of the game if you didn’t buy a large foam finger and a Giant’s hat.   

We cherished our foam fingers after that, and I even managed to fit it into my suitcase to bring back home. One of my favourite moments was when my friends and I made it on the big screen, and people were recognising us all the way home because of it. Through all the excitement of making it on the big screen none of us managed to get a clip of it so we can’t really prove it when we tell everyone at home about it.   


Another reason I was excited to go to America, pretty much like every other J1er, is to try the food. The States are famous for their fast food and different food chains. I grew up watching these foods and brands on my TV, so I was so excited to try them out. One of the saddest things I experienced when we arrived in San Fran was to realise there wasn’t a Chick Fil-A and we would have to get a train to a different city to get it. So we put it off until our trip to Lake Tahoe. It was so worth it, and I miss it so much. Another food place I was dying to try was Chipotle, and it was even better than what I thought it would be. During the summer, you do start to miss the good home cooked Irish dinner!

Check back soon for the second part of Katie's J1 blog, where she tells us about the day trips she and her friends made from San Francisco.

Want to start planning your own J1 for next summer? Register your interest now. Contact us in Cork on 021 4279190 or J1visa@sayit.ie. And follow us on Facebook and Instagram for the latest news and updates.

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