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Laura's J1 in Newport, Rhode Island

Laura spent her J1 summer in Newport Rhode Island. Read her blog about the experience and tips for anyone planning their own J1:

I had gone abroad with a group of friends between my 2nd and 3rd year of college and after that, I got the travel bug. So, I decided to spend my summer in the USA the following year. After all, going on a J1 and spending a summer Stateside is a rite of passage for so many Irish university students. It is an opportunity unique to university students which no one wants to miss. Initially myself and my friends were torn whether to go to the East Coast or West Coast of the United States.

After getting inundated with information from a friend who had gone on a J1 the year before us, and enticed by ads from SAYIT around campus, we decided to go to Newport, Rhode Island. It seemed like an unusual place to do a J1 and before this it hadn't crossed any of our minds to go there. However, my friend gave us the general jist of daily life there, along with a list of employers. We fixed up our resumes then started applying for jobs and organising interviews after Christmas. 

We all were lucky and got jobs very quickly, so it worked out nicely. After all the forms were filled, embassy appointment sorted and flights booked I embarked on my transatlantic New England experience. On 11th June 2018 a departure from Dublin was about to bring a summer I’ll never forget. I set off for the seaside New England paradise in Rhode Island.

I worked as a server in the New York Yacht Club and thoroughly enjoyed working there as it was very flexible and had a set wage. The club always takes on Irish J1 workers so knew all the procedure in place related to getting the VISA. I was lucky enough to bag a job which included free staff meals and the club supplied our uniforms for us. Having a set wage was great as there was no competition for tips in the workplace and everyone worked together as a team.

The Yacht Club was a members-only club where each member had to have a background in sailing as well as being an active member of another yacht club. Therefore, the club was very exclusive with American socialites and celebrities sometimes making guest appearances! Members generally spent their days on deck in between making use of the services which were looked after by J1 students. Everyone there was also very accommodating to the Irish and loved talking to us about our nation. 

Through work we made loads of great friends from Ireland, America and Serbia. We went to the Patriots American football matches, as well as going to weekly Newport Gulls baseball games. On the 4th July we watched in awe of Newport Harbour’s fireworks display from the roof as we were treated to a barbeque for working on Independence Day. The staff’s friendly and kind nature made settling into the American lifestyle a lot easier.  

A lot of people got jobs and accommodation via Facebook groups for people going to Newport on a J1. I would strongly advise joining these groups as they have loads of information from past J1ers. There were seven Irish people living in my house off Thames Street, the main street in Newport. When going on a J1, be prepared for living with more people than you would ever imagine.

The first week I was there I got a bike so got to explore and know the area well. Getting a bike was the best decision I made because nothing was ever too far away. It saved me so much time/ money and was a healthier way of getting to and from work. Even though Newport is considered a city in America, it felt more like a big town as it is a similar size to Malahide in Dublin. There was a nice Irish J1 community in Newport and you got to know everyone, so it basically felt like a home away from home. I enjoyed the experience of living in the States for the summer but could never imagine myself living there permanently.

Newport is a known seaside “vacay” location for the wealthy, as it is renowned for its beaches, yachts, mansions and vineyards. Normal streets were full of vibrant new houses, seafood restaurants and bars. Sometimes it felt like it was almost detached from society and in a world of its own. There was always more than enough to do on days off work. It is a haven for water sports like paddle boarding, surfing and jet skiing. Renting a boat and visiting the world renowned Block Island conservatory proved to be a highlight of my Newport experience.

Newport is also a very safe area so I would definitely recommend going there for a J1 from that aspect alone. For those of us who preferred a bigger city vibe, it was about an hour away from Providence via bus and 2 hours away from Boston. You can easily go up to both cities in a day. A prompt day at the outlets in Massachusetts was a day well spent.

Newport’s also very near another popular J1 destination- Cape Cod, which we also travelled up to. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to do a major travelling trip at the end of our J1 so instead we went to New York and New Jersey. Both places were very vibrant compared to the laid back atmosphere in Newport. It seemed like there were more people in Times Square than the entire population of Newport. We visited the 9/11 memorial, the Freedom Tower and walked the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset on the last evening of our time in America.

If you are planning to travel at the end of your J1, make sure to book flights and accommodation early as both get more expensive towards the end of the season. However, don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track! Also, bring your student card as they are accepted at most museums and national parks.

My advice to others planning their J1 would be to start looking and applying for jobs as soon as possible, because that’s the major requirement. Try and have accommodation sorted before going over as it just wastes time and money jumping from hostel to hotel room. Do communal shops with your housemates and buy multivitamins as fruit and veg in the US can be almost double the price of Hershey’s.

Don’t be afraid to ask previous J1 students or the staff in SAYIT as they are both extremely helpful sources of information. Keep copies of all documentation for the J1 in case any of them get lost or stolen. While out for dinner, make sure to tip your server between 15% to 20% as the minimum wage for a server can be sometimes as low as $3 an hour.

My J1 was full of new friends, once in a lifetime experiences and of course the odd night out (or several). I thoroughly enjoyed my J1 experience with SAYIT and would recommend them for going above and beyond helping anyone going on a J1 visa. Most importantly have fun– it’s your J1 and an incredible experience!

Enjoy it! 

Read more blogs: Ciara's Long Beach J1 ExperienceMike's J1 Summer In ChicagoRebecca's New York J1 ExperienceMark's J1 Summer Of Sport In Chicago, Cara's Ocean City J1 Summer5 Tips For Making The Most Of Your J1 ExperienceHow To Source Your Own J1 JobKate's Boston J1 Summer.

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