That’s right, I jetted off for the Summer. (I don’t just “take a flight” like the common folk, I “jet” … cos I’m fancy).
Well, it wasn’t as simple as just hopping on my jet. There was an application process for the visa, of course. (Which I would describe as “tedious”, at best … but WORTH IT). Emails, forms and fees to beat the band! I went through the company SAYIT, who were always at the other end of the phone/email when I had any questions. You can get in touch with them here.
Then there was the American embassy interview, which consisted of me waiting in a queue for six hours, to be asked what my intentions in the United States of America were.
(Just a warning: honesty is not always the best policy. The scary man behind the glass partition does not want to hear that your intentions are to “have a blast!”).
I suppose I panicked a little. It was all very high security and there were men with guns who took my food off me on the way in, so I was gone a bit delirious. They also took all my electronic devices, so I ended up trying to pass the time by making a mental list of everyone I have ever gone out on a date with, ever.
Anyway, the trauma was all forgotten once I set foot on the land of opportunity, peanut butter, cheese, blueberry muffins and sugary everything.
“Welcome to the United States, Mam” Everyone seemed to be saying, and I felt like a modern day version of your one from the movie Brooklyn.
(We are the spit of her really to be fair…)
In order to be welcomed in like this for the Summer, you must have secured a job first.
That was a little stressful, but SAYIT are great assistance as they provide an InterExchange job data base, and lots of information about job fairs. My friends and I managed to source our own employment, through word of mouth/by emphasizing our Irish accents (the aul Irish accent, ’tis like gold dusht abroad in the states)… So we ended up living the dream at a Four Star resort on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Some of us worked in activities, some as receptionists, and some in food and beverage.
(Ocean Edge Resort, Cape Cod.. You can contact the lovely people there by clicking here )
My title was “cocktail waitress”. Which basically meant I got paid to swan around a sunny roof top terrace over-looking Cape Cod Bay, with lots of other friendly j1 students from all over the world. At the time, the resort was striving for an award, so we were trained in excellence – wine tasting, cocktail preparation, the like! During the Summer Season, the weather on Cape Cod is what a red headed Irish girl would consider to be ROASTIN’ (25-30C), so we were kitted out with cute mini skirts and shirts – I was happy I packed my coco brown tan and, of course, factor 50 sun cream!
From the outset, the whole experience at Ocean Edge was an absolute delight – we were simply so enchanted by the scenery and weather that we didn’t even feel jet lagged. Cape Cod is known for its beaches, and pretty freshwater ponds, which are all a “stones throw” from the resort. When I wasn’t busy slathering myself in sun cream on the shore, my days were spent holding a tray of drinks on the palm of my hand, smiling at lots of Americans who thought I was “adorable” with my four million freckles. It was great.
(Watching the sunset and sunrise before and after a party was as normal as a hot dinner here at home)
Like most waitress jobs in the States, I was getting paid just over 3 dollars an hour, and living off my tips. I happen to be an absolutely lovely person and brilliant at everything, so my tips were fairly high. But living costs on the beautiful Cape were fairly high too – so I got second job in the cute “Al Fresco” Café.
Al Fresco quickly became my happy place – working there gave me a chance to meet the locals, as opposed to holiday makers at the resort. It is run by the most wacky, warm family I have ever met – who are not just brilliant in the business of food and coffee, but beaming with kindness too. I spent a lot of my time there, chatting to the interesting people from the area, and feeding my iced latte addiction.
(Honestly, the hardest part about returning to Ireland was the lack of iced lattes).
Most days I worked in the café from 8am to 2pm, and then on the Terrace from 3pm to midnight. I cycled to and from both jobs, on a bike provided to me by a man called “Papa Deny” who claimed to be doing the work of Jesus. In fairness, the bike was an actual God send – while the Cape is very beautiful, it’s extremely rural and public transport is almost non-existent, so I cycled everywhere – including to and from house/beach parties and the pub!
It sounds like a lot of going, but something nobody tells you about the j1 experience is that it gives you the super human ability to never feel tired.
Working two jobs also allowed me save up enough money to travel for just over two weeks at the end of the Summer, which was one of the best experiences of my life. Now, I know that there are few things as irritating as listening to someone droll on about their “amazing time travelling”, but it really was amazing! We visited Boston, Washington DC, New York, Las Vegas, drove through the Grand Canyon for two days, and finished off on the west coast in San Diego.
If I had to choose, I would say San Diego was my favourite. Super laid back, with loads of bendy fit looking people doing yoga on the beach, or rollerblading around like there was no tomorrow. The streets were multicolored, full of really trendy bars, and it was never too hot. (It would be an amazing spot to go on a j1, but I’ve heard that jobs/accommodation is scarce there so now would be the time to start looking!)
Along our travels, my girlies and I found ourselves speaking more Irish than we have in our entire lives – in American accents, if you can imagine – and eating more than a person should in their entire life. That thing you hear about American food – it’s not a myth. There’s enough salt and sugar in it to make you feel like the spuds here at home are bland and over boiled. And, there is loads of it (Another reason I was glad I had to cycle daily!).
When we finally had our fill, we jetted home, and even though we had an air of superior well traveled beings, we were never so happy to see a good ole cup of tea.
Find out about my rocky adjustment back to reality/final year of college, by reading my posts below…