J1s Made Easy

Former J1 student Leah Aftab gives her top tips for organizing the best three months of your life.

So you’ve booked it, you’re flying off to the land of the free, where bigger is better and where ‘half past nine’ becomes nine thirty. It’s a far cry from this small island, where ‘having the craic’ is seen as fun, and crossing the road before the green man is given. Yet, as soon as you arrive in this patriotic country, the differences become clear and you wish you had someone to give you tips and advice on how to live without your darling mammy! So to make your summer as easy as possible here some easy tips.

Choose your friends wisely.

Although this may be too late for some of you, it’s worth noting. After all, you’re due to spend up to three months with these people, and whilst you do get on with them after a few drinks or in lectures, ask yourself if you could get on with them sober, and for more than one hour? Consider the idea of having little to no privacy for three months with them, think of their habits, are they clean? Will they help out in the house? Are they likely to get in trouble with the cops and have you come bail them out? Remember, it’s not so much the place you go to, rather its people that will make or break your J1.  

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“15 people all sleeping on the floor is far from ideal once reality sets in, neither is your landlord evicting you from the property following a noise violation!”


Organise transport

Once you’ve passed the dreaded airport security with your stash of Barry’s tea bags and Holy Water, the real trip begins. Organizing transport from the airport to your new home-away-from-home is essential. There are websites where you can make contact with reps and companies who offer affordable deals before you get to the country, but never give money until you make it safely to the country. Make sure to have copies of e-mails or any form of communication you make with businesses to ensure they don’t try to charge you extra than originally planned. Ensure that the bus has enough room for your group before going ahead with the company for everyone and has air-conditioning and breaks if you’re travelling for more than three hours.  And remember, America demands an added tip for any service provided; you may need to deal with the same company on another occasion so start on a good footing.


Though it is possible to have accommodation sorted prior to getting settled, the vast majority of people rely on direct marketing lists and word of mouth. As such, you may not have secure accommodation for a number of days and while you may have thought of embracing the ‘life’s a beach’ mantra, you can’t actually stay there overnight. There are a huge amount of motels, hostels, and hotels which accept deposits on card for small to large groups. There may be varying standards of hygiene and comfort but with luck you’ll only be there for a short stop. In terms of finding accommodation, start your search as soon as possible, and decide how much you are willing to spend weekly on rent, without forgetting that with groceries to pay for, nights out, and possible day trips, you may in fact not have all the dollars.

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“It’s not so much the place you go to, rather its people that will make or break your J1. “


Also, be wary when signing contracts; you may be obliged to pay extra for rubbish removal or for wifi, or you may be required to leave the property at a certain time. Along with this, don’t take on too many people to live with to keep down costs on the sly; 15 people all sleeping on the floor is far from ideal once reality sets in, neither is your landlord evicting you from the property following a noise violation.


So you’ve made it this far and are still surviving on the ‘J1 fund’, but with a pepper costing $4 and mammy and daddy being less than pleased over your considerable laziness, maybe you should find yourself a job, I mean how hard can it be? The difficulty of finding employment varies between states, with some having group interviews and ‘possible scenario’ tests. Yet, the sought after jobs remain constant: with restaurant and bar work providing good wages with the benefits of tips. Managers want to see one paged resumes that outline your skills as a worker and past work experience. Some may ask for references, and though you could lie and use a family friend as your ‘employer 2011-2013’, make sure you’ve approached the alibi on their role just in case. Once you have successfully got a job, set aside some money each week for the possible traveling you may do at the end, or if you’re really intelligent, save some for when your return home.

Your J1 is the most amazing experience, with America being as crazy as you had imagined, full of #have a nice day’ people, with larger than life personalities  and who will go above and beyond to be accommodating. From high rise buildings and old country roads, the place has it all, just remember to enjoy yourself on this once in a lifetime experience.