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From Carrigaline to Chicago: Living the American Dream

Going on a J1 is like a rite of passage for any Irish college student.

All those who travel on a J1 visa embark to the States with the attitude of 'work hard and party harder.' It is a Summer full of fun, adventure, and mischief ​​Writes Tara Maher

At the beginning of the Summer, Hughie Griffin, Cian Kelliher, and David Crotty set out on the adventure of a lifetime as they traveled to Chicago to see what the fuss was all about. "I always wanted to visit the States from seeing it in movies and on social media. My older brother and his friends went on a J1 back in 2015, and they all highly recommended it." Hughie said. The opportunity to travel on a visa longer than a holiday but not to move away from home indefinitely also appealed to him.

Swapping the Owenabue for the Chicago River

There are many destinations to consider when applying for the J1 visa. West Coast cities like San Diego are rising in popularity for many Irish students, which means jobs are harder to find. In the end, the lads opted for Chicago. Chicago is located in Illinois at the southwestern tip of Lake Michigan. It is referred to as the "Windy City" or "Chi-Town". "There is a large Irish contingent in Chicago. Employment is also far easier to find, and it has the perfect mixture of large skyscrapers but also has lots of beaches."

They took advantage of the services provided by SAYIT to help them find jobs and accommodation and processed all of the paperwork. "They provide a job placement option where you can apply for jobs actively recruiting J1 students. I secured my job in early March. Accommodation was also a smooth operation as we went through a company called J1 Accom, which provides college dormitories for up to 300 Irish students for the Summer. The full rent was paid before we flew over, making it less stressful for us."

Hughie got a job as a busser at a restaurant called The Dock at Montrose Beach. "I worked approximately 35 hours a week, and the tips were great. There were up to 25 Irish people working in the restaurant, so it was easy to make friends from all over the country while also making friends with the Americans."

Using Chicago as a base, Hughie travelled to Nashville, Las Vegas, San Diego, and Las Angeles and saw what the rest of the States had to offer. "I didn't like LA as it is hard to get around. I loved Vegas… the less said, the better!" Hughie joked.

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