The good, the bad and the ugly of a J1 summer in America

The J1 Visa is an Irish rite of passage for young college students. If you haven’t gone on a J1 you’ve well and truly missed out. There are no rules whilst on a J1. Everything that is frowned upon in Ireland is totally acceptable to do stateside. Imagine a sixth year holiday to Santa Ponsa but times three months. That’s basically a J1 in a nutshell. As a recent J1er, here is a list of some of the inevitable things that happen whilst on a J1 Visa.

Be prepared to lose all of your inhibitions. Whilst on the J1, there is no limit, the limit does not exist. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want and no one can judge you. The unwritten rule of a J1 is you’re here for a good time not a long time.

photo credit: Emma Nolan

If you’re a claustrophobic kind of person, then think twice before going on a J1. Sharing a room with up to 10 plus people is not uncommon; to be honest it’s actually the norm. I lived in a motel room which comprised of two beds and a teeny weeny kitchen in the corner of the room. Cramped is not the word. But sure look, it’s only 3 months; three in a bed is perfectly acceptable. Being technically “homeless” for a night or ten is also totally okay. Sure look it’ll be grand, you can sleep on the beach for a while if all comes to all.

Be prepared to fall in love with Four Loco. Its rocket fuel in can form, also known as “energy beer”. With an alcoholic volume of 14%, the drink is banned in Europe due to the worrying effects of combining alcohol with caffeine.  But sure look, with two cans for $3, where could you go wrong?

Photo credit: @fourloko instagram


Well it is actually the effects of the lethal Four Loco that often land us in trouble with the law whilst stateside. Unfortunately the Americans aren’t as okay with our drunken antics as An Garda Síochána so getting reprimanded by law enforcement is extremely common. Whether doing something as utterly chaotic as walking down the street with a can in your hand or something more extreme like getting caught doing the deed on the beach, there’s been numerous Irish students who have spent a night (or two) banged up whilst in the US. But don’t worry about it, once you throw the ‘cops’ a bit of dolla’ the next day you’ll be released and on your way back to the offy to buy more Four Loco.

Once you land in America, your living standards will deteriorate immensely.  As a natural born clean freak, the idea of not washing my bed sheets (remember now there is at least three people sleeping in them every night) all summer could of literally reduced me to tears. But trust me; you learn to adapt to the messiness and unhygienic living environment, its part of the experience. Sure with so many people sleeping in them every night, is there really any point in washing them? Naaaa.


Going on a J1 will also provide you with the lifelong skill of teaching your body to go without sleep. If you thought RAG week was bad, welcome to three months of RAG week baby. Go hard or go home. Having completed a J1, you will be left with the real life superpower to drink for 95 days straight. Sure if you just keep going, you can’t get a hangover eh? It’s also extremely likely that you will show up for your summer job still drunk (on numerous occasions). Working 5 days a week and drinking 7 days a week has its obvious repercussions. Arriving in to your morning shift having not slept or showered from the night before and still reeking of alcohol becomes the new norm. And for the most part the American bosses are oblivious to it.

One of the best things about a J1, is you receive endless attention just because your Irish. “Damn baby girl you got such a cute accent” becomes as common as hearing the word hello. Just embrace it!

Just a typical nights work. Photo credit: Emma Nolan

Also be prepared to have a new sudden allegiance to American sports. Did someone say baseball? I love baseball. It’s totally just because it’s an amazing sport and nothing to do with the fact there’s endless amounts of $1 beers on offer there.

The Irish have arrived. Photo credit: Emma Nolan

Of course as stereotypical as it sounds, it’s essential that you end your summer with a massive road trip. Getting lost in a ghetto in the middle of Georgia State and driving through an Amish Community in Alabama are life long memories I’ll never forget.

Are we lost? I think so. Photo credit: Emma Nolan

All in all, I cannot recommend doing a J1 enough. It will be the best 3 months of your life. And oh yes, losing your accommodation deposit is also inevitable, but who cares, the house parties and the ‘craic’ are totally worth forfeiting it for.


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.