It really is the number 1 question asked and with good reason – the destination you choose for your J1 will impact on your entire summer experience! Of course there are J1 Hotspots every year and popularity swings from the East Coast to the West Coast, but really at the end of the day it all comes down to you, the person who is actually taking the trip. What we’ve done here is compiled the top 5 factors you need to consider before you decide on your J1 summer destination.
This is one of those things that you think will be absolutely fine. You’ll be able to get the bus or a subway everywhere, so even if you find a job that’s a half hour away from your house, you’ll still be sound – sure it’s America for crying out loud! However, this is not always the case. In places like Southern California, public transport leaves an awful lot to be desired, namely due to the fact that everyone drives. So getting to and from places isn’t as easy in Cali as it is in New York or Boston etc. Keep this in mind, because unless you’re going to rent in the middle of a big town where you will find a job it’s something that will greatly impact on your day to day life!
It only makes sense that there is going to be competition for Jobs and Accommodation for J1ers. At the end of the day, there’s going to be an influx of thousands of Irish and International students from around the World during the summer months, who all want to do the same types of work and live in the same kinds of apartments/houses. J1 Hotspots are all well and good, and as great as it is that you’ll be surrounded by so many other Irish people for the summer but when you choose to go to a Hotspot, you are definitely taking the risk of not finding a job or accommodation in that area or at the very least having to compete with countless others who all have the same background, visa and experience as you. So it’s sometimes a better idea to do your own thing rather than copy what everyone else is doing!
Here’s the drill when it comes to Social Security numbers. Legally you can start working as soon as you have applied for your Social Security number in the USA but a lot of companies have internal policies whereby they will not let staff start working until they have their social security numbers. Depending on where you are based in the USA, this can sometimes take 4-6 weeks. Areas that are highly concentrated with summer J1 students and not many SS offices are going to have much longer wait times than other destinations, so either keep this in mind when choosing your destination or else be sure that you have enough savings to keep yourself afloat while you’re waiting for your SS number to come through.
Three things to note –
1: You cannot apply for your SS number until you’ve entered the USA
2: If you’ve been on a J1 before and already have a SS number, you don’t need to apply for another one as your number is unique to you and for life!
3: If you’ve received a SS number in the past and lost the card, or can’t remember your number, you can apply for a replacement card as soon as you enter the USA. It only takes 1-2 weeks to come through as it’s just a copy of your original.
You might not think it, but J1ers that go to New York have a completely different experience to those who go to California and those that go to Hawaii and those that go to Myrtle Beach. Why? Well for a few reasons, but the main one is lifestyle. If you choose to spend your summer living in Queens and working in Manhattan, you can expect a ‘GO, GO, GO!’ kind of experience where you’re constantly on the move, there are 101 things to do and you’re generally living a fast-paced city life. When you choose to live in Cape Cod, chances are you’ll cycle to work every day, hang out on the beach every weekend and have a fairly chilled-out, New England-esque lifestyle. Your J1 Destination should complement your personality. Remember, you can travel all over the USA at the end of your J1 but the place you decide to base yourself should be a place that you love and that you have the best possible experience in.
We weren’t going to include this in the list because obviously no matter what destination you choose, the weather is going to trump what you would experience in Ireland, but then we remembered what the Irish complexion is like and well, we just figured we’d better warn you in advance. If you choose to live in New York, you’re going to become very familiar with the term ‘humidity’. Climate might not seem like a big deal now but you should know that in the past students have left Miami because it’s been too hot for them, and San Francisco because it’s not quite as hot as they expected (damn fog). There’s also the June Gloom that occurs in San Diego at the start of every summer to consider so the moral of the story is that it’s worth figuring out what destination has the best climate for you!