From tedious visa admin, to accommodation, jobs and living the high-life Catherine Devin shares her journey to America.iStock

Catherine Devin, a 20-year-old Journalism student from Donegal, is embarking on her J-1 summer adventure in New York City. Over a series of articles Catherine will share her excitement and experiences in the Big Apple.

Separated parents, house for sale, ex-boyfriend. They are among my reasons for wanting to escape to New York for the summer.

I’ve always been a home-bird, someone who is dying to get back into the comfort zone of their own home after being away on a trip. I’ve been to the Gaeltacht and on a French-exchange, both included in the worst experiences of my life. So why not challenge myself yet again and go to New York City for three months!

There comes a point in all of our lives when we’re sick to death of our hometown. I’m from Donegal, a region famous for its hills, scenery and beaches. While I loved playing in fields when I was younger and having enormous amounts of space to run around in, I can’t wait to escape to the crowded, over-populated city that is New York.

Last summer, I worked as a waitress in a hotel across from my house. While I enjoyed it at the time, thinking about working there this summer filled me with enough dread and anxiety to book my flights to New York.

I’ve always had an affinity to New York, as my mum was born there, yet I’ve never been. I’ve been to America twice, both times to Florida, and I’m ready to experience the vibrant metropolis that is New York.

I’m going with my best friend, Aoibheann, and we’re staying in Brooklyn with her uncle. It’s a massive help that we’re getting free accommodation for three months. Other friends of ours are sharing one room in a frat house in San Francisco, costing them almost $1,000 each for the summer.

It’s also a huge comfort knowing that we’ll have someone out there to make sure that we don’t get into too much trouble.

Finding a job in New York is my main priority. With 20 résumés printed and packed in my suitcase, hopefully it won’t be too long until I find one!

Thinking about my time in New York gets me very excited. There are so many things that I want to do. Google has showed me an array of places to visit, to dine at and to immerse myself in American culture. I’m looking forward to gaining a few pounds eating burgers bigger than my head and to learning the rules of baseball. I’m also eager to stand under the massive skyscrapers and be both baffled and overwhelmed by them.

One of the highlights of my trip will be going to see Taylor Swift play at the Met Stadium. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember but never managed to catch her concerts when she came to Ireland. On Christmas morning, my Dad surprised me with two tickets to go and see her in New York. My reaction involved squeals and tears. I can only imagine how amazing it will be.

I also want to do all the tourist-based activities that New York has to offer. I will be that girl using the selfie-stick, looking out from the Empire State Building, getting sun-burnt going to see the Statue of Liberty and realising how underwhelming it is to have breakfast at Tiffany’s.

But before I go, I had to fill out an endless amount of documents and read a countless amount of emails from my J-1 agency. Every day for a solid three or four months, I was bombarded with forms. There’s a lot to fill out, from where you’ll be staying to answering questions confirming that you are in fact an ‘alien’ to America before you grace its shores. It’s a very tiring and often confusing process to complete.

I am constantly unpleasantly shocked at the cost of applying for a J-1. I had €2,500 saved for my J-1 and even that wasn’t enough! The cost of a J-1 agent, who basically just sends you documents to fill out and organised my very basic health insurance cost me almost €600. F

lights were another massive expense costing close to €700. Then there’s ridiculous hidden costs like over €150 to go to the US Embassy to prove that I have reason to come home again. It was an infuriating process spending that amount of money to go to the Embassy when all they asked for was proof of my continuing degree and the name of the place I was visiting.

At customs in America, we need to have $800 in our accounts. It costs an endless amount of money, something that is a massive barrier to most students hoping to go.

I was originally planning to go to New York with a group of eight to ten people in my Journalism class. As rent prices went up for student accommodation in Dublin for next year and the total cost of the J-1 came to light, everyone dropped out bar myself and Aoibheann.

With all forms filled out, all costs covered, and a Visa nicely in my passport, the only thing left to do is dream about all the calamity that I can cause in New York.

While I’m nervous about leaving home for three months and not being able to see my family, friends and boyfriend, the thought of going keeps me awake every night, just thinking about the experiences that I will have.

With one week left, I’m aching to get on the flight to New York and I’m hoping that my time there will be overwhelming, crowded with new experiences, and ultimately the best summer of my life.


Catherine Devin is 20-years-old and lives in Donegal. In the fall she will commence her third year studying Journalism at Dublin City University. She is the Editor-in-Chief of DCU’s student newspaper, The College View.