Summer in the city for Irish students
Students descend on New York as J1 season kicks off
As droves of fresh faced Irish students touch down on U.S. soil eager to experience a slice of American life this summer, MOLLY MULDOON talks to some new arrivals about their experience so far.
It's a Sunday evening on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and Eilis Power from Limerick is busy taking orders in the outdoor seating area of an Irish bar. Dressed in black, pen and notebook at the ready, the law student is slowly adjusting to New York life.
“I am not used to working on my feet for so long, it's hard to get used to that,” Power told the Irish Voice, after working a 12-hour waitressing shift less than a week after arriving in New York.
A student from Waterford IT, she traveled to the Big Apple on her own after a neighbor from home said he could set her up with a summer job here.
“My parents offered to pay for me to come over as they knew I would have job, whereas at home I wouldn't have that guarantee,” said Power.
Currently staying at a hostel in Manhattan, she is searching for a place to live.
“I tried Woodside and Sunnyside and the Bronx but there is nothing up in Woodlawn,” says Power.
“I will have to try again but it’s hard with work.”
So far the 22-year-old says she is not in awe of New York, but is enjoying the experience. “I like it, it's very easy to get lost!” she laughs.
After two previous trips to New York, Ciaran Tolan, 30, from Co. Wicklow decided to come to the Big Apple to embrace the J-1 visa summer experience.
“I wanted to work over here to see if it's as great a city to live in as it is to visit. Even with all the hassle and uncertainty of not knowing where I'm going to be sleeping each night, I still get a kick out of the simple fact that I'm in New York,” Tolan told the Irish Voice.
A mature student at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dublin, him and six of his classmates arrived in New York two weeks ago.
The English students decided to book temporary accommodation for their first week and found an apartment on the popular website Roomorama.com before arriving. Paying more than $1,000 to a lady called Monique, they were satisfied their lodgings were legitimate.
However, after flight delays, the tired group finally touched down late on a Tuesday night and tried to contact the lady who had rented them their accommodation, but there was no answer.
Stranded in the arrivals hall of JFK Airport, the group contemplated staying there for the night before they managed to find a hotel in Long Island. After two $80 cab rides later, they finally had a place to rest their weary bones after the long haul flight.
The next morning they made several more fruitless attempts to contact Monique, but she failed to answer their phone calls or respond to their voicemail messages.
Persistent, they traveled to the location of their rented accommodation in Midtown and found a “dingy little doorway.” Desperate, they booked a hotel in Manhattan as they began their search for summer accommodation.
When the Irish Voice contacted Monique, she maintained she had not heard from the group of Irish students and said she did not answer phone calls from restricted numbers. She refused to give the Irish Voice any further contact details, and instead advised for the group to contact her again.
Finally after several days, they finally made contact with Monique, who would not provide the agreed accommodation but did offer a full refund.
Another one of the group, Brian Fitzpatrick from Templeogue in Dublin, is not put off by the incident. He says he decided to come to New York to “see the greatest city on Earth,”
“Despite our trouble with our accommodation, I've really enjoyed my time here. People are generally really friendly and helpful, and there is a great vibe in the city that I have not experienced anywhere else,” he told the Irish Voice.
“But I've been quite surprised at the lack of readily available Wi-Fi Internet access, which has made it harder to stay in contact with friends and family back home,” he said.
Just over one week after arrival the group managed to find an apartment in Woodside Queens.
“It is a really nice house, and very well looked after and it’s only three blocks from the subway,” Tolan said.
“The neighborhood is really nice. It has the right amount of Irishness to it but it is mostly Indian and Hispanic.”
After going to the Social Security office in Queens to apply for their numbers, the group is now on the job hunt.
Settling into their new home in Queens, they started to buy some odd bits of furniture when one of the guys made a grim discovery.
After leaving their temporary lodgings to move into their new address, it seems they weren’t alone as bedbugs followed them to their new house.
“A few of us have gotten bitten,” Tolan said.
Now the students are trying to banish the unwelcome bloodsuckers before the infestation spreads to the entire house.
Buzzing from the electricity of New York, Sarah Hayes and Emily Creighton are delighted to finally be in the city that never sleeps when they popped into the Irish Voice on Monday afternoon.
The two 20-year-old ladies are final year students at Dublin City University (DCU) and came to New York along with nine other girls from their class.
Here just a week, the astute communications students already have an apartment in Brooklyn and are pounding the pavements of Manhattan, resumes in hand, looking for work in bars and restaurants.
“We were going to go to Montauk at first, then Long Beach but in the end most of the girls wanted to come to New York as there were more jobs and more to do,” Hayes said.
Having arranged their apartment on Craigslist before arrival, they are more than pleased with their new living quarters.
“It’s fully furnished, we have cable, a flat screen, cutlery and even bed sheets,” Hayes said.
The pair said they came to New York to make new friends, enjoy themselves and to escape their comfort zone.
“This is the first time I have spent a summer away from my friends at home," says Hayes, who is originally from Lucan, Co. Dublin.
In the seven days since they arrived, three of the 11 girls have managed to find jobs.
“You just need to be really friendly and keep smiling during the interview,” says Creighton, who has secured a waitressing job at a popular Gramercy eatery.
From the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in Queens, Executive Director Siobhan Dennehy says once again accommodation is the biggest hurdle students are facing.
“Certainly 40-50 percent have had some offers and a lead on other work, the other 50 percent are out and about looking for jobs,” Dennehy told the Irish Voice.
“But accommodation is proving to be the challenge once again in New York, as it is on a short term basis,” she concluded.
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