The U.S. continues to be a popular destination for Irish J-1 visa students seeking a summer experience like no other. With J-1 season about to begin, MOLLY MULDOON takes a look at what to expect in the coming months.
For many Irish students, the prospect of leaving their family and friends behind for a summer spent working and traveling in the U.S. is a familiar concept. The J-1 summer visa program attracts more than 136,000 college students from around the globe to the U.S. for seasonal employment each year.
Annually, thousands flock from Ireland to popular destinations such as San Diego, San Francisco, New York and Boston.
“We have noticed a pattern after Christmas that usually people start thinking about summer plans to head over,” according to Siobhan Dennehy, executive director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center in New York, who says that due to the Irish economic downturn the center is anticipating an onslaught of eager arrivals this year.
“Oz and New Zealand are too far to go for the summer, and many come to New York as they are looking to try and network for the future. We tend to get inundated with the same type of requests,”
Dennehy told the Irish Voice, adding that accommodation and job hunting are the two biggest challenges faced by new arrivals.
Dennehy says the J-1 holders should reach out to anyone they know here.
“Use the contacts you have,” she said. “Start there, reach out to them as they are the best people with a knowledge of their neighborhoods.”
While seasonal employers may be delighted to see Irish students arriving on U.S. shores, certain neighborhoods do not share their enthusiasm.
“They (students) need to bear in mind that they are ambassadors for their country, even if for only a short term basis,” says Dennehy
“Whatever their actions, they are representing their country as well. There is small majority that can ruin it for everyone.”
In Boston, Mark Fitzgerald, head of the J-1 summer service with the Irish International Immigrant Center (IIIC), told the Irish Voice that several J-1 students had been in touch regarding their plans for the summer.
“We recommend places to work and live,” says Fitzgerald, adding they have already begun sending people housing booklets in preparation for the J-1 season.
In the coming weeks the IIIC cyber café will be inundated with hundreds of Irish students trying to find work and housing.
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