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Leah Mahon, Emer O'Reilly, Sorcha Gallagher and Eric Lomas, outside their hostel in New York.

Top ten tips for Irish J1 students coming to the U.S. for the summer

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Leah Mahon, Emer O'Reilly, Sorcha Gallagher and Eric Lomas, outside their hostel in New York.

Welcome to the U.S.! You are one of the thousands of J-1 students from around the world who travel to the U.S. every summer, to sample American life.

Arriving in any new city can be a daunting experience.  From apartment hunting to looking for a job and adjusting to life in a completely new area, it takes a while to settle in. Here are some tips to get you started!

1.  Beware of Internet scams

When looking for accommodation on the Internet, be wary of any person who asks you to pay money up front online. Get the exact address and as many contact details as possible for the person you are dealing with (phone number, office address, email, etc).

Do a background check, look up their details online and ensure who you are doing business with is legitimate. Make sure you sign a lease which outlines the terms of your tenancy agreement. If someone is offering you a sublet, ensure the landlord is aware of the situation.

2.  Reach out to your contacts

Reach out to every person you know already living in your destination. It could be family, friends or a long lost cousin, it doesn’t matter who. Just send them an email or drop them a phone call them and let them know you are looking for a job and accommodation.

You need to be as resourceful as possible, and reaching out to people you know should be your first port of call.  When job hunting have your resume whittled down to a single page and have several copies printed off.

3. When finding accommodation…

When looking for a place to live, consider your overall summer budget and then decide on an affordable area.

Many neighborhoods in suburbs such as the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn offer very competitive rent rates. Make sure you view all accommodation before you consider renting.

Ask lots of questions of the potential landlord. Are utilities bills included? Is there air conditioning? Is the place furnished?

Do some research on the area and consider its proximity to public transport. Almost all accommodation in New York comes unfurnished, so take this into account when viewing.

4. Manage your funds!
 
Make sure you bring enough money to live off for when you first arrive, normally a few thousand dollars. Take into consideration most landlords will require a full month’s rent and deposit up front.
 
The cost of living in New York City can be very expensive. Try not to carry all your bank cards with you at the same time; just take what you need. Do not keep all your money in one place.
 
Budget for the summer ahead of you and always have some money put aside in case of an emergency.

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5. Purchase a map

Buy a pocket map of New York City and keep it with you at all times. Maps are inexpensive and usually show all modes of transport as well as local neighborhoods.

If you do get lost, almost all subway stations have maps of the subway system and local neighborhoods. Always try to be aware of your surroundings and if you feel unsafe, leave the area immediately.

6. Know the local laws

Be conscious that you are not in Ireland and U.S. laws are very different. You must be over 21 to consume alcohol, and this is heavily policed. Also, consuming alcohol in public places is outlawed and punishable with a fine and a court appearance.

If you are arrested, this will affect on your ability to re-enter the country at a later time.

7. Keep your passport safe

Keep your passport and all travel documents in a safe place. Ensure you have a photocopy of all these documents. Write down your passport number and your relevant visa information, and also keep this information in a safe place.

A new passport can be attained from your nearest Irish embassy or consulate, but this is a costly expense.

8.  Keep in touch with home

Make sure to keep regular touch with your family at home. With modern technology there is no excuse not to touch base frequently.

Keep a list of emergency contacts somewhere in your apartment. Have phone numbers for you and your friend’s parents, travel agent, holiday insurance, local police station and landlord easily accessible.

When purchasing a cell phone, ensure you can make or receive international calls. The cheapest way to call Ireland is to invest in a phone card for calling landlines. Use Skype!

9.  Beware of bedbugs!

While it is tempting to reclaim furniture from the street, do so at your own peril!  New York City is renowned for bedbugs. These are tiny little ants (less than a centimeter) that feed on your blood in the dead of night. They can live in mattresses, sofas and even furniture.

Beware you could also catch bedbugs from dirty hostels or hotel rooms. The bloodsuckers are very difficult to get rid of so preventing them is the best course of action.

If you find you have bedbugs, alert your landlord immediately and try to contain the infestation. When viewing accommodation, be sure to ask the landlord if they have had problems with bedbugs in the past.

10.  Respect your neighborhood

One of the most important things to remember is to respect your destination and neighborhood. It’s understandable you want to have a memorable experience, but you need to be conscious that you are representing Ireland and your college.

You are an ambassador for your country so act responsible because your actions, good or bad, will affect future J-1 students and the Irish American population who reside in your area.

On a final note, remember Rome was not built in a day, and neither was New York so it does take time to settle in and find your bearings.

Stay positive, wear sunscreen, avoid mosquitoes but most of all savor every moment of your J-1 experience!

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