Four weeks after arriving on U.S. soil, Sarah Hayes from Dublin is settling in well to her New York existence. The communications student admits her group of friends are surprised by how grueling the job hunt is in New York for summer J-1 visa Irish students.
“Being Irish we thought we would walk into an Irish bar and get a job no problem,” she told the Irish Voice. “Most places aren't looking so it's really a matter of right place and right time I think.
“One of the girls decided to go because of the job situation. She found it difficult to get a job and got sick of looking so she felt it would be better to just end the trip on a good note and go home.”
Working as a waitress, Hayes is quickly adapting to New York’s fast paced hospitality industry.
“Serving is way more difficult over here,” Hayes reflects. “I find some customers can be quite rude and impatient. The atmosphere is good though and the tips are so much better than at home. I'd say to any J-1er to go straight to restaurants/bars and not to even think of retail,” she said.
The Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers is a hive of activity with J-1 students.
“Hundreds come through the doors,” according to Órla Kelleher, executive director of the center.
The majority of J-1 students arrive in the U.S. with no jobs and no accommodation and immediately begin pounding the pavements.
“Many students left their luggage here for days on end. They stay in hostels and guest houses until they find more permanent accommodation,” Kelleher told the Irish Voice.
Offering advice, help and a friendly face, the center is just one of the many resources available to Irish students who venture to the U.S. for the ultimate summer experience.
“We have a J-1 welcome pack which includes subway maps and information about New York and the local area,” Kelleher said.
The center also provides tips on how and where to find work as well as how best to find accommodation, something which continues to be the biggest challenge for most people.
“With a doubt accommodation is still huge issue,” Kelleher said. “So many of them arrive at the same time and they are all scrambling for the same things.”
In Boston Mark Fitzgerald, the international programs assistant at the Irish International Immigrant Center, told the Irish Voice that the job market can be tough in the popular J-1 destination.
“Some of them are finding it difficult to get jobs,” Fitzgerald said, adding that it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
“We tell them to keep trying. We had two girls that got three job offers in one day but then other people are searching for three weeks,” he said.
Stateside for five weeks and content with their lodgings in Queens, a group of Dublin students say the searching for a job has been the biggest hurdle so far.
“Two of the group managed to get jobs but the rest of us are still looking,” Wicklow native Ciaran Tolan told the Irish Voice.
“It's been frustrating. We haven't been able to relax and enjoy the city fully with no job prospects,” Tolan said. “Then again being unemployed in New York City beats being unemployed in Ireland a hundred times over.”
Confidant that something will work out, the English student is remaining positive.
“Three of us have an interview lined up for first thing in the morning so hopefully something will come of that.”
Garrett Doyle, a member of the employment committee of the Emerald Guild Society in New York, said he was been contacted by around 250 Irish J-1 students seeking work this summer.
So far this summer the Emerald Guild Society has filled 180 positions in the building management industry. They place J-1 students in a variety of job roles such as doormen, concierge, porters and handymen.
“We will always have the positions as people have to live and there will always be a need there,” Doyle told the Irish Voice.
“Most of our jobs are union positions there are holidays to be filled and we are sending a quality guy to them.
“These are good guys willing to work and hungry,” said Doyle says he has noticed an increase in J-1 arrivals this summer.
“There were a good few extra this year,” Doyle reflected.
“They came a little later this year and a good few came in with not that much money.”
Sarah Kearney, a restaurant manager on the Upper East Side, said she has noticed a significant amount of students looking for jobs.
“On a daily basis they're could be a minimum of five students applying for jobs,” Kearney told the Irish Voice.
“From the beginning of June until the current time the influx of students approaching the bar regarding jobs is staggering. At this time we have hired three full-time and one part time.”
While some students find the siege of job and accommodation hunting overwhelming others are reveling in their new found independence. Hayes for one says she is not yearning for the familiarity of home.
“I haven't got home sick as of yet,” she says. “I just feel so at home here and relaxed and it's really easy to keep in contact with home too.
“Also you're always so busy in New York and there is so much to do that you wouldn't really even get the chance!” she concluded.