Having just returned from my J1 I now find myself suffering from a serious dose of the J1 blues. So much so, I felt the need to write this article sharing not only my experience but tips and advice on how best to go about a J1.
The first step that needs to be taken in order to start the process of going on a J1 (which can be a long and daunting process) is deciding what company to go with. While they are expensive, it is extremely difficult to get a job and apply for a visa without them. I chose to go with USIT, other companies such as SAYIT provide a very similar service. We did have some issues with USIT in regards to job interviews. Some employers fell through leaving some of my friends without a job very close to the deadline. However, USIT eventually pulled through and we all had jobs before we headed to the States (which is now a requirement). Even though there were some moments when we doubted USIT they got the job done in the end and it was definitely a process we could not have done without them.
Having decided to go with USIT, it was now time to decide on our location. The initial choice is to decide between East Coast or West Coast. We were looking for a summer filled with beaches, sunsets and sunshine. So we opted to go for the West Coast, a decision we most definitely did not regret. We then looked into what city, places such as San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Barbra all seemed like great options. We ended up choosing Santa Monica, an amazing vibrant Californian city that met all of our expectations. I would highly recommend doing a J1 in California as it really does live up to the hype.
The next thing on the agenda is getting a job and this is where USIT really come into play. They post what jobs are available in what areas and allow you to sign up for interviews. It is done on a first come first served basis so make sure your keep checking the website to see if anything that suits you is uploaded. I recommend trying to get a serving job as you will make a bomb in tips and every dollar matters, especially in an expensive state like California. I applied for a job with Bubba Gump Shrimp and USIT organised a skype interview. The organisation of interviews was slightly messy and there was a lot of waiting around and uncertainty. However I finally got to do my skype interview which lasted about 15 minutes and was given the job on the spot. If I had to give anyone advice going into a skype interview it would be to just keep talking. American employers are looking for a bubbly, energetic and personable people so make sure you don’t hold back and be as chatty and as friendly as possible in the interview.
Once you have your job, getting accommodation is the next step. USIT recommends not to get your accommodation until you get your job so you don’t end up staying miles away from where you’re working. Finding accommodation is probably the hardest part (or at least what we found the hardest) of the whole process. USIT play no part in getting you your accommodation so it’s something you have to do completely on your own. They do recommend websites that are useful to use for finding places to rent such as West rentals and Zuma and I would also recommend Air BnB. We found a two bedroom apartment close to where we were working. It was expensive and two more girls moved in at the start of July to help us out with rent. I would definitely recommend squeezing as much people as you can into an apartment, it not only decreases the amount of rent you have to pay but it’s a great way to meet people and have fun. Staying in an overcrowded grungy apartment is all part of the J1 experience.
Once job and accommodation are sorted you’ve the hard part done USIT are really helpful when it comes to paperwork and visas. An embassy interview is necessary when doing a J1 in America. USIT schedule you an interview which takes about 5 minutes and while it can be slightly daunting it’s a quick and simple process.
You are now completely prepared to set off on your American adventure. Once you put yourself out there and embrace the experience your bound to have the summer of a lifetime, I definitely did!