Student Issues

J1 diary – making money

The endless amount of red tape associated with getting a job while on a J1 is ridiculous. However, if you manage to find one it can be great fun to work in the States.

It’s not a bad idea to try and organise something before you head over to America, but don’t count on anything until you actually start working.

Since December, a guy that my dad and I knew had guaranteed that I would have a job in his friend’s Irish pub in Manhattan.

Let down

My naivety got the better of me and I didn’t look for anything else. Then I was informed by this “friend” that there was no work going in his place – of course!

The story takes a turn for the better, or “jammy” as my friend puts it. Many things went right for me the day I walked into Capizzi Pizzeria on 9th Avenue.

I went into the restaurant before it was open. Normally the door is locked, but on that Friday it was open.

The guy who owns the pizzeria is only in the restaurant twice or three times a week. I just happened to catch him and I realised on my way out that I had just beaten another girl in there.

Now, I will admit that, in trying to impress potential employees, I wore heeled boots. Just a heads up: never wear anything with a heel if you are planning on walking around Manhattan for the day.

I did a couple of days training and eventually I was given the waitressing job. My partner in crime wasn’t so lucky. It took her many more days, much more walking and eventually, after she handed out 60 resumés, she got a job in an Irish pub.

Admittedly, we should have headed out at the end of May like other J1 students – by the time we got out there, employers were sick of talking to Irish J1 people looking for jobs.

As jobs go, working in a pizzeria in Manhattan is pretty darn cool. I’m the only girl working in the place, so as shallow as it sounds, I always feel attractive.

For the most part I get on really well with the lads in work. One of the guys has a staring problem and it takes him about an hour to say a sentence. It may sound harsh or like an exaggeration, but you haven’t worked seven hours with the guy.

On the other hand, I work with both Italians and Mexicans, and I’m being taught how to speak both Spanish and Italian. It’s funny; they never teach you the bad words in school.


There are various categories of customers that come into the restaurant. There are the European tourists, who are easily entertained, but can be atrocious tippers, and the American tourists, who tip well. They might be a pain in the ass before they tip you, but they understand the way wages work over here.

Basically, you earn a living on tips. Minimum wage for the service industry is so low that you’d better be willing to flash a smile (or if desperate, flashing other things). Otherwise, you won’t last two seconds in the job.

I’ve had to learn to stop and count to 10 when a sleazy businessman asks if he can give me another kind of tip, because it’s the businessmen who will tip big.

There’s a lot more to write about working in New York, which I will follow up on. However, the most important thing you need to know is that I get fed free pizza – what else matters?

Looking good in uniform, Danielle! – Conor