For anyone lucky enough to be heading stateside this summer with a J1 visa, there are a couple of things that you have to do on arrival.1. Get a job
This is a requirement of your visa and you have 30 days to find one before you’re booted out of the country. The ideal thing would be to organise some work before touching down in America. However, if that’s not possible, go searching for a job as soon as you arrive. Most Irish pubs will be sick of the sight of Irish students, so maybe try pizzerias or restaurants first. Don’t be surprised with how little your weekly wage is (stupid taxes), you’ll hopefully make up for it in tips.2. Find a safe place to live
If you don’t know anyone in whatever state you’re living in, look around A LOT before settling into accommodation. Within a week of moving in, you will know if where you’re living is safe or not. If you’re not confident in your safety, run; run like the wind. There’s nothing worse than being afraid to go home for three months.3. Do the touristy thing
After a couple of weeks, you’ll feel settled and all of a sudden you’ll find yourself living like any other American. Don’t forget to take the time to see everything you had planned to. You mightn’t be back on that side of the Atlantic for quite some time. It would be a shame if someone asked if you had been to, for example, Long Island, and you replied: “I never got around to that actually.”4. Make friends outside the people you travelled with
Even if it’s just going for a weekly drink with people from work, it’s a nice way to take a break the people from home. In the nicest way possible, you’re going to have days where you hate the friends you came with and sometimes hearing other voices will end up saving you from an all-out brawl with housemates.5. Visit another state
Of course, this may depend your money situation, but if you get the chance, go exploring. A good idea is to save up for a couple of weeks at the end of your trip, where you can finish work early. Hitting other states will put your trip into perspective. You may find your next permanent destination, or it might make you realise that you lucked out with the state you chose.6. Splurge
If you have the ability to do so, take a couple of days each month and treat yourself. Go shopping on Rodeo Drive (maybe just once), or go out for dinner and drinks at the Rockefeller Centre. I emphasize, that these should only be an idea if you can afford them. Remember, you’ll need to eat for the rest of the summer.7. Immerse yourself
America is supposedly the “Land of the Free”, where people from all corners in the world have settled. It’s worth getting to know many of the different cultures that have set up shop there. Go to a Mexican fiesta, go dancing in the Latin Quarter, or just go shopping for true Italian food in the “real” Little Italy. If all else fails, try and find yourself an American barbeque to crash and drink some beer with the yanks.8. Do some research
It’s not a requirement to be able to know the names of all the American presidents in history, but knowing a little bit about the country doesn’t hurt. Even the day before you leave, have a look at the stories hitting the headlines in America, so that you’re not going in blind.
It’s simple stuff really, but going on a J1 can be the best trip of your life. You just need to find the balance between being careful and letting yourself go. Make everyone at home jealous and experience everything.
Follow Danielle on Twitter: @DaniS1006.