I love to read. It’s amazing to read something and feel transported to another place. But, there is a vast difference between reading about working abroad for the summer and actually doing it yourself.
Last summer I decided to go on a J1 visa to New York, and it was arguably one of the most valuable experiences of my life.
For thousands of students in Ireland the J1 has become synonymous with college summers. It has become that clichéd term a “rite of passage”.
Having been there, and quite literally bought the t-shirt, I can honestly saythat the summer I spent in New York has been invaluable. I learned more about myself and my capabilities than I thought possible.
News of the J1 this summer has been dominated by the Berkeley tragedy, and rightfully so given the magnitude of the accident, and the impact it had on Irish students both sides of the Atlantic.
Although on the opposite side of the country, everyone I spoke to felt a huge loss. We were all away from home, everyone was shocked and confused and afraid.
Following the accident I had never seen such an effort by the Irish people to help and support one another, and that in itself is testament to the values held by the Irish.
There were vigils and support groups and contact made to every student in order to offer a hand if needed. What I was truly proud of was the manner in which the student in California held themselves and supported each other.
It is because of this that I am so angered, and confused by these proposed changes to the J1 visa.
Why punish students that have timelessly proven their ability to represent Ireland and contribute positively to the American summer?
It is unfair and unjust to expect students to have employment secured before leaving Ireland. In my experience it was extremely difficult to get in contact with any possible employers before arriving in America, and if this change is brought into effect it will become even more so.
The J1 experience taught me so much about my capabilities as a person and I learned much more through the experience than I would have working at home.
Making it harder for students to have this experience is in my opinion robbing them of the opportunity to learn to adapt and grow in a total unique environment.
Denying Irish students the chance of a J1, is denying them the opportunity of a lifetime.