That’s right, I jetted off for the summer. (I don’t just ‘take a flight’ like the common folk, I ‘jet’… because I’m fancy).
Well, it wasn’t as simple as just hopping on my jet. There was an application process for the visa, of course, which I would describe as ‘tedious’ at best. Emails, forms and fees to beat the band! I went through the company SAYIT, who I honestly don’t really have anything nice to say about except for the fact that they got me there in the end. Then there was the American Embassy interview, which consisted of me waiting in a queue for six hours, to be asked what my intentions in the United States of America were.
(Just a warning: honesty is not always the best policy. The scary man behind the glass partition does not want to hear that your intentions are to ‘have a blast’).
I suppose I panicked a little. It was all very high security and there were men with guns who took my food off me on the way in, so I was a bit delirious. They also took all my electronic devices, so I ended up trying to pass the time by making a mental list of everyone I have kissed, ever.
Anyway, the trauma was all forgotten once I set foot on the land of opportunity, peanut butter, cheese, blueberry muffins and sugary everything. “Welcome to the United States, Ma’am!” everyone seemed to be saying, and I felt like a modern day version of your one from the movie ‘Brooklyn’.
In order to be welcomed in like this for the summer, you must have secured a job first. That was a little stressful, but some friends and I managed to emphasise our Irish accents enough to bag jobs at a Four Star resort on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Some of us worked in activities, some as receptionists, and some in food and beverage. My title was “cocktail waitress”. Which basically meant I got paid to swan around a sunny rooftop terrace overlooking the sea, with lots of other J1 students from around the world. I had to wear a mini skirt and shirt, hold a tray of drinks on the palm of my hand, and smile at lots of Americans who thought I was “adorable” with my four million freckles. It was great.
Like most waitressing jobs in the States, I was getting paid just over three dollars an hour, and living off my tips. I happen to be an absolutely lovely person and brilliant at everything, so my tips were fairly high. But living costs on the beautiful Cape were fairly high too – so I got second job in a little café, where my manager was also high, (In Massachusetts, voters passed a ballot that decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2008).
Most days, I worked in the café from 8am to 2pm, and then on the Terrace from 3pm to midnight. I cycled to and from both jobs, on a bike provided to me by a man called “Papa Deny” who claimed to be doing the work of Jesus. In fairness, the bike was an actual God send – while the Cape is very beautiful, it’s extremely rural and public transport is almost non-existent, so I cycled everywhere.
It sounds like a lot of going, but something nobody tells you about the J1 experience is that it gives you the superhuman ability to never feel tired. It’s kind of comparable to a three month RAG week, (with sun, sea and sand instead of hangovers, and iced coffees instead of chicken fillet rolls).