A Blessing in Disguise!
by Emily Pike
The best way for me to sum up my J1 experience would be a blessing in disguise, because what originally presented themselves as huge problems, actually turned out to have the best possible outcomes.
Firstly, the intention was never to come to Chicago. As is the case for most j1er’s, San Diego was the first choice, but not possible. Although I was fairly heartbroken over this I decided to settle on Chicago as I knew it had the lake and beaches, but with the same exciting big city vibe that New York has. Coming over I was extremely excited to set up a completely new life for myself but also terrified at the sheer size of the city, although it turned out to not actually be as big as I thought. I came over with one other friend and we found a house on craigslist for the two of us that we thought would be perfect. However, the night we landed we realised to our horror that we had been scammed! NEVER LOOK FOR ACCOMMODATION ON CRAIGSLIST! We had to resort to a few nights in hostels, but luckily I had overheard someone on the plane talking about the J1 accommodation and so I got in touch with them immediately. Brian replied straight away and had sorted us out with a room within two days.
Me and my friend shared a double room with a shared bathroom. I would describe it as minimal but sleek, clean and comfortable. The highlight of the building is definitely the huge rooftops that look out over the Chicago skyline. The location is absolutely perfect. Some people voiced concerns over its location in the south of the city, however, it is perfectly safe and attractive, and is only 15 minutes on the train from the loop where all the main attractions are like Millennium Park. There is also a beach a 10 minute cycle away and the Divvy bikes are available to rent right outside your door! Although me and my friend were devastated about being scammed out of so much money, finding J1 accommodation turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we ended up making so many
great friends we would never have met otherwise. It seems to be the case that people who come over with a big group of friends and live together in their own house tend to not socialise beyond that group. I would highly recommend coming in smaller groups and staying in J1 accommodation to maximise the amount of new people you meet and make the best out of your J1.
The main thing I would recommend is to get out of your comfort zone! Far too many Irish people come over to the States and only go to Irish bars with other Irish people on the J1 nights. There is loads of great American bars and websites like resident advisor have loads of great nights on. Don’t travel all the way to America just to spend your whole summer with Irish people, immerse yourself in American lifestyle!