J1Accom #1. By John Cassidy
Ah America – Land of the free, home of the landlords with twenty J1 students per room, if you don’t know where to look. You don’t need to fall prey to this “inevitable part of a J1” however, and you might just have the best summer of your life.
After finishing with what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of paperwork and stress getting my job and visa, I was looking forward to what many had told me would be the trip of a lifetime to America, more specifically Chicago, for the summer. Listening to advice from people who had gone to various places in the summers before me, I decided that I would stay in a hostel with two friends from home for the first few nights, while we would search for accommodation. The lads, however, were working too far away from the city to live with, so I was faced with the daunting task of finding people sound enough to live with, while still being close enough to work in the city.
After looking at *another* house that was wall-to-wall of sleeping bags and blow up mattresses I came across my saviour on Facebook – J1Accom.Com. My initial thoughts were that this was too good to be true, but with my new American sim card and a feeling that I’d be on the next plane home if this didn’t work out, I rang Paul and was filled with relief. An Irish voice that knew what I was going through calmed my mind and he told me I could call by whenever I was free, for a tour of the accommodation located on the grounds of the Illinois Institute of Technology.
I made the short journey on the “L” (the best parts of the DART and Luas rolled into one) from town. I was surprised at how little time it took as Chicago is so vast (bear in mind I’m coming from thinking Galway is difficult to navigate at times), and J1Accom was already looking promising. I got there and was shown around. It was amazing. Gone were the overcrowded sitting rooms being used as bedrooms. Here was a modern, comfortable, affordable place to live, where I would be sharing a kitchen and bathroom with only two others and would have my own bedroom. Needless to say, I went back to the hostel for my bags and had moved in by that night.
But even all the comforts of the place (pool table, ping-pong table, sky deck, laundry, common rooms, a 2-minute walk to the nearest tram stop and shops just across the road) while nice can’t compare with what you can’t see from any pictures – the atmosphere in the building. I genuinely couldn’t have hoped for a sounder bunch of people to move in with. From being an outsider not knowing anyone, they took me in as one of their own straight away. Living with 100 other Irish J1ers it really did feel like (pardon the cliché) home away from home. You now have all the Irish brothers and sisters you could want in this foreign land (and of course there’ll be enough Irish mammies to offer the world’s best advice at a minute’s notice too). From our newfound base we went to the nearby beach or explored the city, generally just having a ball.
Now, these 3 months in Chi-Town will be the best summer of your life…. if done right. Legally you don’t need to sort your accommodation before travelling over the pond, but save yourself the stress and blistered feet from miles walked, looking at overcrowded houses and book your stay in J1Accom located in IIT. It’ll give you more time to look around in those awestruck first few days, you wont have to worry about leaving work early on your second day to move your bags to the next hostel/Airbnb and you can go out to your hearts content knowing you can stumble in the door at whatever hour and not have to get up early to go house hunting. You’ll also benefit from the 24 -hour security on campus, so you can relax while enjoying your new surroundings. Just writing this piece has me thinking back on all the craic we had in J1Accom and nothing would give me better pleasure than to be back. Chicago is the ideal place for a J1 with everything you can ask for. Beaches resembling the West Coast, a bustling city that takes your breath away both day and night and a nightlife that can tire out even us Irish. The J1 is all about experiencing different culture. I found Chicago to be perfect and introduced me to so many different things and for the launchpad to your adventure I cannot recommend J1Accom enough!