Ryan's Amazing Adventures in America, Part I

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Work Exchanges

Work Exchanges

By Ryan O'Leary, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015 and Graduate Visa USA 2016

Check back next week for Part II of Ryan's story!

Hi there, my name is Ryan O’Leary. I’m from a small rural area named Barryroe in West Cork, Ireland. I spent the summer of 2015 working in Hyannis, Massachusetts on the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. I graduated from University College Cork in 2016 with a Bachelor's degree in Commerce (International) with Hispanic Studies. After completing my studies, I moved to New York City in October 2016 on the J1 Graduate Visa USA program. I worked on the content marketing team at Sprinklr, a New York-based tech start-up.

I moved back to Ireland in November 2017 and, at time of writing, I work as a freelance writer, creating content for Sprinklr and EazyCity, a Cork-based company that offers work and study abroad programs across the world.

My American adventures of the last few years drew inspiration from my other travels. As part of my college degree, I was required to spend the 2014/15 academic year studying abroad at a university in Spain or Mexico. I chose the University of Alicante in southeastern Spain, and a group of us moved there in late August 2014.

Although I had enjoyed two previous vacations in Spain with friends, this was my first time spending a long period of time abroad. Midway through the year it hit me: I loved seeing new parts of the world. Living abroad for the first time was inspirational.

Growing up in Ireland, especially in the countryside, certain places seem so far away. You get used to your own area and only once you step outside it or go to college do things change. I saw the change in two of my brothers when they visited Boston, Hawaii and New York in the summer of 2008. Upon return they weren’t too different, but I sensed an increased open mindedness. The way they talked joyously about their trip piqued my interest in the United States.

I had spoken to a number of people over the years who had lived and worked in the US, and they absolutely loved their time there. Plus, like any proper Irish person, I had cousins in Boston! So in early 2015 a group of us made the decision to book our spots on the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. Our destination? After much deliberation, we decided on Cape Cod.

I arrived on Cape Cod on the 4th of July. And it was quite a way to kick off my American adventure: we enjoyed Independence Day fireworks at a nearby beach. The adventure had officially begun.

We had a great time working with local Americans, meeting different people from across the States every day and immersing ourselves in the culture. However, we also had lots of time to play and relax.

Pufferbellies was the local nightclub, hosting Irish nights on Wednesdays. Other than that, we enjoyed a few drinks at local bars like emBargo, Kelly’s on Main, and Torino. And thanks to perfect weather, a few BBQs were also in order throughout the summer. Food-wise we were absolutely spoiled for choice. For its buffalo chicken sandwich alone, DJ’s was one of our favourites. Other than that, there was The Daily Paper for breakfast, Rendezvous Cafe for brunch, and British Beer Company for an unreal dinner. For dessert, there was only one destination: Ben & Jerry’s.

When we weren’t busy working and socializing, we were beaching. Thanks to sensational summertime weather, the beaches were glistening and glorious.

Surfside Beach  Nantucket  July 2015
Surfside Beach, Nantucket

I also paid a first visit to my cousins in West Roxbury, Boston in mid-August. They showed me the finest of Boston and Newport, RI. Upon return to Cape Cod, it was almost time to leave.

Looking back on it, my final destination that summer seems like an omen now. That last destination was New York City. I spent two days and three nights in the Big Apple before flying home, visiting sights such as Central Park, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the Top of the Rockefeller Center. It was a fitting final weekend in America before flying home in late August.

I get nostalgic anytime I talk about my summer in Cape Cod. It seems so long ago now, coming up on three years this summer. It was my first taste of the United States and I very much enjoyed it. From the moment I set foot in the States, I had a good feeling. The locals were great to us. And although Cape Cod took on the moniker of “Cape Cork” due to the sheer volume of Irish folks there, we made many American friends through work and socializing. Some had been to Ireland before and were only delighted to sing its praises. Others have not made the trip across the Atlantic yet but our words of encouragement alone may be enough to book flights!

Being Irish definitely helps on the East Coast, but we were welcomed with open arms and made to feel at home. It was everything I imagined it would be, and then some. As you’ll soon see, it left me wanting much more.

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