By Ryan O'Leary, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2015 and CIEE Graduate Visa 2016
During those twelve months post-Cape Cod, I couldn’t get America out of my head. I felt like I belonged there: it just felt right. Before continuing my amazing American adventures, I had the small matter of final year exams to take care of. And thanks to numerous caffeine-fuelled study sessions, exams were conquered. I spent the summer of 2016 working in a local bank and considering my next move. After weighing up the possibilities, I made the decision in August 2016 to pursue the J1 Graduate Visa USA.
After multiple farewells, on October 30, 2016 I waved goodbye to Ireland and readied myself for The City That Never Sleeps: New York City.
Now, you might wonder why someone from a rural area of under 1,000 people would want to move to New York, a city of over eight million people to boot.
That’s precisely why I wanted to move to New York! It’s a melting pot of culture, creativity, and dreams as lofty as its buildings. I wanted to experience a new environment and challenge myself both personally and professionally. I moved there by myself so yes, I was definitely all in.
Is New York all that it’s cracked up to be? Yes, all that and more.
Of course there’s speed bumps along the way: adapting to the cost of living, job possibilities that don’t pan out, unexpected snowstorms and subway problems. But hey, it’s a price many are willing to pay!
After extensive networking and perseverance, I got a job on the content marketing team at Sprinklr, a B2B tech start-up that offers enterprise-level clients a social platform for managing customer experiences at scale. I was very fortunate to get such an opportunity, but such are the opportunities in New York.
Outside of work, there was plenty of play. I spent my early weeks in the city devouring unbelievable brunches, strolling the Brooklyn Bridge, participating in an Irish takeover of Madison Square Garden for Conor McGregor’s UFC title triumph, and paying my respects at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum.
I witnessed the soon-to-be Super Bowl champion New England Patriots defeat the New York Jets at the MetLife Stadium. Don’t be envious of my position in the nosebleeds: it was freezing!
Oh and I became a Global Citizen for a day in late September, enjoying the music of artists like The Killers and Stevie Wonder at the always glorious Central Park.
New York offers endless possibilities both personally and professionally. I experienced incredible things and met many wonderful people. Everyone I met made me feel so welcome in the United States, no matter what part I was in or whether I was at work or at play.
This also rang true in other parts of the country. It goes without saying that the United States is absolutely massive. Ahead of the move, I thought of adventures to California and New Orleans and a host of other places. In reality, I upped my states visited tally to a respectable 8 (Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Virginia, Connecticut...and Washington D.C.)
A last-minute solo trip to Washington D.C. for Memorial Day weekend was excellent. Three days was nowhere near enough time to see the plethora of great museums and monuments. I did catch the Air & Space Museum and the Newseum (highly recommended), as well as a stroll across the bridge to the National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. As for nightlife, Adams Morgan has everything you need and more.
And after bidding a bittersweet farewell to my many pals in New York, I paid one last visit to my Boston cousins before flying home from Providence, RI in mid-November.
I’ve had a few months at home to process my time in America and write about it extensively. But words alone don’t do it justice. My memories from America are as valuable as anything I’ve ever written.
Cape Cod was an enjoyable starter, New York was an irresistible main course. I feel like Cape Cod was an audition of sorts for my compatibility with America. Evidently, I aced that audition.
Five years ago, I couldn’t have imagined in a million years how things would pan out. There was a time when I thought I’d never even leave Ireland! But circumstances change and people change: combine those variables with our wonderful world and you’ve got a winning formula.
My experiences in the United States so far have been magnificent, and I’m craving more. Would I recommend the Work & Travel USA or the J1 Graduate Visa USA program? Absolutely. In fact, because they’re so different, I recommend doing both. You won’t regret it.