Category Archives: Guest blogger

Honeymoon Spotlight: Martina’s Cruise Through The Caribbean

We caught up with Irish fashion blogger Martina’s Mark to hear all about her recent honeymoon in the Caribbean. 

 When most people think of a cruise they picture elderly couples playing shuffleboard wearing Hawaiian shirts on the deck so what made you decide to go?

The main reason my husband Barry and I decided on a cruise was that we both wanted to see as many places as possible without the hassle of constantly moving hotel rooms. We’ve both done heaps of travelling and a big pet hate of mine is packing and unpacking your backpack! Something always gets lost in the move and your bag magically gets heavier with every city! So after some research, we decided that a cruise in the Caribbean was the way to go.

Where did you go?

To start off with we flew into Boston from Dublin and then got a connecting flight to San Juan in Puerto Rico.

In hindsight we kinda wish we’d stayed a few days in Boston and then flew down to break up the travel time. I’ve been Boston before and it’s a great city to check out for two or three days but that’s for another time. Puerto Rico come at us!

The Central American oasis was the departure port for the Cruise so we spent three days here. We then sailed (our ship was an Adventure of the Seas by the way) to St Martin, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, St Lucia and Barbados. All these islands have been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember! All were totally fab and as you can imagine had pristine white beaches, crystal blue water and were the perfect setting to chill out to. And I needed to chill out! Life previous to the honeymoon was hectic, organising a wedding and moving house within the same month was fairly full on and I wouldn’t recommend it to the faint hearted!


In a nutshell, what was the cruise like?

Both my husband and I had an amazing experience and can’t wait to do it all again. The staff were so friendly and helpful and everything ran like clockwork. The sheer size of the ship means that there is literally something for everyone. The ship hosts a meet and greet night for honeymooner’s, lone travellers, retired patrons and so on so meeting people is very easy. The cruise is also family friendly with kids clubs and daily group pool activities. There was even a 70’s line dancing class!

Main highlights?

St Lucia was definitely my favourite place to visit. It was one of the main reasons we chose this cruise and it did not fail to meet my expectations. One particular excursion, as part of our cruise, consisted of a boat trip around the island followed by snorkelling which was fantastic. The snorkelling was on Sugar Beach which is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited.

Old Town in San Juan was like something out of a postcard. Every street was like a painting with the houses, streets and shops painted in bright colours. It was so pretty and made for some great photos!

But probably the biggest highlight of all was winning another cruise whilst on the cruise! Not to ruin my street cred or anything but on the last night of our cruise we were playing bingo and we won the top prize! We learned that every cruise ship has a final day bingo session with some deadly prizes so we decided to give it a go. It was good craic anyway, as some fellow passengers got a bit too into it, but when we got through to a knockout round against another couple we were buzzing! I couldn’t believe it when Legs Eleven got called out and I screamed Bingo. And so another cruise in November is on the cards, delighted!

Any lowlights? Can’t have been all good!

You’re in a part of the world where you’re at the mercy of tropical climate. It was rain season so the weather was unpredictable. There were patches of rain and it was fairly cloudy the odd time. However, we still managed to catch plenty of sunshine (the most important thing for any Irish person I think we can all agree) and the temperature was 30C every day.

One particularly bad experience was boarding the ship itself. The ship boards for 6 hours on departure day. If I could offer one bit of advice it would be to wait for an hour or two to let the main crowds dissipate before heading down to the port. Your main bags are also taken and delivered directly to your room. This might take several hours and unfortunately, Barry packed the sunscreen in our main luggage which meant we had to spend our first day in the shade!

Top tips for anyone thinking of cruising it?

Check the daily itinerary on the ship to find out daily activities. A leaflet is delivered to your room every day and it is important to keep this handy as there are so many activities continuously taking place. We definitely regretted not going to more shows which were on every evening in the auditorium and checking out more of the restaurants onboard.  Also definitely budget for hidden extras. Wifi can be costly but it’s a good incentive to plug off from the outside world completely.  If you didn’t buy a drinks package from the start drinks can become expensive so do a bit research on that front.


Was it good value for money?

Honestly, I think cruises are great value for money especially when you utilise all the facilities available. All the food is buffet style and even if you attend one of the bill paying restaurants there is a reasonable set cover charge and the food is limitless. The drinks can be pricey but with a drinks package they work out quite reasonable.

Average age group on the group; was it good craic?

The age group was extremely mixed. We were fortunate to meet another couple on their honeymoon who we got to socialise with. There are countless bars and even a nightclub onboard. I’m ashamed to say that the bar men in The Duck and Dog bar knew us on a first-name basis.

What did you for entertainment whilst onboard?

There was so much entertainment on the ship. From a reggae band playing while you were lying by the pool to comedy acts at night time you can be entertained how you like. There was even an ice rink on our ship where shows took place! The Mr and Mrs show was absolutely hilarious hosted by the Irish cruise ship director Clodagh. The Karaoke bar got a visit when the cocktails took over, absolutely gas craic.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to anyone considering a honeymoon on a cruise?

Make friends. We made great friends on the cruise. I love my husband but it would have been a bit boring the two of us the whole time!

What was the fashion like on the cruise/islands?

The brilliant thing about the cruise ships is that they host formal and casual nights. The formal nights are a perfect excuse to wear your finest get up. I had great fun packing for the holiday as you don’t tend to get to wear formal wear on holidays. Most people on the ship take the formal night seriously too. However, it is by no means compulsory for those wishing to stay casual. During the day on board, everything is casual and similarly on the islands. I did pick up some lovely items in local markets.

What accessories (fashion or otherwise) could you not do without while on a cruise?

My sunhat and kindle were my ultimate cruise essential. My Canon DSLR camera wasn’t too far from my sights as well. You can never take too many photos and I want to remember the honeymoon for many years to come so I went to town with the camera!

Would you recommend a cruise holiday?

Absolutely – there is something for everyone and I am a big believer in trying anything at least once!

If you’re interested in any cruise or honeymoon packages find out more here

Want more Martina is your life? Follow her on Facebook  Twitter Instagram

Wanderlust in Beautiful Bali: James’ Ultimate Guide To Paradise

Dreaming of an escape to paradise on your next trip? James is just back from 3 weeks in beautiful Bali and he has more than a few highlights to share…

Bali is an incredibly unique island with a unique personality and atmosphere. There are people from all nationalities and all walks of life living on or visiting the island. The island is packed with adventure, great food, endless nights and friendly locals. To experience the warmth of Indonesia and all the Island has to offer is tough to do in a few weeks if I am honest, but we gave it our best shot!

Getting to Bali, a long slog but so worth it!

Bali is not the easiest place to get to from Ireland but it is 110% worth it when you arrive. We went through USIT using the book now pay later option which allowed me to pay a certain amount of money to guarantee my seat and gave me time to gather the funds and pay the balance by an agreed date. It was a great stress minimizer financially. USIT have loads of different Bali package options, starting from only €779 including flights!

We departed on June 18th from Dublin at stupid o’clock and we travelled Via Amsterdam and Hong Kong. We arrived into Bali on June 19th at 13:00 and had an airport transfer organised by the hotel to collect us and bring us to our first hotel. We flew with Cathay Pacific and had a great experience flying with them. Looking back I should have done a stopover on the way or on the way back for a night or two in Singapore or Hong Kong which is a good option but at the time we just wanted to get there!

Cliffs, Surf and Insane Views of Uluwatu

James uluwatu

Our first location was Uluwatu which is an area located on the cliffs south west of the island. Uluwatu is famous for its great surf breaks, the Uluwatu Cliff temples and some of the best beach bars in Bali. We stayed in The Saphire Cliff villas located beside Padang Padang Beach (surfers must), Sundayz beach club and Single Finn Bar and Restaurant. The hotel was amazing and perfect for couples as you had a private villa with complete privacy. The pool was shared but was always quiet and the hotel was never over busy which was great for a chill-out

We visited the famous Cliff Temple and ate in Single Fin Restaurant  (incredible food). Single Fin also has the best views in Ulawatu. The waves crashing into the cliffs below and a sunset which left us speechless. If an Irish lad has a capacity for romance, this place will bring it out!

The Astonishing 5-Star Ayana Resort in Jimbaran

Pushing the boat out for our anniversary we stayed in the 5-star Ayana resort for our anniversary. The resort is enormous with a private beach, Luxury private villas, two hotels run by the same management but with different styles. The resort is packed with restaurants to cater for your every mood. There are a number of spectacular bars on site with more insane views of the cliffs and the sunset.

Did Someone Say Room Upgrade?

Ayana Resprt.PNGWe had mentioned it was our anniversary and we were immediately upgraded to the best room in the hotel (Irish charm, we can’t even control it!). The Staff were exceptional and truly set the bar for 5-star resorts across the world. Every whim was catered for and each resort worker had a smile bigger than the last.

The Resort is completely self-sufficient with Bars, Restaurants, choice of pools, tennis courts, Gym, free WIFI, free transport from place to place inside the resort via Golf Buggy and a private secluded beach. You really do see another side to service and luxury staying here and I will never forget it. We ate in Rock bar on the first night which is a bar & Restaurant built into the cliffs edge overlooking the sunset. The food was tapas based and although It is more expensive than the rest of Bali, it is definitely worth it for the views and amazing food. We also ate in Kisik Restaurant also built into the cliffs and The Mexican restaurant inside the Rimba Hotel.

Jimbaran is vast and outside the resorts walls there isn’t much really going on. I would advise staying here for 2-3 nights anymore and it could get boring but 2-3 nights is perfect in my opinion. It is so chilled and you feel like you truly have escaped the real world and gone to resort heaven.

Party Time and Getting Loose in Seminyak

As almost perfect as the Ayana was, the one thing it lacked was a bar with live music or a party atmosphere. The bars were incredibly chilled which was nice but give me an Indonesian guy singing U2 at the top of his lungs over that any day.

Seminyak was a welcomed change to our new chilled, meditative-like state after the Ayana. Seminyak is one of the party capitals of Bali packed full of restaurants, bars, live music clubs and nightclubs to cater for whatever mood you’re in.

Haven Hotel & Seminyak’s Strip

We stayed in the 4-star hotel named The Haven which is located beside Double Six beachJames Surfing Seminyak
in Seminyak and was a 10-minute taxi to the centre of the action, Seminyak Square. I would definitely recommend staying around double six beach. The surf breaks are by far the best in Seminyak and the beach has Beach clubs every 50 meters with different genres of music playing. Every bar has an outside sitting area with comfortable bean bags to chill on and watch the sunset. If you haven’t guessed by now, every day ends with a sunset in Bali.

We ate on the strip every night in Seminyak favourites Char Char Grill, Batik and the Italian corner. Throughout the day there a host of beach clubs you can go to, the main ones being Potato head, Ku De Ta and Cocoon. Seminyak was insanely good and pretty hectic! After 3 days we were looking forward to some R&R in our next stop, Ubud.

Underwhelming Ubud Saved By Tegenugan Waterfall

Ubud is located in central Bali and is the Cultural capital of Bali. We had been told that Ubud was much different to anywhere in Bali then we have already seen. Not as commercial, busy and fast as most other Bali tourist towns. We had an image of tranquillity in our minds that didn’t really get lived up to in reality. From day one we had a bad taste in our mouth from the sheer traffic inside Ubud and trying to work our way through it to our hotel so painstakingly close. Not the tranquil haven we had been told about. Although…

Loka Hut Hotel & The Jungle

We stayed in the 5-star Lokha Hut Hotel which was located about 15 minutes outside the Ubud town centre. We got great value for the 2 night stay through USIT. An infinity pool and spa overlooked the Jungle Canopy. Now we’re talking! Every morning we would be awoken by the sound of the jungle all around us and surprisingly you’re not in a bad mood. It feels good to be woken up by birds chirping and monkeys cackling, much better than the dreaded iPhone sirens!

Monkey Business

James Monkey

On our first day in Ubud we rented a driver for half the day and set out to see the sites. Our first stop was the monkey forest were monkeys roam freely throughout the forest looking for banana donations from much obliging tourist. If you wish to get up close and personal with the monkeys, anyone can buy bananas to hand out and make some new monkey friends. It was awesome, and hilarious! These little guys know what they want and how to get it. The Dell Boy’s of the chimp world!

Tegenugan Waterfall and Oh My God!

James Waterfall

From there went set off for Tegenugan Waterfall. The waterfall was just spectacular, I cannot stress this enough! From where your driver drops you off there is a 15 minute walk down to the waterfall and the views along the way are that of the real Bali I had envisaged in my mind. At the waterfall, you can swim in the pool made by the sheer power of the waterfall and take as many pictures as you want. We stayed for about an hour swimming in the water, taking photos and soaking up the beauty of the waterfall itself.

Backpackers Paradise in Gilli Islands & Nusa Dua

From Ubud, we arranged a car transfer to the Ferry port town of Pdang Bai to catch a ferry heading east the famous Gilli Islands. Our Hotel arranged everything and at a fairy reasonable price for the two of us. We decided to opt for the early 9am ferry which resulted in us having to leave Ubud at a painful 6am to be on time for the ferry. The ferry got us in at 11am which was perfect as the day was not wasted travelling as was a few of our days on this trip. You don’t wanna be wasting time sleeping in a place like Bali!

Gilli Trawangan

We stayed in Gilli Trawangan, the biggest island out of the trio of Gilli Islands. Gilli T is the most popular for backpackers and travellers looking to escape the main island and enjoy the party atmosphere which Gilli T is famous for. The Island itself is tiny compared to its surrounding neighbours of Bali and Lombok which look like something from Jurassic park during the Ferry Crossing. There are no cars or mopeds on the island and after 2 weeks in Bali it is a welcome relief. We stayed in Villa Ombak which was located on the more popular east side of the island where all the bars & restaurants are located.

Bar Crawl, Less Than Sober Cycling and Beautiful Beaches!

We rented bikes for the day and cycled all around the island stopping off at every beach bar (one every 20 metres) to test out their drinks menu. By the time we got back around we could have done with some stabilisers but everyone else was in the same tipsy boat!  The island really is paradise and the beauty is unparalleled, the beaches on the east side are beautiful whether the tide is in or out with crystal clear blue water and white sand. Proper ‘PC wallpaper’ set ups.

Turtle-less Turtle Snorkelling…

We hired a boat on the second day to take us on a turtle snorkelling trip which took us to Gilli Air, the second largest of the islands. We were out all day and it’s a good way to see the other islands if you plan to just stay on one of them. Gilli Air is a lot more tranquil and reserved and would be perfect for a couple of chill nights.

The Next Best Thing – Turtle Conservation Project

James Turtles

As we didn’t see any turtles on our “TURTLE” snorkelling trip, we decided it was only right to visit the turtle conservation centre on Gilli T as they buy turtle eggs from Farmers on the surrounding islands who are taking them to sell at a market, Instead of the turtle eggs ending up in the markets, the Conservationists buy them and house them until the eggs hatch and they are ready to go back into the Ocean. They keep the baby turtles in tanks for a few weeks before releasing them so if you don’t get a chance to see them snorkelling or diving then this is a must. The donation that tourists provide goes towards the maintaining of the centre and buying the eggs from the farmers.

One Last Party, Nusa Dua & The Sadness Of Having To Leave

Gilli T is full of Bars and restaurants so there is always something to do at night. The bars are packed full of backpackers and travellers enjoying the Gilli T lifestyle and partying late into the night. We left on day three to head back to the main Island, the ferry brought us back to Pdang Bai and from there we made our way to our next and final destination of Nusa Dua for some much needed R&R after the madness of Gilli T! We stayed in the Inaya Putri resort, another slice of paradise for two days before it was time to depart the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to, and the best adventure so far.

My Top Travel Tips For Bali

  • The Currency is Indonesian Rupiah. The easiest way to look at it is that €10 is 150,000 IND or €100 is 1,500,000 IND.
  • Always ask the Taxi drivers to go by the metre when you get in unless you have struck up a deal before getting in. the metre will give you the cheapest rate location to location.
  • The electricity output is the European two prong connection
  • Travel as light as possible if you decide to move around a good bit
  • Ask if there are any upgrades available in the hotels and sometimes they can be extremely cheap to upgrade to a better room.
  • Plan your route as best as possible to avoid long travelling days. on holiday these travelling days can be a nightmare for a simple journey.

Looking for a quote on an adventure to Bali this year? Give our experts a call on (01) 602 1906 or


Grad Visa Spotlight: Thomas’ Essential Guide To Living In NYC

When we help students obtain their US Grad Visa, we’re not interested in waving goodbye to them once the plane leaves the runway at Dublin Airport and that be it! The Grad Visa is such a huge opportunity and experience for our graduates that we love hearing about how they’ve settled in, what their highlights have been  and most importantly what wisdom they can share for future participants.

With this in mind let us hand you over to Thomas Burke, who escaped the ‘boredom’ of Cork behind for what’s been an anything but dull 9 months in New York City…

Thomas NY 2

‘I specifically remember sitting at a desk in my full-time job in Cork and finally deciding that I needed a change…

I was earning a good salary, had a beautiful apartment and had a great bunch of colleagues and friends. So what’s problem, right? I just wasn’t being challenged, monotony was setting in and life was getting, if I’m being honest, extremely boring. I finally decided to take the plunge and move to New York (you should have seen my parents reactions!). After living here for nine months now, one thing I can say for sure is that New York is most certainly not boring! I now have an internship at the Irish Arts Center where I help organize different events throughout the city, promoting Irish arts, music and culture. 

New York is difficult to explain to other people if they haven’t experienced the city themselves. There is a buzz that goes with just walking down the street, the collective sights and sounds forming a unique atmosphere. Integrating yourself into the city can be very daunting at first.

7 Top Tips For Your First Months in New York

  1. New York is ridiculously expensive. Period. Save, save and save some more before you arrive.
  2. The first 3-5 months are absolutely manic. You’ll be excited, scared, angry, confused and exhausted all at the same time.
  3. Get your phone sorted immediately. T-Mobile, AT&T and Verizon are all good options. Get your SIM card sorted before you go via USIT’s agents.
  4. Set up an American bank account straightaway. Chase Bank and Bank of America are the most popular as they have the most branches throughout the city.
  5. Buy a subway MetroCard. The subway is by far the cheapest option to get around and you will use it more than you think.
  6. Always try and have a small bit of cash on you. You never know when you might need it.
  7. You will do a lot of walking here so proper walking shoes are a necessity.


Getting Accommodation Is A Slog, But A Great Learning Curve

Shortly after you arrive, you will inevitably be looking for somewhere to live. You can only live on a friend’s couch/floor/mattress for so long and trust me, it gets tiring VERY quickly. Looking for an apartment in NYC is an incredibly intimidating and disheartening experience at first and I felt out of depth throughout the entire process.

However, getting your own place first should be your number one priority. Everything else will follow and I always tell people, everything clicked once I found an apartment. I now live in Astoria, Queens with two other Irish guys and we are having a blast!

Apartment hunting in NYC takes lots of time, perseverance and courage. 

Top Tips For Finding Your Place

  1. Connect with people! Trust me, there are tons of Irish people here. You never know who might have a spare room or know of an apartment.
  2. If you find a place that you even remotely like, just take it. Literally, in less than 24 hours, it will be gone.
  3. Be aware, using a broker will likely cost a fee, one month’s rent and one month’s deposit before obtaining your apartment.
  4. Look in neighboring boroughs such as Queens or Brooklyn. 
  5. Facebook is a good platform to use. “Gypsy Housing NYC” is the main page I used and which eventually helped me get my apartment now.
  6. Don’t get too disheartened. Keep plugging away and something will come up!

Getting Used To The Subway

One aspect of New York you have to get used to is the subway. It has its own rules and regulations which you adapt to over time. People act differently; they are too tired, stressed, hot, impatient and irritated to act normally. Here are some subway tips which I have learned over time…

  1. Its $31 for a weekly unlimited subway ticket. This is your friend! It’s $2.75 per ride normally so it’s great value and you will get your use out of it, trust me.
  2. Always check before you go underground whether that platform is for uptown or downtown trains. There’s nothing worse than getting on a train and realizing you’re going in the wrong direction.
  3. When a train stops at a platform, let everybody off first! It genuinely makes the process go faster.
  4. Use earphones when on the train! You don’t want some guy blaring Drake in your face when all you want to do is sleep.
  5. Don’t hog two seats! Seats are like gold dust, especially on long journeys. Don’t be annoying and take up more than one.
  6. This one goes without saying but ALWAYS keep an eye on your belongings. The subway isn’t the safest place in the world so keep your wits about you.

Thomas NYC 3

Think Your Smartphone Is Crucial in Ireland? Wait until you get to NYC!

New York is a modern city and I use my phone for everything. If your phone is broke/old/dying before you come here, get a new one. Seriously…. You’ll need it. Below are a few essential apps I use day to day:

  1. Google Maps – I actually use this app without even thinking about it. I still get lost in this city and it’s very unsettling if you don’t have access to it.
  2. Uber/Lyft – An amazing alternative to regular cabs. You can get picked up and dropped off anywhere for a flat rate.
  3. NYC Subway – Provides a full map of the subway maps with arrival times and information on each stop.
  4. Bank Online App – Very handy for checking your balance, depositing checks and viewing bank statements.
  5. Yelp – Great for getting first-hand experience on restaurants, bars, concerts, events, etc. I use it a lot and it very rarely lets me down.
  6. Stubhub – A wonderful app for getting last minute tickets to events of any kind. Very reliable.
  7. Venmo – Probably my favorite app of all. Great for sharing payments among people such as rent, bills and bar/restaurant checks.
  8. Camera – It goes without saying but you will take A LOT of photos in this city. Take and share them, it’s all a part of the experience.

What To Explore Once New York Feels Like Home

NYC (2)

I like to think that I’ve successfully integrated myself into this city. It’s something I’m very proud of. I’m always learning and every day is a new experience. It’s inevitable you will have a bad experience here and there and that is part of living here. Below are some general pieces of advice I would give after living here for nine months:

  1. Go to Central Park as much as you can. It’s my favorite place in the city and there is always something happening here.
  2. Master the art of packing. New York is huge and coming back home for lunch or a break is just not feasible. Pack a backpack with some essentials.
  3. Watch out for Yellow Taxi drivers. If they know you are new to the city, they may take you a longer way. Be careful!
  4. You’ve got to keep up or else you’ll get knocked, kicked, trampled or shoved. If you’re on your phone, you’re a main target!
  5. If you enjoy coffee, you will drink it all the time here. There’s coffee shops on every corner.
  6. New York has an astonishing amount of restaurants so go out and try it all!
  7. You’ll make friends but not see them for weeks. People are busy working different schedules and it’s just the way of life here. Don’t take it personally!

Would I recommend moving here? Absolutely! It takes a while to get used to and the first few months are undoubtedly tough but eventually it all comes together.

I said at the start of this piece that I came here because I was bored. I can safely say that’s no longer the case and I know I never will be. If you’re even half thinking about coming here, just do it. I understand the reservations and doubts but you will not be sorry!

If you have any questions, you can email me at or get me on Instagram or Yelp!

Massive thanks to Thomas for sharing with us (and now you) some priceless tips for getting used to life in NYC. Feeling inspired to go? There’s less than 300 Grad Visas left for 2016 so get in touch with or give us a call on (01) 602 1747.


J1 Spotlight: Lyndsey Finds Fame In Friendly Nashvile

This was a J1 with a Southern twist that started in Tennesse and ended up on the set of US TV hit, Nashville!. We spoke to Lyndsey (@LyndzHall) about taking the road much less travelled by and why taking your Irish roots off the beaten track is the best decision you’ll ever make…

Continue reading J1 Spotlight: Lyndsey Finds Fame In Friendly Nashvile

Grad Visa Spotlight: Danielle’s NYC Adventures!

This is Danielle’s brilliant account of her first months in New York City on her 1 Year Grad Visa with USIT. The trials, the tribulations, the unforgettable experiences and some of the best advice we’ve heard in a while!

It’s almost 40 degrees Celsius and as you step out of the clichéd yellow taxi cab, the heat is overwhelming. The cabbie dumps your two large bags on the side of the road and before you know it, you’re all alone in the most amazing city in the world. Well…technically not New York City. You see, my tale begins in Astoria, Queens. I arrived at the doorstep of my AirBnB at around 9pm on Sunday August 16th 2015. I had specific instructions on how to find the key that would let me into my home for the next two weeks. I followed the directions, unlocked the key and now the hardest part was over. I’d open the door, walk into my new digs and gladly collapse on the bed in my nice air conditioned room.

But the door didn’t open.

NYC house

In fact, for almost thirty minutes the door did not open and I was completely, utterly and devastatingly stranded outside in the disgusting city heat with my luggage. I called the owner of the AirBnB to no response. For a minute I briefly contemplated kicking in the door. Just when I reached the point of legitimately not knowing what to do, my saviour arrived in the form of my new roommate! He saw me standing there, no doubt flustered and upset, and pulled a shiny golden key out of his pocket. Finally…I got to open the door, walk inside and collapse on the bed in my nice air conditioned room.

Except there was no central aircon.

Yes. My tale began exactly like this; desperate, hopeless and…sweaty. If I had known back then that my welcome to New York would come to act as an ironic metaphor for my first few months here I might not have stayed the distance. But I’m so very grateful that I did.

Now, some nine months later, I can look back on that trying time in my life and silently thank the experience for moulding me into who I am today. That four month period from August 15 to December 15 is without doubt the most difficult thing I have ever had to do.

No job, no friends (yes, I went alone), nowhere to live…

Sounds pretty scary, right?

It absolutely is.

Taking on a J1 in New York City won’t come easy. But if you’re up for the challenge then it’s high risk, high reward.

I’m pleased to say that after four straight months of searching every day, I finally struck gold and accepted a trainee position as a Sales Manager for Ulster Weavers. I’ve been working here since Jan 2016 and have already learned so much. As part of my job I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Atlanta and Orlando and upcoming trips to Dallas, Toronto and Las Vegas are planned for the summer.

NYC (2)While I relish the opportunity to travel and see other cities in the US, there really is nowhere else quite like New York City. Everybody knows New York. If you’ve been here you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, you’ll likely have formed an image in your mind of what you think it’s like.

The truth?

It’s exactly like the movies…only better!

There’s definitely something in the air. There’s an intangible energy, a vibe, an urgency to everything. New York is special, and if you choose to do your J1 here rest assured that life will never be boring.

Quick Tips:

  1. Manhattan is expensive. Seriously. If you want to live IN the city be prepared to fork over half your wage for a box room with no furniture.
  2. Pizza is a pie…a pizza pie!
  3. Nobody cooks. Seamless and Grubhub will become your new best friends.
  4. Getting lost on the subway (inevitable btw) is the best way to learn how to use it.
  5. Bring comfortable shoes and go walking! Don’t let anybody tell you New York isn’t a walking city. It is. Just plan ahead and do it in small doses.


Would I recommend doing the Grad Visa J1 in New York? Absolutely! It’s the best decision I’ve ever made and has changed my life, both personally and professionally. There’ll be times when you’ll think it’s hopeless. There’ll be times when you’ll question why you even went in the first place. But then there’s that amazing moment when everything clicks and you know you made the right decision. From there it’s pretty much smooth sailing.


The best advice I can to anybody contemplating a J1, especially anybody worried about going alone, is to just do it. Save as much money as you can before you go. Make finding a job your full time job when you get there. Step outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself and remember that you’re in New York City where anything is possible. As corny as it sounds, there’s so many opportunities to achieve success. You just need to grab one and make it your own. Besides, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, right?

Good luck!

(PS – I almost made it through without referencing Sinatra. Clearly impossible!)

J1 Insider: Tips & Tricks For Loving Chicago

Ahoy hoy! Two of our J1 Recruitment Team, James & Lyndsey just got back from a busy week scouring Chicago for more employers for this year’s J1 students (you lucky people!) and finding out the best things to do in the city, how best to get around, where to stay and what to enjoy. If you’re hitting Chicago, you’ll want to read this. Even if you’re not, you’ll want to go another time!

James Lyndsey Consulate
James & Lyndsey popped in to the Irish Consulate

 Before we start I would like to go on record by saying Chicago is definitely one of the best locations for a J1 in the U.S. The city comes alive in the summer as everyone is delighted to see the back the winter where temperatures can reach a bone chilling -10 degrees below freezing. The city bursts into life come May and summer temps can range between 25-38 degrees which makes it extremely seasonal and perfect for J1ers looking for seasonal work. Chicago is a busy city but is also extremely chilled and laid back. The city is located on Lake Michigan which is one of the 5 superior lakes of North America and the only superior lake to be fully located inside the U.S. Although it is a lake, get Glendalough lakes out of your head as it is more ocean then lake. To give you an idea of the size, 68% of Ireland could fit inside the circumference. The city sweeps down to the lake side and is picturesque beyond belief. There are 3 main beaches in the city Ohio Street Beach, Oak street beach and the greatest beach on earth North Avenue beach.

Continue reading J1 Insider: Tips & Tricks For Loving Chicago

My Camp Canada experience – Saoirse Ni Scanláin

We caught up with Saoirse Ni Scanláin, a student in Trinity College Dublin this week who recently took part in our Camp Canada programme. Here’s what she had to say about her experience. Continue reading My Camp Canada experience – Saoirse Ni Scanláin

Travel Q+A with Janet Newenham (Journalist on the Run)

This month we were lucky enough to catch up with travel blogger extraordinaire, Janet Newenham whose blog Journalist on the Run has been shortlisted for Best Travel Blog in Ireland and articles have been published on Matador Network and National Geographic!  If you dream about becoming a travel blogger some day, consider Janet your inspiration… Continue reading Travel Q+A with Janet Newenham (Journalist on the Run)

Travel Q&A with Edwina Elizabeth O Connor (The Life of Stuff)

This month, we caught up with blogger Edwina Elizabeth O Connor, whose blog ‘The Life of Stuff’ combines travel with food, culture, music and more!

Continue reading Travel Q&A with Edwina Elizabeth O Connor (The Life of Stuff)