Tag Archives: Graduate Visa

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 burkey91.tb@gmail.com 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 Melanie.Young@usit.ie or give us a call on (01) 602 1747.


11 Unbelievable Pics Of Sydney’s Vivid Festival 2016

Oh my God! It maybe coming into winter in Sydney but the opening of the Vivid Festival of light, music and ideas is pretty much the coolest thing we’ve seen in a long time!

Billed as a festival bringing together art, technology and commerce, the festival has utilised the latest and greatest in projection technology to turn the city into a living, breathing work of art. Over the next 23 Days, Sydney is home to the world’s largest outdoor gallery and some of the pics (and this time lapse of the Opera House via Eddie Sim) makes their New Year celebrations look tame in comparison.

The project took over 15 months of intense work to bring together and at the very heart of the festival is to highlight the plight of some of the world’s most endangered species.

Tens of thousands of people have already flocked to the installations across Sydney and it makes us long for hopping on a plane back to this incredible city.

Check out 10 of best pictures of the festivals opening night below:

Vivid 5
Sydney Harbour Bridge will be lit up for the next 23 days as part of Vivid 2016

Have you been to any of the installations yet? Which are the most spectacular? Let us know in the comments.

Secure your Working Holiday to Australia with Ireland’s leading agency including your flight from just €999! Email us at info@usit.ie or ring our experts on (01) 602 1906

Less Than 300 USA Grad Visa’s Left in 2016!

UPDATE: There’s now less than 200 US Grad Visas left between now and the end of 2016! 

Exam time is over and we’re sure you’ve done great! You deserve your summer to unwind, relax and hopefully travel somewhere but that doesn’t mean you should take your eyes completely off the ball. The 2016 US Grad Visa Program is approaching end game. Here’s what you need to know…

Continue reading Less Than 300 USA Grad Visa’s Left in 2016!

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

J1 2016:Your 3 Bare Essentials

We’ve hit April and if you’re reading this that means you’re so close  to your Stateside adventure this summer that you can almost taste it! Our humble J-1 Team like to think we know a little something, something about making your adventure to the US a truly unforgettable experience. We want you to have the time of your life, and you will. First things first though, having taken feedback from thousands of past J-1 Visa students we’ve provided you this Definitive Guide to the Bare Essentials that will maximise your fun and minimise your stress:

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Graduate Visa USA Program – FAQ’s & Advice

If you have recently graduated, or are about to graduate, from an Irish university and are looking for the opportunity to work and travel abroad, USIT’s one year Graduate Visa USA Program might be just what you are looking for! The Graduate Visa USA program is the only remaining Irish student Visa program to America that does not require participants to have a pre-arranged work placement or internship before travelling. This is just one of the many benefits of the Graduate Visa USA program. Interested?  Find out more… Continue reading Graduate Visa USA Program – FAQ’s & Advice

1 Year USA Graduate Programme: February Participant Spotlight

Andrew Morrissey has been living in New York since May 2015 on the 1 Year USA Graduate Programme, following on from graduating from UCD with a Degree in Politics & Geography.  This month we caught up with Andrew to talk about his experience on the programme to date… Continue reading 1 Year USA Graduate Programme: February Participant Spotlight

How to spend your first week in the USA on the Graduate Visa

So you’ve been to the embassy, got your visa, sold your car, quit your job and now it’s time to actually hop on that plane and start your year-long adventure in the USA!  It’s so easy to get caught up in the preparation of actually getting your visa that you can actually sidetrack the fact that your trip only truly begins when you physically arrive in the USA.  Here are our tips on how you should try to spend your first seven days in your new city! Continue reading How to spend your first week in the USA on the Graduate Visa

1 Year USA Graduate Programme – January Participant Spotlight

This month we caught up with Niamh Thornton, who has been living in Santa Barbara for the past 8 months on the 1 Year USA Graduate Programme.  We asked Niamh how she found an internship in the USA using her Social Studies degree from Dublin Business School, as well as her what her travel highlights have been and what advice she would give to graduates who are thinking about doing the programme this year…
Continue reading 1 Year USA Graduate Programme – January Participant Spotlight