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…
A J1 for me had always been on the cards, but as far as the destination was concerned I had never given it much thought. Of course there are the usual hotspots: Boston, Cape Cod, Chicago, San Francisco and the like, all the places you would imagine going if you were planning a J1. In the classic J1 destinations as you can always expect to find a large Irish community there, particularly Irish students. However, a desire to do something a bit different led my friends and I to think outside the box and the result was a totally unique experience. A mutual love of music, including Elvis and Johnny Cash, sparked by watching Walk the Line in particular, led us to the idea of heading to Nashville, Tennessee. It was to be one of the best decisions we could have made.
I’m here to tell you the benefits of breaking new ground for J1 students, thinking outside the box, and embarking on an adventure you can be truly proud of in a city that will feel entirely your own when you return.
The People & The Music Are What Brings Nashville Alive
The southern states of America are totally distinct from the rest. The inhabitants are proud of their unique culture, and rightly so. Southern hospitality is real, and we experienced it first hand in Nashville. Obviously a major part of their culture is country music. Nashville is known as Music City as it is the home of this major industry. This was a major draw for us as the city is a music lover’s paradise, with Honky Tonk bars lining the streets downtown, and live music coming out of every one of them at all times of the day and night. As I said, my friends are I are big fans of Johnny Cash, and as he lived in Nashville for many years and in homage to his legacy the city is home to the Johnny Cash Museum. A huge highlight of our trip for us was getting to see his son John Carter Cash perform some of his hits, which was very emotional!
There is also the modern country music scene, of which we knew very little before the summer, but are now very well versed in! Country music was a defining characteristic of our summer, and we got to see loads of our new favourite artists while we were there. There’s always a major name playing in Nashville, from The Rolling Stones, to Earth Wind & Fire or Carrie Underwood, all of whom we got to see! Mastering a whole new genre of music was a great way to soundtrack our summer, enhancing the uniqueness of our J1 experience and those songs will stay with us forever.
Becoming The Local Irish Celebrities
We had to explain the J1 programme countless times to everyone we met in Nashville, as they had never heard of such a thing and all thought we were amazingly brave and exciting to up and move to a new country for the summer. We soaked up the praise but eventually had to break it to them that this was very much the norm where we come from! Finding a job was easy because of this novelty factor, and our employers were extremely impressed with us and excited to show us off to customers: ‘Come meet our Irish girls!’ We were very lucky with our job; we worked in a huge Southern style candy store that was located on Broadway, the main strip downtown. Our novelty factor of being Irish was a benefit to us throughout our summer, and it afforded us many amazing experiences.
Our Big Break As Nashville’s Irish Girls
We managed to use our Irish charm to blag our way into Nissan Stadium for free to see the last night of the Country Music Awards Festival, featuring the likes of Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. Our major claim to fame of the summer was also a result of being Irish, as we actually managed to get on set and be extras in ‘Nashville’, the ABC show all about musicians that aired on RTE for Two Seasons (bring it back!). We’d heard around the neighbourhood that the show was going to be filming in a house nearby, so we decided to go have a look. While hanging around outside, someone asked us who we were and we explained that we were Irish students living here for the summer. Saying that this was actually our last night in Nashville seemed like a good way to start and word got through to the crew inside. Soon the Line Producer emerged and came to speak to us and as it turned out, his wife was from Howth in Dublin!
He took us inside to introduce us to the cast and crew! We were given a tour of the set, allowed to watch a scene being filmed and sit in the directors booth (check us out) and next thing we knew we were handed a script each as a keepsake and asked did we want to appear as extras in a scene they were about to film! The crew treated us like stars, and we were known on set as ‘The Irish Girls’, and introduced to all the cast as such! It was an absolutely crazy way to end our time in Nashville! Lesson is, use your Irishness – who knows where it could get you!
Deeper into Tennesse And The Great Smoky Mountains
We ended up traversing the entire length of the state of Tennessee. We headed to Memphis to catch some Blues music, sail on the Mississippi river and visit Graceland, the home of Elvis. We also went east to camp in The Great Smoky Mountains, and visit Dollywood, an absolute must if you are in Tennessee. So not only did we get a unique experience in our day to day living, but our J1 travels were also unlike anyone else’s. While I would have loved to see the likes of the Grand Canyon, how many people can say they have spent a week in a log cabin by the Pigeon Forge River?
I would highly recommend Nashville or anywhere in the southern states as a J1 destination. During my summer in the south I got to master an entire new genre of music, make my TV debut, see some country music stars, discover the definition of paradise camping in the mountains and travel the entire length of Tennessee, all while wearing cowboy boots, and I will forever miss the Honky Tonks, the amazing fiddle solos and the southern hospitality. So I would encourage anyone who is embarking on a J1 to consider the possibility of heading somewhere different, even if only for a week because I think you will find your experiences all the more valuable and exciting for having been somewhere many others have not. You never know what adventures or opportunities you will have, the people you will meet or the places you will go, and you can be sure that your friends back home will not have had the same experiences as you!
Massive thanks to Lyndsey for sharing her story with us, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram here.
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