Grad Visa Stories: Daragh’s New York Survival Guide

Each year, hundreds of passionate, driven Irish graduates make a life-changing decision to follow their dreams in the US. One such big dreamer is Daragh Cushen, a Drama Studies graduate of UCD who went all in and took on Broadway after graduation.

A year on, armed with a wealth of experience in taking on NYC and winning he shares his Survival Guide to the Big Apple…

First things first, breathe! The process can seem stressful & never ending, but there will be light at the end of the tunnel and you have so many allies (USIT, CIEE) in your arsenal throughout the process. The biggest step is actually deciding to do this, so well done you!

Your NYC Survival Checklist & Top Tips

Get out and Explore

The first few days can be daunting and lonely, but don’t sit in your room and mope around. Get out into the city, get on a subway, get off at a random stop and just walk around. If you get lost, even better, you’ll always find another subway station or landmark to guide you, and it’s 100% the best way to get to know the city that will eventually become like your home.

Get An Unlimited Metro Card

A 7-day card will cost you $32 or a 30-day card will cost you about $120. These are absolutely the best value, it works out so much cheaper than the others, plus you don’t have to worry about continually topping it up, or wondering how much you have left on it. It’s unlimited so it doesn’t matter if you take one subway, no subways, or 29 subways that day, it’ll cost the same!

Travel Hack: Save a picture of the subway map on your phone. A year later, I still refer to it all the time


To the bartender, to the shopkeeper, to your roommates, to anyone that’ll listen! Everyone over here loves the Irish, and most people are more than happy to help in any way they can. This will make you feel more welcome and relaxed, and it could be the conversation that ends up giving you can introduction to an eventual internship, apartment or new friend.

Grad Visa Hack: NETWORKING IS ESSENTIAL. Get people’s email or number, introduce yourself, and create your own opportunities!

Do a Basic Grocery Shop

The first couple of weeks can be manic when you’re setting everything up, you’ll end up eating on the go a lot and running around from place to place (be it interviews or apartment viewings or just general life). So be sure to find a decent value grocery store in your neighbourhood and stock up on the essentials (milk, cereal, tea/coffee, butter, pasta, sauces and bread**)

Grad Visa Hack: Bread over here is much sweeter but toasting everything is your friend. $1 pizza slices, also your friend!

Be Realistic About Your Accommodation

Unless you’re flush with cash, living in Manhattan itself ain’t gonna happen. Brooklyn or Queens is where it’s at! Personally, Bushwick in Brooklyn was such a great area that a lot of times I rarely felt the need to go into the city. There’s a gazillion restaurants, bars, cafés and shops around that you could never be bored. It also tends to have more young people in similar positions so there’s always a great atmosphere around the place.

Grad Visa Hack: The best areas to look for accommodation are Bushwick, Williamsburg & Green Point in Brooklyn and Astoria, Sunnyside & Ridgewood in Queens.

Be Honest & Transparent on the Internship hunt.

Some companies, particularly those who have never hosted a CIEE intern before, may find the idea or process stressful or an effort, but assure them that it isn’t all that complicated and they can contact CIEE with all questions they may have.

Grad Visa Hack: Assure companies you apply for that you have every base covered in terms of your visa and ability to work in the US and do this as early as possible!

Put The Hours In, Work Hard

Sounds simple, but American’s like enthusiasm and initiative. Bring your own identity to the role, and volunteer at everything you can help with, they’re the things that get you noticed and eventually lead to you getting the best experience at your company.

Grad Visa Hack: You could do worse things than playing up to your Irishness, it goes a long way!

Finally, keep expanding your comfort zone! 

You’ve already made it this far so don’t stop now. Go to a Broadway show. See the Yankees or Brooklyn Nets games. Go to museums. Try different food. Talk to strangers. Sign up for free improve classes or a course in archery. There is something for everyone and the last thing you want to have at the end of this life changing year is regrets!

Grad visa Hack: – Access to The MET Museum is a voluntary contribution. It’s a huge and amazing museum right beside Central Park that would take weeks to see all of it. But go to the desk, pay $1 and spend a few hours strolling around it. 

Places for the 2017 Graduate Visa is filling up fast so if this is your year to take the leap or if you just want some more information about the possibilities that come from the US Graduate Visa, email