J1 Scholar Story – The Final Month in The Big Apple

It’s difficult to put into words what an incredible experience this summer has been. I spent my J1 in New York, and I am now counting down the days until I can return to the city on a graduate visa. I have loved New York ever since I visited the city ten years ago, and wondered if it would live up to the memory in my head. My love for the city has only grown. In New York, not a day goes by that you don’t have a story to tell your housemates when you come home, whether it’s something funny that happened at the bodega, or a kind interaction on the subway. New Yorkers are entirely different than the classic rude stereotype. Everyday I saw small acts of kindness all over the city. There is a palpable energy and rhythm to the place that is difficult to describe, I spent many days off just walking through different neighbourhoods, drinking it in.

By the time August rolled around I was fully at home in the city, nothing phased me and I was able to give tourists directions and had a small network of New York friends to go out with. My friends and I had a local brunch spot where we would meet on mornings off (Manny’s), I had my favourite place to get breakfast and coffee in Williamsburg (Toby’s Estate Brooklyn), followed by my favourite spot to read my book (Tompkins square park) and eat dumplings (Dumpling Man). In my final month I went to two free gigs in Prospect park back to back, Badbadnotgood and then Noname. The second gig I went to by myself and made friends with 6 guys from Hackney, London, and had one of the best nights in the city, showing them my favourite bars in Brooklyn. In our last month my roommate and I had a beach day at Rockaway beach, rowed a boat in Central park, and hosted visiting friends. I showed my friend Sarah, who had spent the summer teaching sailing in Cape Cod, my favourite spots in the East Village and the best night out at Brooklyn Mirage, which has a breathtaking view of Manhattan. We ate our way through Smorgasburg, tried not to buy everything in Bulletin and I fell more in love with the city the more familiar it became. A lot of August was spent mentally preparing to bring back our New York attitude and style to Dublin, which meant a lot ofshopping…

I continued to work in Blue Marble until my last week in the city and continued to see lovely performances at Summerstage, like the MET ballet company. I went to my one and only Broadway show starring Armie Hammer ‘Straight White Men’, which was unlike anything I have seen at home. My street hosted a block party that turned the area into what felt like a film set with boys playing basketball, men DJing with full decks on the street and children playing by fire hydrants spraying water. Sometimes things felt so perfect I wondered if I was on some version of the Truman Show. Slowly my friends began to return home until it was just my friend Claudia and myself left, clinging onto every last moment. We decided to be as glamorous as possible in our final days, visiting Glossier, having dinner in the Whitney and shopping our way through Soho. On our final day we walked through the city soaking up every last moment and vowing to return as soon as possible. The skyline of the city teased us from the window of the AirTrain to JFK, but I knew it wasn’t a final goodbye.

Since returning to college everyone has told me that they were living vicariously through my instagram stories, which I’ve saved on my page in order to remember everything I got up to throughout the summer. Looking back on them now feels like a dream, and although I had hoped to keep a diary during my trip, the city has far too much to offer to justify sitting down for even a moment. I already have a list of things I need to do when I return.

In conclusion, going on this J1 might be the best decision I have ever made. I cannot recommend the experience enough, and I cannot thank USIT enough for choosing me as their brand ambassador this year. I have driven everyone I know insane with the stories and experiences I have accumulated from this summer so feel free to contact me if you ever need any advice on doing a J1 in New York, and of course the USIT team were a great help in any queries I had about the process before I headed off.

In the words of New Yorker Matthew Broderick (A.K.A Ferris Bueller), “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.

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