J1 Stories: Richard’s Summer in L.A.

Beautiful weather, plenty of jobs and the promise of amazing Instagrams are making Los Angeles a very popular J1 destination.

We caught up with Richard Banahan to discover why he chose L.A. for his J1 programme.

Richard Banahan – Santa Monica, CA


Preparing For My Adventure

I knew before I even applied for the J1 visa programme with USIT that my destination of choice would be Los Angeles. Having been there on multiple occasions, it was a must. The entire application process handled by USIT was very straight-forward compared to other agencies I had previously dealt with.

Prior to my departure, I had secured a job working as a waiter in Bubba Gump Shrimp Company on the pier in Santa Monica. My first week was really an orientation and training at the restaurant. This was great as it gave me time to get my bank account set up along with other things one does when they move to a new city. Getting around LA can be tricky if you don’t own a car. However, I found that The Expo line was very convenient and extremely cheap. Other than that I cycled my bike to work every day from the Palisades along the bike path which runs parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Who would want to sit in a car in traffic when you’ve got the amazing view from the ocean on your bike?

Working Life

Working at Bubba Gump Shrimp was very rewarding and exciting. My managers were so friendly and helpful. What I found from working here is that you really have to put in all the effort and make an impression. Embracing the fast-paced environment here helped me turn more tables and as a result earn more tips! Each evening after work I would cycle back to the Palisades. There is nothing more therapeutic than cycling along the ocean at night and listening to the waves crashing on the shore.


Exploring Los Angeles

On my days of I really made use of the time I had to go exploring. I didn’t go to the usual touristy places as I wanted to try something different. The Malibu pier is a great place to go especially during the weekday mornings as it’s not too crowded. If you’re a foodie like me then the Farmers Market on Fairfax and Third is the place to go. You never know, you might spot someone famous here. Be sure to try a donut or three from Bob’s Donuts. The Grand Central Market Downtown Los Angeles is also really cool. Taco Tuesday is a big deal over in the States. Being so close to Mexico, you will find the best Carnitas and Margaritas in Southern California.

As I’m passionate about music and arts, I attended various concerts and shows which were usually held in the Music Center or the Walt Disney concert hall. Some of the best orchestras in the world are based here including the LA Phil and the California Phil.


Apart from cycling to work every day I explored other ways of staying in shape, after all, I was trying all these delicious cuisines. Just off Sunset Boulevard is the Temescal canyon hike trail. I would definitely recommend this one compared to the likes of Runyon canyon which can be quite crowded. The Temescal canyon ridge trail gives you outstanding views of Malibu, Santa Monica and Downtown Los Angeles if you’re around on a really clear day.

Exploring the US

After my contract had ended with Bubba Gump I was given a month’s grace period for traveling. Some of the places I went to include San Francisco, Las Vegas, Santa Barbara, and San Diego. Be sure to book plane tickets early in advance as they can get expensive nearer the time. I would recommend Southwest Airlines.

My Advice to any J1 thinking of heading off to Los Angeles would be, do plenty of research in relation to finding affordable accommodation that’s not too far from your job. Be ready to embrace the “Work Hard, Play Hard” culture and you will have the most amazing summer of your life, I know I did!

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