I know that CIEE have been running a number of these orientation sessions which have been informative, interactive and fun. Today I’m sure will be no different. They will be able to provide you with useful and important advice for your upcoming summers.
I have a great deal of experience of travelling to the USA myself over the years and have always enjoyed being in, and exploring, this beautiful and fascinating country.
The J1 visa specifically is a wonderful opportunity for you to participate in a cultural exchange in which you can experience all that the United States has to offer, while acting in an ambassadorial role yourself to show the best of Ireland to your hosts.
In this way it really is a programme which has provided further invaluable links to the interwoven stories of the USA and Ireland. It is a programme, and a relationship, which the Irish government deeply cherishes.
Many of those who travel to the USA on a J1 visa are beginning a friendship with that country which will endure throughout their lives. The links and friends which you will make in the coming months may stand you in good stead for the rest of your lives.
I know that you will find the experience enriching and hugely beneficial to yourself, both upon your return to your studies but also in the future, when you are applying for jobs in the world beyond your university experience.
The value of events such as today’s is that any time you travel to a new place, one which you do not know and which you have never been to before, problems can arise. It is good to have an idea of what those problems could be, and what you would need to do to overcome them, before you travel. CIEE will be able to talk you through some of these issues in a few minutes.
In this light I am delighted to draw your attention to this Guide to the J1 experience, produced by the Union of Students in Ireland and supported by my Department.
I would ask you to each take a copy and be aware that you can also locate it online on the USI website, and indeed on the J1 section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website too.
Issues which can arise, and which you really do need to consider before travelling, are often those related to accommodation, employment and, especially, insurance.
I would urge every one of you to carefully read the health insurance policy which you have taken out for the duration of your trip. Familiarise yourselves with it and know before you go what it covers. This is your responsibility and yours alone.
Be aware, too, that while you may feel like you know the US already, it is a very different country, with very different rules, to Ireland. You need to respect the law at all times – just because you think what you’re doing is “just a bit of craic” doesn’t mean it may not land you in jail in the USA.
Should you have need of their services or their assistance, the Irish Embassy in the USA, as well as our six consulates across the country, stand ready to assist. The embassy is in Washington DC; our consulates are located in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Contact details for all of these are in this document, or you can find contact details for them on our website at www.dfa.ie
But I want to stress again that this is a wonderful opportunity for you, one which I am sure you will find very fulfilling. I hope that you all enjoy your J1 summer, and that you find it as rewarding as so many Irish students before you have.
I hope that it enriches both the experience as well as the memories of your time in University, while providing you with a unique perspective on living and working abroad, while making friends and contacts which may last a lifetime.