Sunday 24 September 2017

Comment: There were fewer Irish on a J1, but Trump's presence went unnoticed

Statue of Liberty New York. Photo: Deposit
Statue of Liberty New York. Photo: Deposit

John Ivory

Living in America for three months allows you to become a local for the short time you’re there.

Myrtle Beach, in South Carolina, is very fond of the hundreds of Irish that come each summer – but this summer saw far less Irish make Myrtle Beach home.

I don’t think this could be attributed to Donald Trump being in power. His election had no bearing on my decision to go there. Myrtle Beach is a place to enjoy yourself, and if you go there, making money is not the top priority. It’s about the independence, the night life, and the sun.

It was strange seeing the confederate flags proudly worn by many locals and American tourists, as well as flying high at some restaurants and bars. African-Americans walked past these to work every day – provided they weren’t working in a flag-bearing business.

Aside from all this, you see the reality of America for people who aren’t living the 'American Dream'. Those who live in motels with their families, working service jobs, trying to make a living.

You see the homelessness, the evidence of gang trouble, drug addiction, poor education, unemployment, and several other flaws that exist in American society, but are by no means unique to America.

One that was more unique was the crippling fear any Irish student had about getting injured or sick. Bills arrived to our doors and thankfully insurance covered them, but not all Americans are in our position.

While the locals who worked with us and hired us seemed to enjoy our presence, they are not the ones who make the call as to whether our visa programme will continue. The man who has that power also has the ability to at least try and deal with the other issues I’ve already mentioned. However, whether he can, or will, remains a doubt.

Myrtle Beach is in a red state but we didn’t feel it. Perhaps because I was part of a strong Irish community, who the locals are accustomed to seeing. However, I genuinely don’t feel our experience would have been any different if there was anyone else in the Oval Office. We caused no trouble and revelled in what America culture we could. It would be a great travesty if this experience was to be ended for Irish students.

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