Sunday 22 April 2018

The Weekly Read: An island girl's insight into the surprising similarities between the Aran Islands and a J1

Megan Roantree reveals her experience of living on Inis Mór and how there are surprising similarities between living on the island and being on a J1

Megan Roantree

You'll see it on Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter - thousands of students are having a great time on their J1.

For anyone who doesn't know, a J1 visa allows Irish third level students to work and travel in the USA for the summer.

You'll see snaps of Central Park, American names increasing on your friends' Facebook pages, and articles and stories all over about the students' adventures.

This is a lot less fun for those of us stuck at home. Luckily for me, I live somewhere unique.

When my classmates and I finished up for the summer and began to part ways, anyone not going on a J1 was absolutely dreading heading home for four months.

Although I was sad to be leaving DCU for a few months, I count myself very lucky to be able to spend my summers in Inis Mór which is an amazing place to be during the break.

Read more: The Weekly Read: An island girl's insight into growing up on Inis Mór

So although I'm somewhat bitter about the fact that I'm not on a J1 in Chicago or New York or somewhere cool, there are many factors to island life which makes the alternative closer to a J1 than one might think.

1. You get to meet interesting characters and sample different cultures

On Inis Mór, everyday is an opportunity to meet new people. Thousands of tourists visit the Island everyday in the summer.

While working in a coffee shop, I am encouraged to chat to visitors and many of them stay for hours and chat and give me snippets of their lives all around the world.

This week for example I met an American girl with diabetes who had a pet poodle that signaled when her blood sugars were irregular. What's more, within the past week alone I have met people from each and every continent.

2. You make new friends

Where I live, a huge amount of people my age come out to work for the summer, visit family or learn Irish. I have made some best friends because of the fact that the island is such a desired place for a summer job.

From Gaeltacht-goers to grandparent-visitors, there is an abundance of young people falling in love with the island every summer. 

One of my best friends, for example, came once from Chicago to visit cousins and became friends with all the locals, so much so that she is even moving back here in September.

3. You get valuable experience

Although it's a tiny place, the different experiences I get every day is surprising. I have met journalists, politicians, celebrities and general interesting humans while simply serving coffee.

I have got ideas for blogs and stories as well as valuable contacts all because I live somewhere that is a tourist attraction.

So while you may think California is the place for celeb-spotting, Amy Adams, Stephen Spielberg, Aidan Gillan and Lauren Graham from Gilmore Girls (a personal favourite!) are among the well known faces who have paid a visit in recent years.

4. The new J1 is Inis Mór

Most college students who stay in Ireland go from May to September separated from their university friends by counties and are only connected through Snapchat.

However, because where I live is so interesting to so many of my friends, it has become mandatory for the DCU gang to all come to Inis Mór to catch up and hang out.

Meaning I get to see my friends more because of the fact that I live somewhere that is historical, visually stunning and serious craic (and also because they really miss me, I'm sure!)

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