Following on from my last post about the situation in America when it comes to tragedies like, that which has fallen on the families of 6 young people from Ireland who fell to their deaths from a balcony in California this week. I wanted to comment about the J1 Visa program. This is because that has been the ire of the New York Times article which pissed so many people off. One of the victims sister wrote a response to the article damning them for writing it. Now, she also responded by saying YOUR country’s engineering is the cause. Maybe she worded that incorrectly because the way I read it, that was a generalization about American building practices…it could be heat of the moment but I would not combat a generalization with another generalization but whatever, she’s not a journalist so her integrity can’t be called into question the way the supposed journalist at the New York Times can.
The J1 Visa…above are some tweets from an Irish comedian. He claims it’s a trip we’ve all done. Well, not quite. It’s a trip that a group of the more privileged kids in Ireland get to do. He said practically everybody does it…Maybe that’s not misleading because most kids are privileged in Ireland. We have a pretty equal system that provides a wonderful quality of life for pretty much everybody BUT to me the ability to go to the US for the summer on a J1 trip was a little out of reach. I also have friends who have never been on a J1 trip. I’m sure we’d all have loved the opportunity to go and I wouldn’t begrudge those who do get to go.
At one time, in Ireland, I was very bitter and resentful at those students who didn’t have to work during the college year and seemingly either worked very little during the summer or not at all. They got a free ride while I had to work myself into the ground. What’s worse when you’re working during college, it’s like working an 8 day week. You still have your college work and lectures. Then your work 30+ hours a week. There’s no day of rest. The people where you work that are full time usually look at you as though you’re lower than them and can be nasty to you. When so many of your classmates, roommates etc. don’t work..you don’t really have many people in the same situation that you can relate to. I had a girlfriend who did work during college but then one summer she decided to quit her job and move to Scotland for 3 months. She urged me to come over too. I couldn’t. I couldn’t afford to. I just got my first job out of college and had loans that I needed to pay back. She struggled to understand my reluctance. I told her, I don’t have a job over there. She said you can find one. I said I can’t go there without a job. She said all of us are (her and her friends. That kind of made me come to a realization. It’s not just about having the money to do these things. It’s really more about a support structure. If you can turn to your parents and ask for them to send you money to come home and they’ll feed you and take care of you. You can take this risks at a young age. I wasn’t in that situation.
Most kids in Ireland are in that situation. Do most go on a J1? Maybe, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve known a lot who did go on a J1. I’ve known a lot who go traveling after college…it was not a world that I know. The article highlighted incidents in which J1’ers destroyed an apartment in San Francisco. There’s countless stories of J1 students destroying places. Getting into massive brawls and sometimes even worse. These are kids that don’t really have to worry about consequences. Is it reflective of all J1 students? Of course not.
But I will say. The kids that died this week were probably drunk at the time but that balcony would likely have collapsed even if they weren’t. Do most kids who go on a J1 trip act like assholes and spend the summer getting wasted? I’m going to go with a yes on that one. Is that an embarrassment to the country of Ireland? No, it’s not. Should it be? Maybe. We have a very unhealthy relationship with alcohol. Absolutely everything is tied to alcohol for us. A birthday? Drink! A wedding? Drink! A communion? Drink!, A funeral?, Drink! A concert? Drink!, In an airport for a couple of hours? Drink! A sporting event? Drink!, It’s raining out?, Drink!, The sun is out, Drink! It’s a long weekend, Drink! Going on holiday? Drink! I just had a baby, Drink! I just graduated, Drink! I got my drivers license!, Drink! I just got a job, Drink! I want to hang out with friends, Drink! etc.
It would be great for the Irish to collectively stand up and say, maybe this culture does us more harm than good. Maybe sending our kids off to America for the summer to get drunk and dick around isn’t the best way to nurture them or encourage them to live their life and have fun. But then, when the previous generation did the same thing and now my generation has done the same thing. It’s a vicious cycle to break. It’s like gangs in LA! You always hear that they don’t have any good reason for taking part but they do anyways, it’s how they are shown to live their lives.
As an Irish person living and working in America. The J1 Visa program is an embarrassment to me. America does not enjoy the same equality as Ireland. I have yet to meet somebody here who hasn’t worked from a young age and worked through school. I met a young man working in Fuddruckers who asked me what I do for a living and how he could do what I do. He’s never left Arizona. I’m working with a guy right now who hasn’t been to any other state in the US. They don’t have the means to. That’s not the fault of Americans but I’m embarrassed that our kids are coming over here and acting like the relatively small group of young Americans from an elite class. I don’t think it endears us to anybody.
That’s just me rambling. To anybody on a J1. Go and have fun. Be sensible and courteous. This is not your country, treat it with respect.