Hundreds of students gathered at Dublin's Convention Centre on Spencer Dock on Wednesday to meet potential employers ahead of their planned J1 visa adventures in the United States this summer.
Dressed in clean shirts and carefully polished shoes and grasping tightly onto stacks of freshly printed CVs, students from around the country queued at the Usit J1 visa fair, eager to impress American organisations on the lookout for summer employees.
This year is the first time students seeking to travel to the US on a J1 work visa must provide evidence of a prearranged job before they travel following changes announced by the US embassy last November.
Initial worries that the new rules would impact on the number of students participating in the programme proved to be unfounded after Usit, the student travel body, reported it had experienced “massive”numbers of queries from students seeking to travel in 2016.
Experience US culture
US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O'Malley said despite the changes, the programme will continue to give thousands of Irish students the chance to experience US culture at first hand.
“This is a programme where people have a chance to really find out about themselves as they’re away from home.
“It’s really a cornerstone of the wonderful relationship between the United States and Ireland that has existed over these 50 years of this programme, where so many Irish students have come to the US and establish life-long friendships and a pattern of respect for the United States.
“That’s why you have so many employers who have travelled over the ocean to come here to interview young Irish students.”
Some 14 employers had set up stalls at the Convention Centre on Wednesday looking to fill 280 positions for summer 2016.
However, students must not be disheartened if they walk away from the hiring fair without a job, Usit managing director Dearbhla O’Brien said.
‘Hiring every day’
“There’s just so many other employers that we have, we’re literally hiring every day of the week,” said Ms O’Brien. “Students can come into us and they do a Skype interview - we arrange it. There’s loads more out there.”
Ms O'Brien recommends students "get the ball rolling" by early March at the very latest. Students should also consider visiting some of the lesser known states rather than following the masses to places like Cape Cod and San Francisco, she said.
“We like to see them spread out a bit. It’s good for them to actually get immersed with Americans and not stay with their friends all the time.”
John Collins from Wequassett Resort and Golf Club in Cape Cod said employers are not necessarily looking for students with years of experience.
“We like to look for people with great attitudes, great smiles, people who our guests would just like to interact with.
“We can take someone with virtually no experience and they get that training when they arrive.”
Mark MacNamara, a final year student at Limerick Institute of Technology, will be spending his summer in South Carolina after he was offered a job as a laser tag assistant at the Wonderworks amusement park in Myrtle Beach.
“It [the job interview] was very relaxed, they made you feel very comfortable. We were asked to explain where we’re from, if we could have dinner with one person who would it be and what would we do, and just explained a bit about the place and asked us which position we’d like to apply for.”
“I just want to work and travel, experience a different culture. Go over and see how I get on on my own.”