6 Reasons A Cambio is a Legit Alternative to a J-1 Visa
As of summer 2016, Irish students who want to participate in the J-1 Work & Travel programme will have to have a vetted seasonal job before their summer visa is approved. These new requirements mean that the J-1 visa – for many, a hallmark of Irish student life – will be more challenging than ever to secure.
But don’t despair! No J-1 doesn’t mean no fun. I’m going to show you why a J-1 isn’t the only viable way of travelling this summer, and how a little thing called cambioing could change the summer plans of Irish students forever. (Yes, I’m a little ambitious. Keep up.)
1) You have WAY more options
A J-1 visa is arguably a right of passage for Irish students. Everyone does one.
And guess what? Everyone pretty much has the exact same experience.
Come June, Brian from Irish College (who’s spending the summer in Ocean City) will be sharing the exact same Snapchat story as Fiona from down the road (who’s doing a J-1 in Cali).
Your Facebook feed will be littered with every Tom, Dick and Harry (Or Tadhg, Dara and Higgins) posting identical photos of baseball games, red cup parties and sunburn selfies.
But on a cambio, you really do have the chance to spend your summer a little differently.
Whether you take inspiration from our previous GoCambio Guests – who’ve taught Spanish via photography in the Rockies and produced podcasts in home-studios in Yorkshire – or you have your own adventure all mapped out, take one for the team and do it for the armchair travellers back home who’ll live vicariously through your Instagram.
2) It’s much, much cheaper
Let’s break this down for a second.
Students = no money. J-1= lots of money.
Now I’m no mathematician, but even I know that doesn’t look good.
A J-1 has lots of costs – some obvious ones (hello transatlantic flights) and some not-so-obvious ones (US embassy fee? Come again?). You’ll need proof of funds before entering the US to show you’ll be able to support yourself during your stay – no wards of the state, please. If you haven’t secured accommodation before you leave, you’ll need enough money to survive in a hostel. Then you’ll need rent money, which clocks up in no time – even with hall cupboards turning into extra bedrooms. Plus a surplus stash for emergencies, insurance, the program application itself… truth be told, I’ve lost count already.
On a cambio, your accommodation is already paid for – yippee! And guess what? You’ll also get some home-cooked meals from your friendly Host to tide you over, so you can save your money for whatever you like.
And with members in over 120 countries, you’re not limited to the good ol’ United States of America, so your flights needn’t break the bank.
3) You’ve got plenty of freedom
When you go on a J-1, you’re pledging yourself to a 3 or 4 month stay in a whole new country. A whole new continent, for that matter.
And because of A) the distance and B) the cost of flights, you’re more than likely not going to come home in the middle of it.
So naturally you miss stuff – birthdays, family events, parties… your dog. Plus there’s every college student’s fear – will you need to come back in August for repeats?
Maybe I’m just a touch commitment phobic (I blame Sex and the City), but I like to have options, you know?
With a cambio, you decide on your departure date, the length of your stays, and where you’re going to go when you’re over there. You could enjoy a long weekend in Italy in June, work (and save!) in July, curtain call the whole summer with a three-week stint in Japan in August AND still manage to be a bridesmaid at your cousin’s wedding in Kilkenny and set up camp for three days at the highlight of Irish summers, Electric Picnic.
I know. Best of both worlds, right?
Don’t worry, guys go free on GoCambio too
4) You can travel alone…
On a J-1, you end up living in extremely – and I mean extremely – close quarters with people whose presence you don’t fully understand.
Is she your best friend’s cousin? Boyfriend? Boyfriend’s cousin? Boyfriend’s cousin’s old roommate? Boyfriend’s cousin’s old roommate’s best friend? (Seriously, who is that?)
You spend a lot of time with these people – you might even end up working with them as well – and you’re not likely to get a moment alone on your entire trip. Even the smallest of decisions are made ‘as a group’ and take for-ev-er.
Meanwhile, a cambio is a perfect way of doing a spot of solo travelling this summer. When you explore the world as a party of one, you get to call the shots. You do things YOUR way.
You decide where you eat and what sites to visit. Your days revolve around your interests, your budget and your own schedule (just don’t forget about helping your Host with their new language or skill!). You gain confidence, challenge your limits and while it’s cliché, yes, you DO learn more about yourself.
Plus if it’s your first time adventuring alone, a cambio is way less intimidating than committing to a 3 month stint in Canada. You could spend a weekend in Spain or a two-week séjour in France – it’s completely up to you! (That’s always nice to hear, right?)
Hugh gets it
…or you can go with friends!
If the thought of travelling the world on your tobler (your own) are still a little bit too much for you, then that’s A-OK.
A J-1 isn’t the only way of seeing the world with your friends; GoCambio has several Hosts who are more than happy to take in couples or groups. This way you still have the camaraderie of a gang holiday, but a real opportunity to do something totally different with your break.
And here’s the thing – even if you’re especially popular and have lots and lots of pals in tow (including your best friend’s boyfriend’s cousin’s old roommate’s best friend), some of our most sought-after locations (like London, UK) have multiple Hosts in one area, which means you can enjoy your own city takeover! Did someone say road trip?
They’ll be there for you
5) Accommodation is all taken care of
J-1 accommodation stories are the stuff of legends.
As you’ll probably know, house-hunting is a stressful enough experience at the best of times, never mind trying to do it in a new country while simultaneously trying to find a job, living out of a suitcase and watching your bank account deplete before your very eyes.
Visit a 3 bed apartment in San Diego and you’ll probably find 19 people and a wicked stench of B.O.
(Just THINK of the queue for the toilet in the mornings. And the fact that some poor sod’s probably sleeping in the bath.)
On a cambio, your accommodation is already sorted before you leave and it’s FREE. You’re even guaranteed your own private bedroom – swoon. (And did we mention that it’s free?)
So when your best friend’s found herself sharing a single bed with four strangers in a townhouse basement with no air-con in the middle of July, just try to resist sounding too smug. You’re better than that.
Kirk Van Houten knows what’s up
6) You gain real work experience
We’ve all heard the horror stories of J-1 summer jobs.
A friend of mine – whose identity I feel I should protect – spent a summer in Vancouver working as a hotel cleaner. After a house party the night before, she started work at 8 a.m. Each hotel room had to be cleaned in 15 minutes. In the first room, she told herself she’d have a quick lie down before she got started – just to get the ball rolling. At 11 a.m., she was woken by the boss – lying on the first bed she was supposed to clean. I don’t think that particular hotel is hiring J-1 workers anymore.
On a cambio, however, you have a real opportunity to develop your skills and gain practical, hands-on experience in your field while simultaneously seeing the world. Unlike J-1 summer jobs, a cambio doesn’t involve the joyful pastime of scrubbing toilets, mopping up dingy dive bar floors or serving greasy fast food in excessively large portions.
A graphic designer? You could help a budding German entrepreneur with their business card design and get a great reference from them to use on your CV, or maybe a glowing recommendation on LinkedIn to boost your reputation.
Have a passion for photography? Your pictures could take your American Host’s website to a whole new level, while expanding your own design portfolio
You’d be surprised at what skills you have to offer – our Guests provide everything from correct coffee pouring techniques to dog training.
Plus, unlike a typical 9-5 job (which in the service industry end up being more like 7-6, realistically) a cambio involves spending just 2 hours a day helping your Host out. You could spend a sunny evening playing a game of footy with your Host and their friends or a morning in a museum or gallery, discussing art history. Even if you’re just sharing your English with your Host, a casual conversation over a cold beer at the local pub for a couple of hours surely beats a 9 hour retail shift any day. (Plus, unlike a typical working holiday where you spend most of your day-to-day life locked inside, you’ll have way more time to actually, you know, TRAVEL.)
Moral of the story? Don’t be like this poor bunny
Has this article sparked any cambio ideas of your own? Maybe you’ve finally worked out how to put those sign language classes to good use, or you’ve been racking your brains about the infamous catch-22 (need experience to get a job, need a job to get experience). So why not sign up to GoCambio here and start planning your best summer yet? (J-1 tonne not included.)
About the Author: Emma is a 23-year-old copywriter at GoCambio and part-time shoe seller, so she’s always ready to think on her (size 5.5) feet. With a background in English, History, and Creative Advertising, some of Emma’s passions include fashion, travel, writing, film and social media. And tea. Black, no sugar.