Tag Archives: j1 visa

Unofficial Translator

It’s summertime again and that means that my workplace has been flooded with dozens of Europeans with J1 Visas. They stay in the U.S. for a couple of months, work hard and party harder, and then go back home to their various countries. They all speak English as a second or third language, but most of them have different dialects and delicious accents. They speak Russian, Gaelic, Croatian, Slovak, you name it. They are awesome to hang out with, so of course I hang out with them. And I’ve become an unofficial translator.

I can’t speak Russian, Gaelic, Croatian, or Slovak. I speak J1. It’s like English but a lot slower and it involves a lot of hand gestures. You have to be able to explain things in a relatable way. One of my J1s went to get a tattoo and had to fill out paperwork. Initial here, here, and here, signature here. I had to tell her what her initials were and what to write. I went shopping with another J1 friend and the salesman made a pitch that he didn’t understand. He asked the salesman to repeat himself to me so I could decipher the message and relay it back to him.

I’m not saying that Europeans suck at English. I’m saying that Americans suck at English. They use fancy and proper words. They say advocate instead of lawyer. They spell color like colour. They add the U. Fancy. Proper. Americans have dumbed down the English language, so that even when Europeans say something right most Americans can’t understand what they are saying. That’s where I come in. I can turn casual speech into proper speech and vice versa so that a more cultured society can understand our primitive selves. It’s enough to warrant myself as an unofficial translator. I’ll take it.

Critically Rated at 13/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young


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When Tragedy Strikes

I woke up this morning to news of a balcony collapse in Berkeley, California. A bunch of Irish students were celebrating a twenty-first birthday when the 4th floor balcony collapsed and pancaked into the balcony below. Six died, seven more were hospitalized, and two are in critical condition. One minute they were partying and celebrating life, and then everything changed in an instant. It’s not fair. You try to make sense out of it. You can’t.

Every summer, thousands of Irish students come to the work in the US with J1 visas. I work in a San Francisco restaurant that employs a handful of them each year. I’ve met a lot of Irish people over the years. They are great people. They work hard and they play hard. They are close-knit group, and treat each other like family. Ireland is small so they tend to stick together, but they aren’t exclusive. Anybody who wants to party with an Irish J1 is more than welcome to (and they know how to party). That’s why it sucks so much when something like this happens. They don’t deserve it. Nobody does, but especially not them.

This is a tragedy. It’s a punch to the stomach. All you can do is try to gather up the pieces and move on, but you can never fully recover from something like this. My thoughts and condolences go out to the family and friends to all those affected by this unfortunate accident. It’s a reminder that life can change in an instant. Never take anything for granted because tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Critically Rated at 3/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young


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If you don’t know what a J1 is, then I feel sorry for you. J1s are glorified tourists who get a J1 visa that allows them to work in America for a few months, with extra time allotted to tour the states and see the sights. It’s basically a work and travel program for college students from various European countries and a few South American countries. If you’ve even been to New York City, San Francisco, Orlando, or any other hotspot during the summertime and heard a delicious accent from an employee at a touristy restaurant like Hard Rock or Boudin, that was probably a J1.

J1s live together in hotels or hostels, often 3 or 4 crammed into a small space. It is basically dorm living, but you are in America and you have a right to go crazy and party every day and night. And that’s what they do. The cool ones at least.

The J1s experience more of America than most Americans do. They make sure to visit New York City and San Francisco and everywhere in between. They visit Vegas and Disneyland and go skydiving. They live more in 4 months than a lazy American does in 4 years.

J1s have a chance to explore the world and they make the most of it. And then they go home and you talk to them on Facebook. If you are fortunate to befriend some of them, it’s comforting to know that you have a couch you can crash on in Croatia if you need. Or Serbia. Or Ireland. Just don’t go to Moscow. Long story.

Critically Rated at 17/17

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