Helloooo family, friends and everyone else in between!
Welcome to Wildwood, New Jersey, USA!
I’ve been here for just about three days now, but I can already tell you a lot about it!
Coming here on a J1 Student Exchange Visa is probably very different to coming here simply for a holiday. As soon as I got here, I was thrust into the deep end.
Let me start of with the entire travel experience…
It took me one car to get to Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport.
From Sydney Kingsford Smith, I flew to LAX for 14 hours. I was lucky, however, that it wasn’t a full flight so I had a spare seat next to me to dump everything onto.
Not the same case on the plane from LAX to JFK… This flight only went for 5 hours after a 2 hour stopover in Los Angeles. Don’t get too excited yet – Customs took up all my time and I didn’t even get to check out the airport! Oh well. I was seated next to a lovely couple from Melbourne who were going to visit their son who’s been studying in New York (and can speak fluent Chinese to the delight of his Mother & Father). They were very lovely! But it was squishy and I was sitting at the window seat.
While everyone was sleeping on the plane, my stomach decided that it really, really hated me. I tried to ignore it. It wouldn’t give up. The couple next to me had their tray tables down and were fast asleep (eye masks, snoring with their mouths open)… I had to wake them up and pretty much climb over their legs. Not fun at all, and just slightly embarrassing.
Oh well. Shit happens. (No pun intended)
After I got to JFK airport in New York City, I realised just how lost I was. Nobody was willing to help me because they all seemed to be in some sort of major rush. I ended up paying $7.99 for one hour of wifi… which I only used for 10 minutes just to find my way.
From there, I took a shuttle bus, waited for 2 hours, got jipped out of $10, took another bus, waited for another hour, then finally got to Wildwood after the last bus. This was at 5am. I am so lucky that my landlord at Lisa’s Place has the kindest heart and waited for me to get home!
Lisa’s Place for J1 Students
As soon as I got to my bed I died. I had never been more exhausted in my entire life. So much so that I ended up sleeping a good 13 hours until 6pm the next day. I blame jet lag – there are 14 hours between the East Coast of USA and Sydney.
The only reason I woke up was because my two new housemates were worried about me! Hahahaha. I think they thought I was dead or something. My current housemates are from Bulgaria, and they are very sweet but by the end of June there will be 12 girls living together. Eeek, sounds like fun!
But I really do highly recommend Lisa’s Place for J1 Accommodation. I’ve had a look around the neighbourhood and Lisa’s is by far the best – and the fact that she’s so lovely is an added bonus!
The accomodation is about 5-10 minutes walk from the boardwalk so you’ll never be too far from work!
Anyway, I basically slept through that entire day. I missed all my emails from my manager telling me to come to work for orientation (not that I would have made it anyway considering how exhausted my body was).
The view from the boardwalk
But I did start work yesterday – very unexpectedly. I came in early in the morning to say hi and they told me to come back at 4pm to say hi to my manager… I did – and he started my shift right then and there. I had 5 minutes worth of training, then I was basically expected to know exactly what to do.
I’ll be honest, I absolutely hated it yesterday just because like, well, I’m new. How the fuck do you expect me to know everything? I’m not even from this country. I can’t even show the customers what they want because I don’t know if we have it or where it even is.
But I dealt with it and I went back to work today and it was a lot better. I came in and made sure I was in a good mood. I was shown around and taught what to do and that’s what I was hoping for yesterday. I was given a bit more responsibility which is what I was hoping for, so hopefully in a few weeks I’ll be able to do a lot more to occupy my brain.
Oh, and also my manager gave me pizza – I love pizza. Now, I love my job.
Americans sure do love sugar
One thing that is certain from this place is that I’m going to get fat while I’m here. Like, real fat.
I went to the supermarket hoping for vegetables… I found tinned vegetables stuffed with preservatives. I’ve never been fussy with preservatives and whatnot, but I do want to live relatively healthy. My six inch sub from Subway was probably the healthiest thing I’ve eaten since coming here.
EVERYTHING I have encountered here in relation to food has been massive. Remember that pizza my boss gave me? One slice was the size of my head. My small ice cream was too big I couldn’t even reach the cone before I had enough of it – and their lollies are sold by the pound! Don’t even get me started on the hoagies – look it up on google. I can’t even.
A massive plate of FREEDOM
That picture above? That’s nothing. I demolished that plate. But from now on I might just be sticking to Cheerios and skim milk for breakfast.
The place in general is beautiful. A lot of the people are genuinely curious about where I’m from and they’ve been so nice – especially the locals that work on the boardwalk. They’re so interested in meeting the new exchange students – but I get a little bit of extra attention because apparently there have never been any other Australians on exchange to come to Wildwood! So I guess you can call me a pioneer 😉
The Wildwood Boardwalk is also very lively. It’s a very family oriented place with rides at Morey’s Pier and lots of stores for families with little kids… but once you step off the boardwalk and back on the streets, it’s a little different. There are private property houses with “No Trespassing signs” and cats littered in the front yard…. but it is a very “American” looking place (in my humble Australian opinion).
Gitoff mah prawperty
It’s really different to home for me personally though. It’s eerily quiet at night. It’s so quiet that I can hear my heart beating in my skull – but that might just be because I’m so used to falling asleep with the sound of Mother Dearest and her TV in the background.
All-in-all, this has just been the first three days. I think I can really grow to love this place – but I really cannot wait until I get to check out New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC and maybe even take a cruise to Bermuda and the Bahamas!