The Loneliest thing…

I’ve been in the USA for about a month now and I absolutely love it.

But the loneliest thing I have experienced whilst being here is being in a full room where no one is speaking your language. It’s very lonely.

And awkward.

Do I laugh when they laugh? Do I listen to a language I don’t understand? Do I look off into the distance while everyone else chats?

I don’t know.

I miss hearing the Australian accent and I just miss chatting to my mates over a freshly brewed cuppa.

Maaaaaaate

And you might be saying, wait – don’t they speak English in the US?

Well, yeah. Duh. But I don’t hang out with the locals. I’ve hardly met any locals. The majority of my housemates, workmates and the International Students I meet are Eastern European so they all speak very similar, if not the same, language.

There are absolutely no other Australian J1 Exchange Students. And absolutely no other native English speakers.

And to be honest, not being able to understand was my biggest fear before coming to the US.

Don’t get me wrong though. I absolutely love my friends here. They are fucking amazing. This is only a “sometime” thing. My housemates speak great English so when we do converse, it’s no struggle at all.

Otherwise, I’m having a fantastic time here. I absolutely love it. I think this is just my first bout of homesickness (which I thought would’ve come about a lot earlier).

xx

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The Working Sitch – (Rant Alert!)

I don’t know about other J1 students, but my working situation is definitely a story to tell.

First things first – whether they like you or not, you are screwed.

They love me.

They love me so much that I work from 9am to midnight. They love me so much that when I told them I wanted to quit, they told me they’d revoke my Visa and I’d have to go back to Australia. They love me SO much that they withheld my paycheque when I came back to tell them that they have no right to revoke my Visa.

Nice try.

I didn’t pay $5k to get deported after three weeks. I had to wait until I finished work at 5pm yesterday to call my agency and when I did call, I was told only the US government or agency can revoke my Visa – in the instance of illegal activity (and of course, I haven’t done anything illegal).

I also found out that my work called my agency before I could to see if they could revoke my Visa in the instance that I did quit. LOL.

I came back today to discuss the matter at hand and to pick up my paycheque…

They weren’t happy that I hadn’t changed my mind about leaving so they decided to keep my paycheque until “the matter blows over”. Umm… hello??? I need to pay for my rent and eat.

He gets to eat! …what about me??

Once again, I called my agency and was advised that what my employers are doing are illegal and no one has the right to hold my paycheque for hours worked. I worked 60 goddamn hours last week… I want my money!

And this is all because they love me, they even said so… Tough love, huh?

The other J1 students are not so lucky… My employers are required to give them 35 hours of work per week. These girls come into work everyday and are sent home. They struggle with English and the employers don’t dig that – so these girls don’t even get any hours. I was speaking to one of them and she didn’t even have enough to buy a sub at subway let alone pay for rent.

I don’t know about other J1 experiences but this has been pretty shitty.

Thank God for my sponsors who have been SO helpful with everything. I don’t know what I’d be doing without them.

Anyway, other than what’s been happening on the employment side of things – I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT HERE! I’ve made so many friends and everyone’s been so welcoming. I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

xx

First Impressions

Helloooo family, friends and everyone else in between!

Welcome to Wildwood!

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…

TRAVEL

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!

ACCOMMODATION

Lisa's Place for J1 Students

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

The view from the boardwalk

WORK

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.

THE FOOD

Americans sure do love sugar

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

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

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

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!

I’m really scared

Just thought I’d take a moment here to just be honest with myself – and to you.

In four days, I’m moving to America. It doesn’t feel too long ago when this situation was still in the distant future. Now, by the end of the week I won’t even be here anymore. Sydney will be 10 000 miles away. I don’t even know how to count by miles. It’s all so foreign to me.

At this moment, I can’t even tell you the difference between a penny and a nickel.

I don’t have the slightest clue whether 75 degrees Fahrenheit is hot or cold.

I have to get used to calling my thongs “Flip Flops” and my rubbers “Erasers” in order to not be deemed inappropriate.

Scared doesn’t quite seem to sum up the way I feel. Terrified – more like it. Not because of all the differences… but because I will be alone. I won’t have anybody there. Not my mum, not my boyfriend, not even my dog. I’m alone in this move. A whole new country. An entirely new culture.

Everything’s gone by so fast and in all honesty, I don’t think I’m ready.

But it’s happening.

A Whole New World: Culture Shock

I am leaving Sydney on May 15.

That’s it.

It’s real. I have my date.

May 15.

That is less than a month away.

And just to mix things up a little, I’m not even in Sydney right now. I’m in Manila, Philippines.

And how did I even get here?

I’m only in Manila for two weeks on a quick family holiday, but being here has opened my eyes to a completely different culture which I expect nothing less of in New Jersey.

Whilst I was in Sydney, I spoke to a lot of people about culture shock. A lot of my work mates and good friends from home migrated from all over the world. Japan, Germany, Bangladesh and Malaysia (amongst a wider array of other nations). Even my own parents migrated from the Philippines many, many years ago. I asked them all a lot of questions about what it was like moving to a new country.

The most common answer: It’s hard.

Frandzzz

I can completely see how it is hard though. I’ve only been in the Philippines for a week. It’s been super easy when I’m with my family (I just have to keep my mouth shut & we won’t get charged an extra P100). But when I’m on my own, I struggle with the language and communicating with people. They struggle with understanding me. I get stared at when I open my mouth (and I swear I brush my teeth twice a day!) It gets frustrating constantly repeating myself in english, then trying again in broken tagalog. I’m lucky I can even speak that tiny bit of tagalog. But even then, communication is the biggest struggle.

I have a lovely friend at work who migrated from Bangladesh about 8 years ago now. She used to cry every night for two years because she couldn’t speak english. People would get frustrated trying to communicate with her, so they’d just stop trying. She wouldn’t know if they were making fun of her right in front of her face. She just had to smile and take it.

Can you imagine how frustrating that must be?

Can someone bring me a translator?!!

Apart from language, environment is another large factor. Sydney and Manila – two completely different atmospheres. The people are different. The surroundings are different. Hell, even the bathrooms are a major difference.

If you grew up with the comfort of a first world country, you will get a major shock travelling to a third world country. And vice versa. Especially if you’re going over to stay a while.

I guess in that sense, the USA and Australia will be sort of similar – seeing as they’re both first world countries. I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks. But I’m sure there will still be a major culture shock in regards to the environment.

My good friend migrated from Germany I can’t remember how many years ago but he got a major shock after moving to Sydney. In Berlin, you can look at each other on public transport. You can smile at each other, make eye contact. You can even make music on the trains there. You make eye contact on a CityRail train (or Sydney Trains train, whatever you prefer to call it now) – you’re a ciggy butt brain. If you make eye contact with the wrong person, you could be in trouble (especially on the Western Sydney line). Don’t even think about making a sound unless you want to make it into the next issue of mX’s Vent Your Spleen.

Don’t be a ciggy butt brain

Overall though, I absolutely love the Philippines. I actually stayed here for three months three years ago and those were the toughest but most rewarding three months of my life.

I am looking forward to the next hurdle life throws at me in regards to my travels! New Jersey, here I come!

Anyway, I’ll be back in Sydney in just over a week and then the real countdown begins. 10 days.

Before I sign off though, I’d just like to say a quick thank you to those that made a kind donation or bought a CD while I was busking in Sydney over the last few weeks.

We sold out of CDs! TWICE!

Thank you so much. I wouldn’t be going anywhere if it weren’t for you.

I’ll be busking my little heart out once again as soon as I touch down in Sydney until I leave to go to the States! See you soon!

Wherewood? Wildwood!

I just got my job offer confirmation today.

It just hit me.

A month from now, I won’t be travelling to Sydney everyday on my familiar SydneyTrains service, I won’t be waking up every morning to my little dog, and I won’t have the familiarity of knowing every single nook and crevice like I know Sydney like the back of my hand.

In a month from now, I’ll be working in Wildwood, NJ.

Wherewood?

Wildwood.

To be honest, I’d never even heard of Wildwood until very recently. It is on the Jersey Shore (which I hope is nothing like the reality TV show) and apparently it’s a high traffic tourist destination.

What my nightmares will consist of for the next month or so

Anyway, it’ll be a massive shift for me. Not just a shift in location, but a major shift in what I’m used to. I’ll only be getting paid $8.25/hr (although the cost of living is apparently a LOT cheaper in the US) in an entry level position, whilst I try to pay rent every single week with a house full of strangers!

The entire concept terrifies me!

But it also excites me so much at the same time!

In all honesty though, I am super pumped! Wildwood is only 2.5 hours away from New York City and 1.5 hours away from Philly and there is no doubt in my mind that I will be visiting every single jam night and gig whilst I am there!

Saving Up For The Shift

I’ve never been good at saving.

As in, I’d have a particular goal I’d start saving towards, get halfway, and then decide to buy myself a pair of shoes (which now sits untouched on my shoe rack).

As some of you may know, I used to run another blog called Saving Up For Korea as a way for me to save before my last trip to the land of K-Pop and beautiful people. That blog was a way for me to save up publicly because when you’re saving publicly and you fuck up, it’s even more embarrassing because everybody knows you’ve fucked up!

So here’s me trying to save up in the public eye once more!

Due to the fact that I’m only getting less than three months to prepare for this trip, saving up has been zooper dooper hard. The last time around, I had a whole year to prepare!

Now I only have about 6 weeks left to save… and I started saving up for this with $0.00 to my name.

Good one, Jaz.

SOOO… let’s get on to the important stuff. How exactly have I been saving up?

Busking

On my days off I’ve resorted to begging on the streets busking for some extra pocket money.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

5 hours singing in Hyde Park is not so bad

I did just recently finish my Bachelor’s degree in Music so I figured I should do something along the lines of such degree, right? I’ve even gone ahead and made some home made CDs to help me get to my goal just that little bit quicker!

IMG_3351

My get rich quick scheme

You’d be surprised by the generosity of people though. I have been so humbled by everyone’s kind words and donations, and I honestly love busking. I love singing more than anything in the world, and to be absolutely honest, it totally beats my day job! I’ve even considered quitting the day job so I can busk every single day of the week!

…the only downsides I’ve encountered are rainy days and the permanent glasses tan I now have on my face from being in the sun all day.

(By the way, while I’m on the subject, I’m going to give myself a shameless plug and ask you to like my page on Facebook!)

 

The Day Job

On every other day, I’m a cheese specialist (apparently). Sounds pretty wanky, right?

I can tell you the difference between your bries and your camemberts, and I can tell you exactly just how old your parmigiano reggiano is. I can also convince you to spend $140 on a piece of cheddar, because trust me, you need it.

She’s definitely holding a wedge of Jarlsberg.

I am also stuck here for roughly 8-10 hours a day, 5-6 days a week.

But I need it if I’m going to save up enough money to travel and live in a new country (where minimum wage is $7.25… I can’t even get a happy meal with that).

But hey, I’m not going to complain. I actually really love this job (and if I complained over the internetz, I’d probably get fired).

 

Paid Gigs

The best part of saving up!

I tripped over on stage on this night

I’ve been very lucky in my life to be able to do what I want to do. I don’t do it often enough, but I do love it when I get gigs.

You can hardly even call this a job.

It’s the best fun, and if you’re lucky enough, it can be a very well paid job.

“If we do our job, music’s not black or white. It’s green.” – Jim Caparro

Anyway, all-in-all, saving’s been fairly tough. I’ve hardly had a real day off since I started saving, but I can tell it’s all going to be worth it!

 

FAQ: Before the journey begins.

Since my first blog I’ve received so many questions about my upcoming travels from friends, family and even strangers! I’ve had people messaging me on Facebook, sending me DMs over Twitter and even commenting on my Instagram with questions about what I’m about to embark on!

I never thought I’d even get any readers on this blog (besides my Mum), but the interest is overwhelming! So thanks for reading! I really, really appreciate it!

Mum trying to read my blog

Anyhoooo… without further ado, here are a few questions I have been frequently asked! (Feel free to skip through to the questions that are relevant to you.):

Why New Jersey?
To be honest, New Jersey wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to go to New York City, live the dream, and try to hunt down Brandon Stanton to get on the Humans of New York Facebook page (which I’m still going to try and do)! But when the agency called, they told me NYC was pretty much impossible for a job placement, especially as a foreigner and the best they could offer me was NJ.

Hey, you get what you’re given! I’m not going to throw away an opportunity just because it wasn’t my first choice. It’s still going to be an amazing experience, and NJ isn’t that far from NYC.

How can I do something like this?
The first step is google.

The second step is finding the perfect agency which suits your needs in terms of what you want to do and where you want to go. There are so many agencies that do Work & Travel Programs all over the world, so where you want to go probably isn’t out of reach.

I swear I was looking for Portugal

I swear I was looking for Portugal

Anyway, I went through The Global Work & Travel Co. which is my Australian agency, and in the US, I am working with InterExchange. I’m doing the Work & Travel program, but if that’s not what you want to do, you can also Volunteer or become an Au Pair.

What are you going to do there?
Man, I don’t even know yet. I know I’ll be working, but other than that, I’m pretty much just taking it one day at a time.

If I have enough money, I’d love to do a Summer Workshop at the Berklee College of Music which is in Boston. That would be a dream (but I’m pretty friggin’ broke so I’m not getting my hopes up).

Where will you live?
I’m still not 100% sure. So far it looks like I’ll be living in Bayonne, NJ which is only about 17 minutes from NYC.

Will you see Andrew?
Hahaha, the question on everybody’s lips.

Andrew is a cruise ship musician with Royal Caribbean so we’ll only be seeing each other maybe once a week if we’re lucky. He will be busy with his thing, and I’ll be busy with mine but I’m hoping to do a cruise with him while I’m there. Also, his cruise ship docks in at Bayonne which is super handy!

Anyway, at least we’ll be in the same time zone which will make Facetime a lot easier!

Cute.

Cute.

How long will you be in New Jersey for?
I don’t even know yet. I finish work in September when Summer is well and truly over. Andrew’s contract ends around the same time as mine so we might stay a little longer to check things out. I’ll already have a home there and my visa is valid for travel afterwards so I’m definitely going to take advantage of that!

Do you know anybody in NJ?
Not yet. 😉

Have you ever travelled before?
Never on my own, and never for so long.

Last year I went to South Korea with my girlfriends and I loved it! We were only there for 16 days, but it was enough to give me a travel bug.

I love Korea!

Here’s a link to my blog I started before going to Korea.

Are you crazy?!?!?!!!
Hey! Life is too short! You have to do things now! NOW!
Maybe I am a little bit crazy, but I’m doing things!

Anyway, if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask! You can ask on Facebook, twitter, or comment here and I’ll reply!

Journey to Jersey starts NOW.

Hi. My name is Jasmine, I’m 22 and I am impulsive.

I mean it.

Three weeks ago I wasn’t even thinking of moving out of home. Now, here I am finalising my documents and getting ready to move to New Jersey sometime in May. God, I don’t even know when in May.

But May is only 8 weeks away.

Holy shit.

My face when I realised May isn’t that far away.

Okay, let me give you a little bit of a back story.

At the end of last year, my boyfriend got a job sailing the Seven Seas* as a professional muso. He left about two weeks ago and being the impulsive me that I am, I decided I was super jealous and I wanted to work overseas, too!

*By Seven Seas, I actually meant the Atlantic Ocean.

So pretty much as soon as he boarded his plane and I had my little cry, I got onto google and searched for Jobs in NYC. I applied for a few things not thinking that I’d actually get any call backs, because honestly, who in New York wants me to come and work for them?

Well, I got a phone call a few days later and it turns out that no one in New York wants me to come and work for them…

But New Jersey is keen!

Anyway, the rest is history and I am actually really excited to be starting a new (albeit unexpected) experience in my life! Sometimes unexpected things just happen and I’m super pumped to see what this journey will bring! It’ll definitely be different but I’m so ready for that!