J1 Destinations in the USA
The Sunshine State
- Kennedy Space Center
- Ocean Drive, Miami
- Key West
- St Augustine
- Walt Disney World, Orlando
- Everglades National Park
Longing for theme parks and beaches? Think a bikini and some Mickey Mouse ears are a perfect summer fashion statement? Ever wondered if alligator really does taste like chicken? Then Florida is the state for you.
For most, Florida conjures up images of spring break, orange juice and year-round kitsch, but there's more to the Sunshine State than meets the eye. This most southern of states has a culture all its own, where marching to your own beat is practically a requirement.
Whether you're soaking up Cuban culture in sun-drenched Miami, investigating the new hot club in Orlando or exploring the Everglades by boat, a stay in Florida is anything but average.
This tropical climate state see summer averages of 32 °C
Florida falls within the Eastern Standard Time zone.
Due to the small size of this state, most people choose to travel via provate vehicle, so travelling around the state by public transport may take some planing in advance. Within cities and towns cycling is often the best form of transport so you can avoid traffic jams, etc.
Miami. Students encounter difficulties with weather (hurricane season in summer means rain), cost of living (even though it's low season in summer, South Beach is very expensive) and transport is terrible - advisable to get a car where necessary. In saying this, there is good feedback of having fun in the sun, especially for students who got work on the beach!
Where to Live
Florida is a massive state, with beachfront cities all along its coast and a thriving tourist economy. However, it's rarely visited by J1ers. Only 1% of Irish students head here every year. With so few J1ers around, you'll have far less competition for jobs and accommodation that you would in surf cities on the West Coast, and loads of opportunities to mix with the locals.
The city of Miami is six times closer to Cuba that it is to Washington D.C., so don't be surprised if you hear Spanish at the supermarket or Latin grooves at the local club. Perhaps most famous (or is that infamous?) for its South Beach party scene, Miami is a town with a reputation for beautiful people, over-the-top glam and some of the wildest nightlife the south has to offer.
Local students flock to the Coconut Grove area, home to lots of clubs, bars and bohemian shops. South Beach and Miami Beach are also popular, though areas that trendy will come with a heftier price tag.
Some practical stuff to know about Miami
- Climate: Miami's subtropical climate means summers here can be unpredictable. Expect a lot of heat and humidity, with average temperatures of 30ºC or more. However, afternoon thunderstorms (which are quite common) will help cool things down. So, unfortunately, will the hurricanes which can hit the city at this time of year.
- Getting Around: Miami's transit system is hit and miss, but you can easily navigate most neighbourhoods on foot. Or, do what the locals do and get a bicycle. South Beach has its own $0.25 shuttle and the Lego-esq Metromover offers free rides in the downtown area.
For longer commutes, Miami has both a bus and heavy rail system. However, if you're not living in affluent Northern Miami the latter may be more useful for traveling around downtown. For more on routes and fares check out miamidade.gov/transit/.
Best known as the city that Disney built, Orlando is also home to Sea World, the Wet 'N Wild water park, Universal Studios and smaller theme parks like Gatorland and The Holy Land Experience (yes, really). These resorts are great job hunting spots, but don't worry: they're not all Orlando has to offer.
The city's stylish downtown is packed with clubs, restaurants, theatres and bars. Here you can take in a free concert on pedestrian-only Wall St. or rent a swan-shaped boat and cruise Lake Eola. The city is also home to the Orlando Magic NBA team and loads of shopping opportunities.
Orlando may be synonymous with Disney World, but the sprawling resort is actually located in Lake Buena Vista, a city about 30 minutes away.
Some practical stuff to know Orlando
- Climate: Like much of Florida, Orlando has a subtropical climate, so expect hot, humid days. Temperatures usually hover around 32ºC and rarely fall below 21ºC. As in Miami, afternoon thunderstorms are common, sometimes daily, occurrences. However, they often last for as little as 10 minutes and are welcome relief from the heat.
- Get Around: The LYNX bus service serves all of Orlando and Central Florida. Rates are about $2, no matter how many stops you're staying on for. The IRIDE trolley bus runs along International Drive (home to most of the city's major theme parks) with fares of around $1.50. Check golynx.com for routes and times.
Level with the Bahamas and only 94 miles north of Cuba, Key West is about as far away from the rest of the United States as you can get without crossing a border. This small city - located on the southern end of the southernmost island off the southern tip of Florida - has long been known for being unique, laid back and, on occasion, out-and-out weird.
Free-roaming chickens share the streets with more than 50 seven-toed cats, left over from writer Earnest Hemmingway's years on the island. Pirates, artists, key lime pie and buried treasure dominate the island's history. There are tons of water sports available in the area, but the ultimate Key West pastime is definitely lounging - whether you do it on the beach or over a cocktail at the legendary Green Parrot is up to you.
Some practical stuff to know about Key West
- Climate: Summer temperatures in Key West rarely drop below 26ºC and highs of 32ºC are common, but the island's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico means its climate is much less volatile than mainland Florida's. Instead of afternoon thunderstorms, expect morning rain showers and storms that are often over by early afternoon.
- Getting Around: Key West is a pretty small city and owning a car can be more of a hassle than help, as you'll likely pay a premium for parking spaces. Many locals get around the island by bike, and scooters, motorcycles and golf carts are all available for rent.
Key West also runs a bus system which makes stops around the Lower Keys. With a student card, one-way trips may cost as little as $0.50. Check keywestcity.com for routes, fares and information on exploring the keys using public transit. The Key West Express offers high speed ferry service to Ft. Myers Beach, Marco Island and Miami.
- At Home in Key West
Vacation and long-term rentals
- Craigslist Florida Keys
Online classifieds for Key West and area
Where to Work
Orlando alone gets more than 52 million visitors each summer, so try looking for work in tourist attractions, restaurants and specialty shops throughout the region. Keep in mind, however, that some parts of Florida are bigger tourist draws during the winter and consider the summer the "off season." While that will radically decrease the cost of accommodation, it may limit the number of jobs available in some smaller cities.
Many of the larger theme parks and resorts post job listings on their own websites, so look for "careers" or "jobs" links on their homepages if a summer at Disney or SeaWorld is what you're after.
- Tourism Jobs in Orlando
Links to job sites of Orlando's largest employers
- Miami Backpage
Free daily classifieds
Where to go & What to see
Cape Canaveral is home to Florida's Kennedy Space Center. If you happen to be in the area on the right day, you might just see a shuttle launch into space. If there aren't any rockets being fired off, you can still tour museums, rocket gardens and the launch facilities themselves.
Look for crocodiles, dolphins, manatees and Florida panthers at Everglades National Park, the US's third-largest national park. Take a boat cruise through the swampland, go for a hike, or tour the county's oldest commercial alligator farm.
Though Daytona Beach isn't the wild party destination it was in the 90s, the city is still home to one quintessentially American pastime - NASCAR. The Daytona 500 is well over by summertime, but the Coke Zero 400 (a 160 lap, 400 mile race) fills the city with race car aficionados every July.
For a glimpse of Florida's ultra-rich, head to Fort Lauderdale. Known as the 'Venice of America,' this 80s spring break hotspot has grown up into a luxury resort town. The city's expansive canal system is the perfect playground for over 42,000 yachts.
For more general info on Florida visit
J1 at your college
J1 Talk at QUB
J1 Talk at UU Jordanstown