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Onwards & Upwards

A Little About Life

Ever get stuck in a rut? You can’t tell which way is up and you begin to feel like you’re in a continuous circle. Well that is exactly how I feel at the moment. Since coming home it has been go..go…go..! At first a huge amount of my energy went into finding a job, now I am nearly two months into my new job and I have a chance to breathe again.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about A Little About Life and the direction I should continue in. When living away from home everything was so new and exciting and as the saying goes ‘worth writing home about’. My instagram has even felt the hit! This being said I have decided to continue with my blog keeping the tone nice and light. I am also going to to do some posts about my time in the states as I am getting a lot of questions from friends and friends of friends looking for advice and wanting to know about my experience.

By nature I am a person that likes to continuously challenge myself. Sometimes it is something small like committing to go to the gym five times that week, other times it is something more substantial like enrolling in a html class. What can I say… I like to keep busy :)! At the moment I am not keeping busy enough… but that is about to change.

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you ― Fred DeVito

For those of you who know me know that I am extremely interested in the tech industry. My family often slag me saying if there is an app for something I already have it. Not going to lie when in San Francisco this was definitely true. I think I currently have over 90 apps downloads on my phone…most don’t work in Ireland but for some reason I can’t bring myself to delete it. With this in mind it is something that I am going to put a lot of focus on over the next few months and you never know that interest could make an appearance here too!

Stay tuned!

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Settling Back Home

Reflecting on 2015

It’s hard to believe I am home nearly 3 months and it’s almost 4 months since I left San Francisco. Time has flown by, when thinking back about San Francisco it feels like it was all a dream. As expected when coming home I received a lot of ‘Are you delighted to be back?’ questions, this of course only adding to the upset of coming home. I am beyond jealous of those only starting out on their adventures overseas.

When coming home I decided to become more conscious about spending time with my family. Christmas served as the perfect opportunity to do this. My family and I have a tradition of going away for a night or two between Christmas and New Years. It is something I really look forward to and this year was no different. This year we went to Seafield Hotel and I have to say it was one of the best places we have been to yet.

Before Christmas I made a short trip to Galway to spend time with my younger cousins, as I knew once I started working full-time I would not have the opportunity to do this. The trip was great I got to attend my cousins gymnastics competition (a whole 4 hours of it) and visit the Christmas Market on Eyre Square. Believe it or not I even enjoyed helping with homework, although I can’t say the same for my two younger cousins I was helping. Quizzing them on their times tables through Irish was a struggle in itself.

Now as many of my friends know I don’t do well with not being busy. The day after I arrived home I already had booked myself in to get my driving license replaced. It probably wasn’t my smartest move booking it for 11am but sure look it got sorted. I was eager to get straight back driving. One little problem was that my car had been given to my younger sister. Within the week I had bought myself a FIAT Panda, the whole sharing a car wasn’t going to last in the long-term.

Only after buying the car did I found out that since I had let my car insurance lapse for more than 3 months I was considered an unexperienced driver. The fact I am 25 with nearly 5 years driving experience and no claims made absolutely no difference. I was receiving minimum quotes of 2,000euro. Long story short I ended up going with company Boxymo (underwritten by AIG). Boxymo installs a device into your car that monitors your driving providing you with weekly updates. Their target market is young inexperienced drivers, however, when talking to their engineer who installed the device into my car he said over 30% of the cars he works on are owned by people that have come home after living abroad. The cost of the insurance is a fraction of the price I had previously been quoted and will stand to me when looking for quotes in the future.

One of the biggest things I have had to adapt to since moving home is having other people dependant on me. I became so accustomed in doing everything myself, not depending on other people and going places without question. Now obviously I have moved back in with my family and with that comes a certain expectation. Now it’s not half as bad as I’m making it sound, sure there is always food in the fridge and someone to have a chat with. I know it sounds spoilt and believe me it’s not like that at all, it is more being aware that during your free time there may be things other people need help with.

My gran has a theory, that since I now have my own car, a job and money there is no need to ever leave Ireland again. We shall see how her theory plans out but for the moment I am settling back in and looking forward to see what else 2016 has to offer.

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I’m Coming Home!

Traveling Solo Quote

The past year has been quite an amazing adventure. It has always been a dream of mine to live in the United States and this year I got to fulfill that dream. A friend recently asked me was I glad I did the graduate visa, without hesitation I responded ‘I’d do it again in a heartbeat’.

It is the pity the graduate visa is only 12 months (14 months if you include the 2 months you’re not eligible to work). I would have loved to do another stent in a different State, perhaps New York or take a trip back to Chicago. While my bags may be packed and I get ready to go to the airport I am not ready to leave, there is still so much left for me to discover.

As all my friends know I am obsessed with quotes and sayings. It is amazing how a small phrase can motivate or cause the reader to reflect. With this in mind I have picked out three sayings that pretty much sum up my year and how I am feeling about returning home.

When I told a childhood friend I was going away he gave me smirk as if to say ‘Are you serious?’. As you can imagine this was not well received. He followed up with, ‘I’ve known you forever, there is no way you will last in a hostel never mind alone’. Now I’m the type of person if you tell me I can’t achieve something I will do damn sure to prove you wrong. A week in I had found myself an apartment and had assembled my bed (granted it was IKEA).

One thing that I have discovered this year is that I can achieve anything I set my mind to. Although there was times throughout the year that I wished I was a home curled up in front of the fire or sitting down to one of my Dad’s Irish breakfasts, I remained determined to make the most of my year!

Traveling solo makes you step out of your comfort zone, try to do things you would not normally do. During my first couple of days in SF I was invited to a house party with another Irish girl, I suspected that there might be some awkward lingering until everyone had a couple of drinks. How I was wrong! As people arrived at the party they said hello to people they were familiar with and introduced themselves to people they did not know. As the weeks went on I found that I had no problem introducing myself to people with a handshake and a ‘nice to meet you’.

While growing up my gran would often tell me to always trust my gut instinct. I don’t think I understood quite what she meant until this year! Having ignored my gut and finding myself in a pretty shitty situation I have learnt what she meant the hard way.

I have learnt so much about myself (as cliché as it sounds). I have learnt what I want to achieve in my career over the next few years, where my strengths and weaknesses lie and finally, I have learnt to do things for myself without seeking approval from others.

I no longer fear being seen alone in a coffee shop and would gladly go for a drink alone if I found myself with time to spare. This is something I use to overwhelm me. I do not find myself getting embarrassed as easily as I use to by fear of what others may think.

A Year in San Francisco

Returning home is a bitter-sweet! I am looking forward to a nice healthy home cooked meal, no longer living out of a suitcase and of course seeing my family and friends. Although I know more of me wishes that it was just for a visit and not for ‘the foreseeable future’.

I will miss the pace of life in San Francisco, the work hard play hard attitude with everyone working on ‘the next best thing’. Yet at the same time people remain ‘chilled out’. I was engrossed by the tech industry, using mobile apps for practically everything. I will miss all the different cultural norms that the United States has to offer. Those are only the touch of the iceberg.

Is there anything I would change about the past year? No! Everything that happened over the past year, both good and bad has been a learning experience and I am better off for it. So yes, I would like to go back to page one and do it all again! I have met a great group of friends, inspirational people and fantastic mentors.

I leave with the resounding thought that… What is meant to be will be! Hopefully, that means I’ll be back some day 😉

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Adapting to the New Normal

While Ireland is the place I will inevitably return to and a place I will forever call home, it was always known I would spend my first few years after graduation abroad. Leaving not because I had to, but because I wanted to, something not all of my generation and generations before me are lucky enough to say.

Since leaving Ireland, I have exchanged birthday and Christmas wishes via Skype, been kept updated through plenty of whatsapps, Facebook posts and many Snapchat’s. I have watched my youngest sister complete her leaving cert, finish secondary school and start Art College. My other sister has turned twenty-one, spent five months in Finland, and passed her driving test and these are only the major milestones I’ve missed.

Sisters

I come from a very close-knit family. Growing up I would always know where my siblings were and through the years this didn’t waiver. There is very little we don’t share with each other, which unfortunately, includes my entire wardrobe. This is why it has come as such a shock how quickly I have adapted to the new normal.

The new normal I am referring to is celebrating all these events from afar, yet feeling like it was only yesterday when I was there in person. On a recent phone call my youngest sister, I commented on how it didn’t feel like that long since I’d left and I regretfully admitted that I was no longer missing home.

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Don’t get me wrong, like everything the bad comes along with the good and on these occasions I find myself longing for home. Varying from the cravings for a decent bar of Cadbury’s chocolate, to a good ole chat with a friend I’ve known longer than the stamp on my passport. The moment that made me realize all the life events big and small I was missing out on, occurred during one of our frequent family skype calls. My mum mentioned an event that occurred three months previous to which I had no knowledge of. Looks of disbelief crossed their faces, they couldn’t believe that this was something I didn’t already know. With a quick summary I was brought up to speed, however, it wasn’t the same. Moments like these have been the toughest part of being away from home; these are also the moments people back home don’t get to see.

As the time approaches for me to return home I do so looking ahead to my next adventure. My gran recently expressed a sigh of relief to hear that I would be coming home, ‘well hopefully that’ll be traveling out of her system for a while’. To this my dad smiled, ‘I don’t think she’s done quite yet’.

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Curing a dose of homesickness

Over the last couple of months I begun to have a real bad case of homesickness. While a flight home was out of the question, a flight to NYC was more within my reach. Everyone I know in San Francisco I  only know as long as I have been here myself, however, in New York there are a lot more ties to home. I am very lucky that the company I work for has an office in NYC and was very accommodating in letting me work from their NY offices to facilitate my 12 day trip.

Highline, NYC

I stayed with Maria, one of my very good friends from secondary school. We must have only been with each other a little over an hour when I noticed her ‘tunnel’ ear piercing. Without thinking I said in disgust ‘what is that?’, she immediately turned around and laughed, followed by an ‘I’ve missed you’. Similar to me she moved to NY without knowing anyone. We have both become so accustom to people filtering the truth or being too polite to say what they really think.

During my first week I met up with an old friend from Irish college. At one point in the evening he started to roll a cigarette, a habit he has had on and off for years. Me being me, not so discretely said, ‘you’re not at that again’. He quickly told me off. It was so refreshing to spend time with people who told you exactly what they were thinking without it being put through a filter.

Friends Abroad

The day before I left NY the question was asked ‘do you still feel homesick?’. My answer at the time was of course as sarcastic as ever, but truthfully on reflection those 12 days away spent with friends and family was exactly what I needed. One of my biggest fears when moving abroad was that I would lose touch with those at home. This trip amongst other things has taught me how blest I am to have some really great friendships, that no matter the length of time between when we see each other, things always fall right back into place.

Today I am 9 months in the US of A, something I cannot believe. Time has flown by and continues to do so. One of my closest friends is coming to visit in just 5 weeks!! When she originally booked her flights it felt like it was forever away (fabulous use of the english language there) and now it is just around the corner.  That looming visit will be an adventure of its own…

Taking some time out

Guest Blog: USIT 1 Year USA Graduate Programme

1 YEAR USA GRADUATE PROGRAMME – APRIL PARTICIPANT SPOTLIGHT

This month we caught up with Ciara Ennis, a Business/Marketing graduate from DCU who is currently in San Francisco on the 1 Year USA Graduate Programme.  Like a lot of participants, Ciara stayed in Ireland right after she graduated college and gained some experience before deciding to take part in the programme right before her 12 month cut off point.  We asked Ciara why she decided to take the plunge, what she’s working at now and what advice she would give future participants.  Here’s what she had to say.

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WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO GO FOR THE 1 YEAR USA PROGRAMME?

For years I had spoken quite openly about wanting to working abroad, to the extent my family thought I might never leave! On graduating I started working on the marketing team in Microsoft and loved it. However, I knew if I did not take the opportunity of the graduate visa it would be a lot harder to in the future to attain a working visa. With this in mind I set a date and arranged to leave a month before the anniversary of my graduation.

WHAT KIND OF INTERNSHIP DID YOU FIND AND WHAT KIND OF PROJECTS DID YOU/ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I am working as an Account Management Specialist for Viscira. Viscira is a provider of interactive, new-media communication solutions and software products for the life sciences industry. Finding a job in the technology industry was a priority for me, however, I never thought I would also be working in the pharmaceutical industry. Each project is very different from the one before, ranging from iPad Apps, speaker portals to promotional videos, and trade show booths.

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What has the highlight of your time in the USA been so far?

I must have only been here 2 weeks and was invited to a networking event for Dreamforce. It took place in a swanky Irish bar and the attendees were all successful professionals. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and you could easily walk up and have a conversation with a manager for one of America’s most profitable companies. As the night went on I found myself with a VIP ticket to the Bruno Mars concert at City Hall that night, with an after-party performance by Will.i.am. It happened be the eve of my birthday, and a 24 hours I won’t easily forget!

ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO PEOPLE WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT GOING ON THE PROGRAMME?

Network!!! Ever heard the phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, it could not be more true over here. Keep your LinkedIn profile updated, upgrade to a premium account and connect with your universities alumni network. Not everyone you meet will be able to help you, it may just lead to another conversation, however, there is always something to take away from every conversation.

Are you interested in taking part in the 1 Year USA Graduate Programme? For more information, visit our website here, or email melanie.young@usit.ie to make an appointment to come into our office to talk about your options.

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North of San Francisco

Work was closed for Presidents Day (16th February) so a road trip was a must. It was all very last minute and to be honest there wasn’t really much of a plan, other than to get a car and drive.

Sorting Transport 

As I am under 25 years and without a credit card I did not have many options when it came to hiring a car. I ended up going with Hertz and got a Toyota Yaris. With full coverage insurance it cost us $136.

Things to note:

  • Hertz accepts debit cards
  • The card you use must belong to the main driver
  • They will take a $200 deposit from your card
  • If you are under 25 there is discount codes available online
  • You will be asked do you want them to refuel your car or will you do it yourself – do it yourself, its cheaper!                                                                          

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   Route  

  1. Point Reyes National Seashore

   2.  Petaluma (overnight)

   3.   Bodega Bay

 

 

Point Reyes National Seashore

On arrival we found a large cabin that is home to the Point Reyes park rangers and the information centre. It was here we received a map of the area and were recommended the 8 mile (4 there & 4 back) Bear Valley Trail. This is a vey flat trail with a breath-taking view at the end. The walk took 4 hours, walking at a leisurely pace. It was a warm day so we found ourselves gulling through water.

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I was suggest bringing a few snacks for when you reach the edge of the cliff. Sit down and enjoy the view! There is a small but beautiful beach down a rather steep climb. Please note that this is not a recommended climb and I have been told people have been injured during the climb. In saying that, if you would like the adventure I would recommend climbing down onto the beach and enjoying your snacks there.

Point Reyes National Seashore is somewhere I plan to bring all my visitors. A place not known to all travelers but without a doubt worth a visit.

Petaluma

This small town has a lot to offer, from the lovely restaurants to the talented Petaluma Pete who plays his piano on the a street corner. Looking for a quite weekend away or just an evening out of the city I would highly recommend checking out Petaluma.

Accommodation – This was quite a random find and a good one at that. I was checking out google maps and saw it was a town close by. We booked into Motel 6, an absolute steal! $75 for one room, with two queen beds and onsite parking. Remember this was over valentines weekend and a long weekend.

Food – We were very lucky and got a table at Risibisi Restaurant, a busy little Italian restaurant in the center of the town. There was a special Valentines Day set menu which had some lovely dishes. Unfortunately it lacked a choice of good desserts 😦 , which sent us off in search of a supplement, this is where we came across Powell’s Sweet Shoppe. Every wall was covered with a section of sweets/candy to choose from, we were like two kids in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory.

On Sunday morning after a quick Yelp search we found ourselves at Hallie’s Diner. I would advise you get down early as the place fills up fast. We were very lucky to get seated straight away. We both devoured the Cinnamon French Toast, a breakfast I would definitely go back for.

Shopping – Another lucky find was Petaluma Village Premium Outlets. After breakfast on Sunday morning we stopped by for what we had intended to be a ‘quick look around’, three hours later we hit the road again. Some great deals can be found in Nike, Ann Taylor and Levis.

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Bodega Bay

It around 2pm by the time we arrived at Bodega Bay. We had sat in a good bit of traffic on the way from Petaluma, I put this down to the fact the sun was beaming and everyone wanted to get out in the fresh air. We didn’t mind too much as the views were breathtaking. We drove all the way up a windy quite narrow hill were we parked the car and walked to the cliff side. There wasn’t much of a walk, more like a stroll along the cliff, this suited us fine as our legs were tired from the previous day.

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Bodega Bay is considered a prime spot for whale watching (especially between the last weeks of April & start of May), but we were hopeful we would catch a glimpse. After a half an hour or so of patiently looking out we began to give up hope. We wandered over to a group that had gathered at the point of one of the cliffs, it was there we caught a glimpse of a group of gray whales. Due to the time of year (February) the whales were quite far off the coast.

Overall our trip was a great success. Although we started out without much of a plan, only a car and a place to sleep, we packed a lot it. When living in a city you can easily forget that there is more than concrete buildings and the hustle and bustle of city life. Some of the most spectacular views are only an hour out of San Francisco.

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Take the Leap

So only about four people know what it was like for me moving away and as I sit on my bed this evening reading my cards and letters that everyone was so kind to give me before I left, I find it only fitting that I write this. Side note – YAY no more writers block!!

I was never scared about moving away and when everyone told me I was very brave, I just kind of thought ‘hey, it’s an adventure’. I got up that morning, stripped my bed (wouldn’t be like me to leave without being a little dramatic), went down for breakfast and set off with my family on my merry way to the airport. First stop was to drop our little ‘teacher in training’ off at the bus stop, which would bring her to teaching practice. It was quick and easy, like ripping a bandaid off, almost like I was going to see her later that day (ignoring the fact it was going to be 14 months).

Then there were three (Dad, Mum & the youngest)! We all lined up to check in, Dad making friends with the people in the line, hoping they’d look after me and Mum making sure I had everything I needed. Bag checked, ticket in hand, it was time to go through security. We walked upstairs in terminal two, making small talk, acting like I was heading away for the weekend. All of a sudden it was time to say goodbye..

I can’t remember who I hugged first but they all got their hugs and kiss goodbye. I remained strong, no tears!! I started to walk up to security… I looked around and in that moment I decided I was no longer going, I was staying at home! I ran back into Mum’s arms with tears in my eyes, I can’t remember saying much, but instead listening to my Mum’s encouraging words. After another big group hug I decided I was going to do this! Dried my eyes, bag on shoulder and off I went, this time without looking back!

Now don’t get me wrong, the water works started straight away once I got on the plane, sat in my lovely middle seat and began to read the letters my family had sent me away with. Now thinking back that wasn’t my smartest move, but sure I’m known to not always make the smartest of moves.

The point I suppose I am trying to make is, although things may seem scary, daunting or a little out of your reach, if it is something you want, what is the harm in trying! Nothing comes easy but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!

Finding THAT Job

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I was very active throughout university, always getting involved with extra-curricular activities even in my final year. As a result I have met some inspiring, dedicated, successful individuals and I continue to do so. Little did I know all these extra-curricular activities were building a foundation for my professional career. These experiences have proven to be invaluable! On graduating I was approached (via: LinkedIn) about a marketing position in Microsoft. This particular position was advertised for someone with 3+ years’ experience. Several interviews later an offer was extended to me and I started work the following week. I will be forever grateful to my manager who did not label me as ‘just graduated’, but saw beyond that to all the experience and knowledge I had gained through my involvement in extra-curricular activities. All this made moving to America more daunting for me, as I was going to have to enter into a very competitive job market, something I had not done before.

Starting out on your job search you can be faced with filling out hundreds of job applications/screening questions and on average only 10% of the them may make it to a recruiter. The best advice I have received was… step away from the computer and go network!! Ever hear the phrase ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’well it’s true! Here are some tips I found to be useful:

  • EventBrite -Register yourself and look for networking events in your area.
  • Meetup.com is also a good site to check out for meeting locals.
  • LinkedIn – Study your connections, who knows who, ask for introductions to people in companies/industries you’re interested in working. Ask them for a 15min coffee.
  • Referrals –  Know someone working where you are interested in applying to? Ask for a referral. Most time it’s a win win, you get moved to the top of the pile and they receive compensation if you’re hired!

I have always believed in finding a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life. While I know finding a job is tough I still stand by this! You may not absolutely love every aspect of you job you should love about 80% of it. Keep that in mind throughout your search.

A few more tips to help you along your job search…

  1. LinkedIn – upgrade your account to the Job Seeker Premium, you get the first 30 days free. However, there is no point in doing this unless your profile is up-to-date. The thing to remember is LinkedIn is a platform to advertise yourself, only put up experience that is relevant to the job you’re looking for.
  2. Business Cards – get personal cards made. If you’re Irish you’re guaranteed to feel like a twat, but get use to it! There is a different format for American business cards so if you’re getting them made overseas make sure they are the correct dimensions, otherwise you’ll stand out… and not in a good way. Moo.com and Vista Print are 2 good sites to check out.
  3. Alumni Network – most universities have an alumni network, connecting past and present students. It is a fantastic facility, make use of it! Meet others that attended your university, you can even share war stories. Dublin City University (DCU) have a fantastic network with Chapters all over the world, including San Francisco.
  4. Glassdoor – not only can you get an overview of salaries in different companies, this is also a good platform for finding jobs.

Good luck 🙂