In May 2019, I had the chance of visiting Alaska on the J-1 work and travel programme for college students. I have been wanting to visit Alaska from my first year on the programme but I ended up going to Branson, Missouri instead.
Alaska! Who really wants to visit Alaska? Well, I did and I absolutely loved it there. It’s has been a place that I dreamt of visiting but I had no idea how I’d get there. Luckily, I was enrolled in a University so I got to do the programme, after spending thousands of dollars to go on it. What I got to understand is many people have misconceptions in their heads of what Alaska is like. When they think of Alaska, they think of being cold or freezing to death, ice, snow and little to no people. Truth to be told, I had those same misconceptions until I got there.
For someone who loves airplanes, airports and love hearing “Hello everyone, this is your captain speaking …”, I definitely hated my flights. Travelling from Jamaica, it took me three hours to New York where I had a layover for about 5 hours. From New York, I went to Washington which was a six hours flight and I had a layover there for 2 hours. Finally, my next flight was to Alaska and it lasted one hour. I spent about $US900 for my one-way ticket from Jamaica to Alaska.
HOW DID I FIND HOUSING?
For many J-1 jobs, the agency would set up housing for the students but I had to find my own housing in Alaska. I searched on many websites but the rents were expensive and I did not want to lease a place. I tried searching for Facebook groups and that is where I met the person I lived with for four months. How did I go from meeting someone on Facebook and living with them? Let’s just say I’m a risk-taker and I heavily believe in my instincts so I trusted them.
Ivana is Serbian, young and was on the J-1 programme a year before she settled in Alaska. She understood my struggle to find a place and decided to help. She lived in a one-bedroom apartment where she paid $US900 for her rent and it was my only option at the time so I worked with it. I wasn’t the only person who wanted a place to stay so she agreed to accommodate my friend as well. Although it was a one-bedroom apartment, she had a huge couch in the living room. She sent me pictures of the entire place and would excitedly count down my arrival date.
Since the couch was huge, shaping like the letter L, she said she would share it with one of us and the other took her queen size bed in the room. Since we were building a relationship online for months, I shared the couch with her and gave my friend the room. We paid her $300 every month for our rent and $50 for internet and electricity. She never treated us like tenants or outsiders, we were more like family to her. We could use everything in the apartment and she was comfortable with us doing so.
I met some other Jamaicans who came to Alaska and didn’t have a place to stay and Ivana made a few calls for them to get a place. She was helpful from beginning to end.
Look out for part 2 where I share more information on my time spent in Alaska.
God bless you!