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Minister asks J1 students to behave themselves abroad

Earlier, the US State Department official responsible for overseeing the country’s entire J1-visa program said our reputation has not been entirely trashed.

Image: Screengrab via CBS San Francisco

Updated 9pm

MINISTER OF STATE or Trade Promotion at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Sean Sherlock, has called on J1 students to “build networks of goodwill” while abroad.

This follows revelations about a group of students who destroyed a San Francisco apartment on their summer break.

Speaking today at the J1 Concert event at the RDS in Dublin, Sherlock said “networks, connections and potential opportunities” should be on the minds of everyone thinking of spending a summer in the J1 programme.

He said those involved in causing damage to the apartment in San Francisco “do not represent the overwhelming majority who participate in the summer J1 programme from Ireland”.

I pay tribute our Consulate in San Francisco, to the local Irish community in San Francisco, including local Irish immigration centres, and to other Irish J1 students who have sought to make amends for what has taken place. We are engaging with student organisations to try to minimise the prospect of such occurrences in the future.

Earlier today, reassurance came from Robin Lerner, the US State Department official who is responsible for overseeing the country’s entire J1-visa program bringing in about 300,000 foreign students each year.

But Lerner, who was in Dublin for a J1 networking event today, told TheJournal.ie that Irish students didn’t have a lingering image problem in the US after the incident.

“I think that people get that young people do stupid things sometimes so I think our relationship is still intact,” she said.

Everyone’s into the J1

Irish students make up the biggest share of the US J1 visa program each year and an estimated 150,000 locals have done the summer exchange program at some stage.

7586562910_02d0b105ca_k Source: Colby Blaisdell via Flickr

“Irish (students) are just a mainstay for a lot of towns on the east coast … the employers love them, they love this program and they rely on it,” Lerner said.

“They don’t want people to get out of control but they also don’t want the vacationers to get out of control.

“I think that there’s a real appreciation for these people coming and working with us and helping out in the summer – they just want to make sure that everybody follows the law.”

Shocking and deplorable

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said on Tuesday that the offending students had let Ireland down, calling the incident “shocking” and “deplorable” in a Tweet.

Ireland’s consul-general in San Francisco, Philip Grant, was called in to help the apartment’s landlady, Ritu Vohra, who described the property being trashed as “an act of terrorism on me”.

Lerner said any ill-feeling about the incident was restricted to San Francisco and people there saw how quickly Irish officials had responded to the situation.

“I think that the way the community has stepped up has paid dividends,” she said.

- With additional reporting by Michelle Hennessy.

READ: Future of thousands of J1 student visas safe

READ: Column: 6 top tips for stress-free J1 summer in the sun

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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