Irish in San Diego, CA

Ella-Bleu Kiely tells of her time in San Diego as a J1 student

Word of the summer: evicted. The San Diego J1 student housing crisis. The following quotes are taken from the J1 San Diego 2022 Facebook group: “9 lads looking for a house for July if anyone knows of anything! Please!” “Any accommodation going? Group of us got scammed on Airbnb very stuck would take anything.” “Looking for a group of 7/8 to fill a house. Message for more details.” “Anyone know how to find a house? We’ve slept in dumpsters for the last 4 nights.” There is no limit to how many air mattresses can fit into a one bedroom apartment. Day after day, tales of feuds with landlords and crumbling subleases are heard. A wave of Irish couch surfers has hit the west coast. 

Despite the culture shock (heavy tipping), years of watching Nickelodeon and movies would arguably prepare you for the sun-kissed way of life in San Diego. Seeing GAA jerseys and hearing Irish accents at every bus stop and bar feels both patriotic and comic here. The heat is no hindrance to GAA lad fashion, as a large number opt for a vest to sport their county colours. How to recognise lads from Connacht in the states? GAA vest, backwards cap, sunburn. Also, of course, there is no shortage of O’Neill’s shorts styled with air force. 

“…we fight back by heading to a bar that will stream the All-Ireland for us at 7.30 in the morning, as well as serve us at 7.30 in the morning.”

Although the gym girl aesthetic is strong in California (LuluLemon leggings and yoga matts on shoulders), we fight back by heading to a bar that will stream the All-Ireland for us at 7.30 in the morning, as well as serve us at 7.30 in the morning. San Diego is actually home to its own GAA team, Setanta, which J1 Students have gravitated towards for a midweek training session – mainly the ones that will tell you they played minor. 

In summary, the Irish in San Diego are easily recognised, and there’s certainly not much shyness amongst J1 students here. To be honest, a night out in Downtown San Diego pretty much feels like county colours night at Coppers, free entry before midnight.

“Godbless you” and “You have Jesus Christ in your heart” are two phrases I’ve repeatedly heard while in the states. Dublin has its O’Connell Street nun whereas San Diego has travelling preachers with megaphones on the oceanfront urging you to repent your sins. Sometimes in cowboy hats. The southern Catholic religious culture is high-spirited. “Trust the Lord,” they say to passers-by indulging in a hotdog. 

“Chipotle has absolutely nothing on Boojum.”

On the topic of dining, being so close to the North American border provides the area with tons of Mexican food establishments. Some are more pricey than others, but nonetheless tasty so far in my experience. You’ll never fall short of burritos and tacos here. Also, Chipotle has absolutely nothing on Boojum. One thing I was told before coming to San Diego was how many great coffee spots it had – this being true, $6 for a small iced vanilla latte really makes you question your financial budgeting. 

I’m sure plenty are acquainted with the cute seals who pop their heads out of the water in Howth. However, their American sea lion cousins located in La Jolla within the north county of San Diego are of a different nature. It being pupping season, the sea lions are especially territorial at the moment – so much so that they’ve been chasing sunbathers on public beaches.

When asked by a colleague what my favourite thing about Ireland was, with some careful consideration, I answered it’s beaches. He was surprised at this and asked to see some photos. After assembling an album of my best golden hour swims, he said “wow that’s actually really beautiful.” I felt protective of Ireland’s coastal beauty as it was being compared to California. Although the pacific is something I’ll miss marvelling at, I’m looking forward to marching down the hill to the Vico baths at home. 

Ella-Bleu Kiely

Ella-Bleu Kiely is the current Deputy Life Editor of Trinity News, and a Senior Sophister Classics and English Literature student.