What makes Startup Life so great

Juha-Matti Santala, Startup Life 2014

I always knew and was told that Startup Life makes the process simple, easy and fun but it took me three months and one meeting to realize exactly how amazing program it really is. I’m not going to tell you about what the internship itself can offer you, others before me have done quite amazing job in that. I’m gonna focus on the process of making this happen.
Three months into the program, I (as all other J-1 interns and trainees from Bay Area) was invited to a feedback session with the Department of State. I didn’t expect a lot from the meeting but I went anyway: I believe giving feedback and telling your experiences is important for people who organize these kind of things.
Easy would be the word to describe Startup Life from applicant’s perspective. In the meeting there were about 40 interns and trainees, mostly from Europe, some from Asia and the rallying point for most of us was having all sorts of difficulties with the process. Most people had no one who to ask about the process and the everyday things that are different here.
I didn’t really think of it before, but the effort that Startup Life organizers throw into this saves so much time and work from you as an applicant. Finding a company yourself is a huge process. There are no lists of companies in the wild that are willing to hire an intern from overseas. So people contact dozens and dozens of companies just to find out that they want someone who already lives in States or at least has a visa. Once you find the company that’s willing to hire you, you gotta find the Visa sponsor. Another thing I kinda took for granted ’cause I didn’t have to waste one minute of thinking about such thing.
It’s not only about having a list of companies, that Startup Life offers. It’s the screening that they do with those companies. When you apply for any of the companies through the program, you know it’s a real deal. Of course exceptions make the rule but I heard some horror stories from people in the meeting about their companies and felt lucky for the position I had. Visa process takes effort no matter what is your path to the internship but at least through Startup Life you have a huge community of people willing to help you. People who have been here, people who have gone through the same steps as you are about to take and people who have found out about what you need to write to your application to make it pass.
Talking about the community, almost everyone in the meeting was delighted to have such a meeting – to meet other people in the same situation and for some, to even meet new people outside work. If you don’t meet anyone during your internship, you should look in to the mirror but having an established community of Lifers in San Francisco who know about getting apartments, best places to eat and drink and who welcome you to the city from day one, is even more valuable asset than I had previously realized.
In short, Startup Life reduces the overhead and stress from finding all the details by yourself. And that allows you to focus to what matters the most: learning, developing and having fun.
Read more about Juha-Matti’s Startup Life experience from his blog.

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