Over the past year, I have received numerous questions in my Instagram and LinkedIn messages asking about my time in New York and how I came to find a job in the Big Apple through the Mountbatten Program.
To make life a little easier, and to have all of those answers in one place, I thought I’d put together a little blog post of all the most frequently asked questions about New York and the Mountbatten Program.
The Mountbatten Program is how I managed to live and work in New York for a full 13 months, and for more information on that, read my blog post on How and Why I Moved to New York.
I’ve also been back to New York quite a few times since living there, and I show you where I lived during my time on the Mountbatten Program in Newport, in this video below. You can check out my other New York YouTube vlogs here.
Let’s get stuck in with your questions!
THE MOUNTBATTEN PROGRAM PROCESS
How did you find out about the Mountbatten Program?
Strangely enough, I found out about the Mountbatten Program while I was on my placement year in London. I had just moved to London to start my new job and received a marketing email from my university. It was a forwarded email containing information about working in New York.
I specifically remember the moment I got the email as I was sitting on my bed in my room in London, which had a canvas of NYC on the wall above the bed, and I had always wanted to live and work in New York. I saved the email, making a mental note to look into the Mountbatten Program once my placement year was over, as an option for once I graduated.
Moral of the story, don’t skim over all of those marketing emails from your university!
How did you apply?
Since I had conducted a lot of research into the Mountbatten Program after receiving the email, I knew the rough dates that applications would be open for when it came to my time to apply.
The applications opened around mid-March for the intake that was to move to NYC in August. I applied on the Mountbatten Program website the first day that it opened. I think I maybe needed a CV, a reference, and to pay a small fee.
THE JOB PROCESS
Do you need previous experience in the placement you are applying for?
The way the Mountbatten Program works, you can’t actually apply for a specific job role. You can let them know the industries you most want to work in and rank them (top three). For example, I think my top three were:
- PR and Communications
- Non-Governmental Organisations
Most often, you will be interviewing for jobs in the field you specified and have most experience in. I secured an interview for a communications role, but because of my experience in influencer marketing, I was given a different role within the same organisation.
At the time that I applied, it was specified that you needed one year’s work experience in an office setting. I would say perhaps that it’s not necessarily needed but having experience will definitely be beneficial and help you secure a placement a lot quicker.
How late was your placement confirmed?
This is probably one of the most frustrating parts of the Mountbatten Program process. It’s extremely ad-hoc and you have to be on the ball with it.
For every job role they receive, they will send four CVs to the company. If yours is selected, you will interview and then possibly re-interview if you are selected as one of the final two candidates.
The Mountbatten Program has a very small team and it’s very likely that it will be very last minute when you are selected and start having interviews. If you are unsuccessful in your first interview, you will be put back into their pile of CVs and sent out again to another job that matches your profile. The process is repeated until hopefully, you are placed.
For me, I first applied for the Mountbatten Program in March, interviewed with the program itself in London in May and then was selected to go through the process in June. I had my first interview early August (I had a lot of doubt that it wasn’t going to happen) and my second interview a week later when they were able to create a different position for me in the same company.
I think it was around mid-August when I was placed, and then I booked my visa appointment a few days later in Belfast and then booked my flight as soon as I received my passport with my visa. From being placed to flying out, it was probably a total of 10 days. Not much time for goodbyes!
Is there an age restriction at all? Do you have to be under a certain age to go?
Not at all! There was quite a large range of ages in my intake. The majority of us were 22/23, only having graduated from university. But there were quite a few in their mid-twenties and some in their 30s.
It’s New York, no matter what age you are, you’re going to have an amazing year and make a bunch of new friends. Everyone is there because they want to better themselves by working in the best city in the world, so you’ll meet a ton of like-minded people and your age won’t matter.
LIVING IN NEW YORK / NEW JERSEY
What was the accommodation like? (As of 2019-2020)
The Mountbatten Program provides accommodation in Newport, New Jersey, with amazing riverside views of Manhattan. The PATH train is a five minute walk from the apartments and takes you into the city in less than ten minutes.
The apartments are ok. They are very spacious in comparison with what you’ll find in Manhattan. Most years, it’s five people to one apartment, with a large double room, a small double room and a single room. It’s America. They share rooms.
When applying, you’ll be asked all kinds of questions in regards to your hobbies, music taste, the time you usually go to bed, what kind of room you like to sleep in (loud vs quiet) etc. so that they can pair you with someone similar.
You get used to sharing a room very quickly, and after six months, you have the chance to go into a lottery for a single room, or for a larger double room with the roommate of your choosing. There is a significant difference in the sizes of the shared rooms as the large has an ensuite bathroom, a huge closet space and much larger floorspace.
The single rooms are usually kept for those doing the Masters program, who will be studying and working on assessments while working a full-time job, which makes sense.
The living area is large with nice sofas, new smart-TVs that were installed when I was there and desk space for you to work. This was very much needed when all of the flats started working from home.
The kitchens are quite small, but you’ve got everything you need and the apartment comes fully furnished with kitchenware and furniture. However, if you want to be a true New Yorker, you’ll spend most of your time dining out or living on dollar pizza slices and noodles.
What’s Newport like?
Newport feels like somewhat of a dystopian universe compared to any of the areas of Manhattan or Brooklyn. It’s very quiet, quaint and has a very manufactured feel to it.
It boasts the best views of Manhattan by the waterfront, and I really can’t fault the area that we lived in at all. The PATH train was a five minute walk from the apartments, Target was a 10 minute walk away with Duane Reade and Morton Williams grocery stores a lot closer. The gym was below the apartments and there was a Starbucks and huge shopping mall right by the PATH station.
Thanks to COVID-19, we actually got to explore a lot more of Jersey City and Hoboken than we ever would have originally planned. There’s a lovely walk along the river that takes you deep into Jersey City and in the opposite direction, you have Hoboken, birthplace of Frank Sinatra and where baseball was born.
Hoboken is so quaint, with old-style storefronts and cobbled streets. It’s crowded with students and there are a lot of great bars and a few clubs (*cough The Shannon) and some outdoor areas for sunbathing and reading while looking directly at the Financial District of Manhattan.
Some people become a little embarrassed when they say they live in Jersey, but it has such a safe-feeling that you don’t get anywhere else in Manhattan (in my opinion). Newport is always so clean, friendly and welcoming after a long day in the city.
MONEY MONEY MONEY
How expensive is New York?
HELLA EXPENSIVE! If you’re asking this question, I feel like you already know the answer. New York is probably one of the most expensive places in the world and you soon realise that the money you had saved to come over with, won’t get you past the first two months.
Groceries are expensive. If you want fresh fruit and veg, you’re going to have to get a loan to pay for it. This is why I mainly lived on packets of noodles which cost around $2 for a pack of four. Either that or it was $1 pizza slices.
Your monthly train ticket will set you back $100 too. If you want to join the Newport gym downstairs, that’ll be $90 per month. Clothes are much more expensive than in the UK, but Forever 21 is going to be your best friend (if you can find any of the remaining stores).
If, like me, you like brunch, you’ll soon get used to paying $20 for eggs and avocado. $50 breakfasts soon became our norm. But you can also pop into a bodega for a $2 PB&J bagel – balance is key.
Thankfully though, you don’t have to pay any rent or bills (except your phone and gym bills if you choose) as this is covered by the Mountbatten Program. However, your monthly pay does reflect this.
What is the overall rough costs in terms of the program and visa fees etc.?
When I first applied to do the program, the cost of the program itself was £7,000. I was very much willing to save up and pay for it all myself, as I so badly wanted to move to New York and it seemed like an amazing opportunity. The cost of the program initially put me off, but I thought that once I applied, I would come up with a solution afterwards. A problem for future Orlagh.
Amazingly, the year that I partook in the program, they emailed all of us that had applied, offering us the option to do an intern-only program, as we were due to undertake a diploma-of-sorts alongside our work for the £7k fee. The intern-only option would be half of this, at £3.5k.
I almost jumped through the ceiling when I saw the email. I wanted to move to New York for the job and to be a New Yorker. I was just finishing four years of a degree and had no interest in more education for the time being. So the program itself was going to be £3.5k.
I think with the extra Mountbatten fees and visa costs, it roughly came to around £4k in total, with flights an extra £400. My Uber from Newark to the apartments was only $18 or so.
Was the money given to you each month enough to live on?
This very much depends on your way of budgeting, how much you want to get out of New York and if you want to travel around the states.
Some people were able to save money every month, while others had to dip into their savings every month (me). If you want to throw yourself into New York life; see a show on Broadway, watch a gig at Radio City Music Hall, visit the Met Museum, drink on fancy rooftops, try some of the best food in the world and travel around to places like Nashville, Boston or Washington, or spend a weekend in The Hamptons, then you’re going to need to have some savings because your wage won’t see you through.
If you choose to not do any of these things and you are coming to New York purely for the job (there’s no issue with that), then your monthly allowance should be substantial.
Did you have enough money to live off just the salary, or did you have to get a second job?
I’ve answered the first part of this question above, but wanted to answer the second part. Due to your visa, you cannot get a second job. The Mountbatten Program is listed as your employer on your visa and this is how you are paid. You would not be able to get a second job while in New York.
Plus the fact, you simply wouldn’t have time. You’re working 9-5 (for some people this was 8am-6pm or longer) and your weekends are yours to explore the city!
You have very minimal holiday allowance (this is the norm in the states) so you want to use all of your free time wisely.
How much did you have saved before you left?
I had around $5,000 in savings before I left and I was hoping for monetary donations around Christmas and my birthday as the well was running dry very quickly.
Since you’re put in a program with 100 other young people out exploring New York, it is somewhat of a university-culture, where you all live together, some work together and then you meet up after work and spend your weekends together. There’s usually a lot of drinking and partying involved, so I would definitely recommend having some savings!
NEW YORK WORK LIFE
What types of roles does the Mountbatten Program offer? Are they specific to roles you have experience in?
The Mountbatten Program offers various roles, with the larger amount being in finance. A lot of the job roles offered are with CitiGroup and HSBC.
In my experience, it was very much based on your prior work experience and career history. I prioritised roles in PR and communications, and that’s what I got.
It never hurts to ask the Mountbatten Program if you have a specific job role in mind, but they can only give you the jobs that they have available.
How did you get along in your placement?
I really enjoyed my placement, so much so that I was able to continue in the same job role when I returned to the UK. My role allowed me to cover Google Analytics, website design, social media management and so much more.
I was placed at Moody’s Analytics, a financial company, based in the World Trade Center in the Financial District of New York. Afterwards, it was based at my dining room table in Liverpool.
I was lucky as I worked a 9-5 job, had a great team and was able to work flexibly from home. I was then employed by the company itself, working with my team in America, but working UK hours.
Did the job provide you with valuable marketing experience?
In my role, definitely! I was doing a lot of analysing with Google Analytics for our websites and also using LinkedIn and Hootsuite to analyse our social media statistics.
I learnt about and implementing SEO in the webpages, adding UTM codes to track clicks and behaviours, and creating adverts for financial magazines.
I had a lot of opportunities to learn during my role and even a year later, I was still learning more about marketing and getting more opportunities to put what I had learnt to practice.
How did you placement change with COVID-19?
It was mid-March when we all received the email to start working from home and that the New York office was going to close. I had a cold (unknowingly Covid) the week before so was already working from home on the Thursday and Friday (the day we received the email).
It was a huge time of change and adaption for all of us, as I started working from my bedroom and then moved into the dining room of our five-person apartment. I had been loving my new routine of getting up early, going to the gym around 7.45am and working from my flat at 9am. I then hopped back to the gym at lunchtime.
This lasted all of one week, just as I was getting into a routine, as the gyms in the state had to close. There was also no option of going to the cafe down the street to work either.
My flatmate tested positive for the virus first, meaning all of us had to quarantine for two weeks. A few days later, all of us in the flat were ill and still we worked, as it’s not that hard to log onto your laptop while lying in bed with nothing else to really do.
From mid-March, I never went back to the office, all but once to collect things I had left behind. I worked from home for the remainder of my time in New York, another five months.
I had a lot more meetings, and all of which were conducted on Zoom. For me, it was actually a lot better as we used to host our team meetings via conference call and it was only with Zoom that I was able to see what my team and managers looked like as a lot of them were based around other parts of the US and I hadn’t been able to meet them in person.
How was the support from the Mountbatten Program with COVID-19?
I wish I could say that it was great, but at the beginning, communication was very limited from them. Especially as my roommate was the first on the program to contract the virus.
We weren’t really given any instructions on what to do, weren’t asked if we needed anything or how we were feeling. Our placements offered amazing support, checking in on us every day, making sure we had enough food and supplies (my flatmate’s managers dropped off bags of groceries for us) and understanding how difficult it must be for us living so far from home during a worldwide pandemic.
The Mountbatten Program did split the apartments into four, instead of five, giving a little extra room and making two rooms single, instead of one. They installed new TVs in every flat since we’d be spending more time at home. The flats that chose to stay together as a five were given an extra sofa to space out a little more, and they would sometimes give us some dollars to spend on food and drinks for the flat.
I think, because COVID-19 was so new to us all, and the Mountbatten Program having a very small team, they didn’t really know how best to handle it at the time and took a while to get their footing. The organisations we all work for are very large and so communication and change is something they know how to do quickly.
OUTSIDE THE OFFICE
What was your holiday allowance for the year?
America don’t like to give employees holidays. It’s very different from the UK where 25 is the magic number.
In New York, the majority of us were given 10 days holiday for the year. Some interns were placed in organisations that closed for two weeks over Christmas, some were placed in businesses that gave them 20 days holiday.
It all very much depends, but the general number is 10.
What is the work-life balance like?
For me, I had a great work-life balance. I wasn’t trading or doing anything too life-changing and so, I worked 9-5 and enjoyed my evenings and weekends fully.
Some interns that worked in important jobs in finance however, spent a lot of time at the office, some even spending their weekends and evenings there. It very much depends on your job role and how dedicated you are to your role and what you want to get out of your year in New York.
Is it possible to visit home at all? For Christmas for example?
Yes, quite a lot of people chose to go home at Christmas for a week or so. As the March intake will have been away from home for 9 months, the majority of them like to go home for Christmas.
I chose to stay along with a number of other interns and we all got together for a Christmas breakfast and went out to a British pub for Christmas dinner.
There is nowhere like New York at Christmas, and being able to walk around the Rockefeller Center, Times Square, Central Park and the rest of New York on Christmas Day is truly magical.
Were there Mountbatten Program staff you could call if there were any issues?
Yes, there were two housing managers who were onsite a lot of the time during the week, and one who lived very close by. They were always at the end of the phone if you needed anything or wanted to speak to them.
I don’t think there was ever a time that any of the Mountbatten Program staff didn’t answer my call or help me out with anything.
Are there any tips/advice you’d give to someone considering doing the Mountbatten Program?
I would say to be as open as possible with the job role. If you’re open to working in any industry, putting yourself outside of your comfort zone and learning something new, embrace it.
I was lucky that I was placed in such a good position with my experience in PR and influencer marketing, and more often than not, the Mountbatten Program do try and place you in a role that’s most suited to your previous experience.
In my case, I was going to say ‘YES’ to the first job offer that came my way as I just wanted to live and work in New York. If that’s you, I would recommend saying yes, as you may not receive another job offer.
I would also say to make the absolute most of your year in New York. Explore, see it all, do it all. Find out what’s happening all the time as there is always something happening in the city, at any time of the day.
Mostly, I would explore New York as much as you can. Yes, go to other states and explore America, but also get a real feel for New York itself. Go to The Bronx, Jackson Heights, Queens, Bushwick, Cobble Hill, Staten Island, Coney Island, Washington Heights, Woodlawn, City Island, Columbia, Harlem, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side, West Village, SoHo, Little Italy, Dumbo, Astoria, the East Village, all of it!
Would you recommend the program?
Do get in touch with any questions you still have about the program and I’ll be happy to answer them. Hopefully the answers above have reassured you about the program and all that it has to offer.
I also interviewed two alumni on my podcast to find out about their experience and life after Mountbatten. You can find those episodes below, or find the Orlagh Claire Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.
*This post is not affiliated with the Mountbatten Program, has not been sponsored and is based on my own opinion and experience. For more information about the Mountbatten Program, click here.