SF for 3 months - doable?
August 27, 2010 2:13 AM   Subscribe

San Francisco for 3 months to be creative and check out awesomeness. Low budget, Bangladesh passport. Possible?

So in my travails and research of the performance-artist life, I've noticed that a lot of people & events I find super-inspirational are for some reason based in San Francisco. I've been to the US a few times, but have only ever been to SF Airport (and even then I was charmed by the staff!). More and more, this desire to check out San Francisco and see what's going on is growing, and I'm looking for concrete ideas to make it happen.

My current Australian residency status (Bridging Visa) means that I can only really be out of the country for 3 months at a time. I have seen some great internship programs in SF, but they require a minimum of 6 months. I have a 5-year multiple-entry US B1/B2 visa, which makes things SIGNIFICANTLY easier, but I'm still not likely to be let in the country unless I can have a concrete answer to "what are you doing here for so long?". (Doesn't help that I have a Third-World Muslim-Country Passport of Doom.) I can work out ad-hoc stuff relatively easier, but need at least one major project.

I would like to time this trip with other significant events (festivals, performances, conferences, etc) that are on at the time. (SO JEALOUS I missed FemmeCon! And it's not back till 2012!). I don't like cold weather - Brisbane winters make me complain, and that's mild - and I will need some time to save up and prepare, though I would like to do this by mid 2011 ish. I'd like to explore queer culture, performance art, gender/sexuality, multi-culturalism, community arts, media, burlesque, circus, anti-racism, and activist work primarily but am pretty flexible. I don't think I'm experienced enough to score an artist residency, but some sort of training/workshop program would be great too.


* Are there any organisations/groups in SF that would be open to hosting a 3-month intern/trainee from overseas? I'd imagine most will appreciate having a helping hand (if they're anything like the orgs down here) but places that actually have organised stuff like this before would be handy.

* How will I support myself while I'm there? I can't get a paying job, and getting Australian grants are out (due to residency, unless by some miracle I get permanent residency very soon). Does the US have grants that are open to temporary residents? Anyone in SF with a scholarship/stipend I could investigate?

* When's a good time of year to head to SF? (Maybe during Pride or some other fairly big community event?) How's the weather?

* What should I know about getting housing, medical care (I'm on anti-depressants), transport, etc?

* Are there any orgs I should stay away from? Already from building my research I've found plenty of names, but I don't know which are cool and which are dodgy. Any that seem good in theory but are really messy?

* Any other ways I can make this happen?

I do realise from past AskMefi questions that I have more harebrained schemes than I have accomplished, but maybe this will inspire someone else too!
posted by divabat to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
San Francisco has kind of a weird microclimate but Northern California is, on average, about 10 °C colder than Brisbane in a given season. Don't go there for the weather if you find Brisbane mild.
posted by caek at 3:11 AM on August 27, 2010

What should I know about getting ... medical care

Welcome to the US, home of "you are fucked" medical care. Joking aside, you will need (as in, it's not a legal requirement, but you'd be taking a huge risk otherwise) to have some kind of catastrophic medical insurance in case you get super sick or injured while here and needed to go to the hospital. Bring enough of your meds to cover your visit, rather than expecting to get updated prescriptions while here, will make your life easier.

Medical care aside, the US and Australia are fairly comparably expensive, so however you are supporting yourself there is going to be how you do it here, as long as you can save up enough first. Working under the table is a possibility, but it'll take time away from the point of your trip.

If you are active in the same community in your city, I'd start asking (aka "networking") -- someone is going to know someone who knows someone in the scene in SF. That'll get you a million times further than finding some random person via their website, and gives you a minimal guarantee that they aren't a crazy weirdo.

Good luck.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on August 27, 2010

Best answer: Pretty much all of the nonprofits in the Bay Area are surviving on smoke and mirrors and unpaid internships right now. Look at the Bay Area Progressive Directory and make a list of organizations you'd like to help; contact them about internship opportunities and what you can offer. Odds are you'll find multiple offers to invent an internship opportunity for you.

You'll find it difficult to impossible to find money to support yourself here. The unemployment rate for recent college graduates in the Bay Area is staggeringly high, and they're going to get all the meager stipend and grant money that's here. You'll have to figure out how to bring your means of support from home.

Housing: Rehearse your options by looking at sublet opportunities on Craigslist. Look at the East Bay tab, too: It's cheaper there, and a lot of San Francisco's awesomeness has been migrating to the East Bay anyway to escape gentrification (Oakland in particular).

Look at calendars (Squid List, Ecology Center, FunCheapSF, UC-Berkeley) to get a sense of when to come. There are a number of festival events during the summer (Gay Pride is in June), but things actually get busier once the summer is over from a resident's perspective.
posted by gum at 8:19 AM on August 27, 2010

Idealist.org is another good place to hunt for volunteer/unpaid internship opportunities.
posted by gum at 8:21 AM on August 27, 2010

We're having an atypically cold summer (two days of searing heat earlier this week notwithstanding). It gets warmer in late September/early October, though -- more like "summer" weather then.
posted by vickyverky at 11:39 AM on August 27, 2010

It looks like your question is "How can I go on vacation in SF for 3 months and get someone else to pay for it?"

If you don't already have the funds to support yourself here for 3 months, then this isn't going to happen. The state has been in financial ruin since before the economy tanked. Unemployment is high and the few paid internships that exist are very very competitive. Most non-profits are barely keeping their heads above water.

Without funding the remaining questions (especially weather) are completely moot. Sorry for the downer.
posted by special-k at 3:06 PM on August 27, 2010

Not to mention the cost of living in SF is probably extremely high compared to what you're used to. You probably won't find a sublet for under $500 a month, and that's going to be a sketchy rathole.
posted by spatula at 4:09 PM on August 27, 2010

Response by poster: I'm not after a vacation, I'm after practical experience and creative development. I can't earn money under my US visa, but that doesn't mean I can't try and earn money *elsewhere* beforehand.
posted by divabat at 5:49 PM on August 27, 2010

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