During my first year of university, my roommate told me about her friend who was working as an au pair in Germany. It sounded like a fantastic opportunity – travel, culture, and income all in one. I knew I had to try it out.
I had wanted to go to Australia since I was 6 years old when we had an exchange student live with us for six months, but the cost to get there was significant, especially for a university student. I realized that being an au pair would be the perfect way to see Australia since I would be paid to be there and so I created my profile and began reaching out to families.
I used Au Pair World and spend a few months emailed and talking with parents. Eventually, I found a family I was interested in working for and living with and we began talking on the phone to make arrangements.
I headed to Australia in May to work for my 4-month summer. It took three flights and 21 hours minus layovers to get to the city the family lived in. It was in New South Wales.
As a teenager, before I knew the concept of seat prices, I planned to travel first class to Australia. Instead, I sat in the middle seat for the 14-hour flight from L.A. to Sydney. Talk about squishy! But I was so excited to be in Australia, I made it work.
Within a couple of days of being in Australia, I learned how to drive on the other side of the road. I was incredibly nervous because not only were the 3 children in the vehicle, I was driving a large SUV and at home, I drove a small car. Thankfully, I picked it up quite quickly – even the roundabouts.
The mother of the family also introduced me to some girls my own age and so I quickly had a group of friends to spend time with.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out with that family. The expectations of me were not consistent and I was never quite sure what I was to be doing so I began looking for a new family, which I found quite quickly. They had me come visit for a weekend to see if I felt comfortable and then I moved there. I was now near Melbourne.
At this new family home, I was surrounded by woodland which meant a lot of kangaroos! It was so much fun. I really enjoyed the two girls I was caring for and I found a great group of friends to spend my time with.
Were there challenges, absolutely! It’s an adjustment to become a part of another family, but also be the hired help.
Would I recommend it to anyone looking for an interesting summer job or a way to travel? Without a doubt! I already have many times!
I think my time as an au pair was one of the most rewarding and maturing times in my life and it allowed me to see what living in Australia was like instead of simply ticking off tourist destinations.
Germany, Italy, and Great Britain
By Slavka from On2Continents
Being an au pair is the best gap year experience for those who want to travel, learn languages, and get to know new cultures. It’s important to learn as much as possible about the country where you want to go beforehand. Learn about their culture and learn at least some basic phrases so you are not completely lost. Also, have an exit plan ready in case things don’t work out well.
These days, it’s so much easier to be an au pair thanks to the digital world we live in. It’s easy to stay connected to your family and friends, study online, or even do extra freelance work.
I spent three years in three very different countries before starting university, and everything was great.
The best food was in Italy and Germany thanks to the variety, freshness, and organic quality.
Kids were the best in Germany (smart toddler) and the UK (adorable newborn). In Italy, the kids (toddler twins and a 1st-grader) were pretty spoiled with lacking routine and manners. It took me several months to teach them to say please and thank you.
The accommodation was best in the UK and Germany for room size, amenities, and privacy.
The pay was the best and fairest in Germany.
The parents were great in all three countries and I felt at home, almost like their oldest kid. I felt safe, appreciated and they all tried to be helpful, friendly, and approachable.
I strongly suggest you make the most of your au pair stay. Use your time to study at a local school, explore the town, and go on trips, visit museums, galleries, do sightseeing. Also, make new friends and have fun together.
Not all will be perfect. There will be weird situations, misunderstandings, homesickness, or mistakes, but all in all, your time as an au pair will be your cherished memories in the future years.
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