Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why become an Au pair?

Are you between 18 and 26 years old? Do you want to travel? Do you want to immerse yourself in a different culture, learn a foreign language, travel to new places? And at the same time earn a little money?
Sure, I think A LOT of people want to do that! There is one way of doing this I want to talk to you about, but it isn’t for everyone. If you answered YES, sweet!! But the next questions are also important:
Do you love children?
Are you willing to work, and live with a foreign family? Are you willing to adapt, and learn quick? And… are you patient?

If you still answered YES, then perhaps becoming an Aupair could be a way to achieve  your goals.
What is an Aupair?
Aupair is often used as synonymous of Nanny, although it isn’t 100% the same. Usually, an Aupair is a foreign assistant who works for a family as caregiver. It is mostly common for an Aupair to live with the host family, but there are cases where the family will pay for a room or an apartment for the Aupair. An Aupair is given responsibilities such as childcare and house chores, in exchange for pocket money (a small monetary allowance for personal use), room, and board.

So here it goes. As a personal experience, I would definitely recommend being an Aupair. But I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone. While doing an Aupair year (or several) can be a life-changing experience, it could also become the worst year of your life if your goals don’t match an Au pair’s lifestyle.


1.        Learning the language:
If you’re learning a foreign language and are trying to figure out the best way to learn it fluently, living with a native family is an effective way to achieve this. Children are often good teachers. They point at what they want, repeat it, and help you learn a lot of vocabulary in a short period of time, especially if they only speak the language you’re trying to learn.

2.      Immersing into a different culture:
Being an Aupair is definitely a cultural experience. Getting to live with a native family is also something very special. Between sharing meals, learning the family and cultural values, and experiencing a foreign every-day life, you can get a fascinating and first-hand sense of the culture.


3.       Constant Income:
Being an Aupair is definitely not a money-maker, but it makes a huge difference if you’re receiving some money each month. I remember seeing some exchange students, who partied and had fun, and of course, didn’t have to work. In a way I envied them, but in another I was glad I could pay for my own partying (even if it wasn’t as much as theirs!), and not have to ask my parents for money. That was another thing, my parents couldn’t pay for me to live abroad, so working and taking a language courses at the same time worked perfectly for me.

4. Having a second family in a foreign country:
This is one of the most important and life-changing experiences you can have. Apart from the cultural and educational side of it, becoming part of a new family is something unforgettable. I knew German families were a little colder than Latin American ones, so I was not expecting too much warmth from my host family. Instead, I was surprised to find that the kids would come to me, and hug me! They wanted to talk to me, engage, and I felt very loved by them. One of the girls I was taking care of cried when I left Germany. But it’s important to keep in contact once you leave, because a bond like this can last a lifetime if you want it to, and if you make it happen. Having a second home in another part of the world is priceless.

5.     Traveling:
The places you travel to will depend on the place you’re living, the money you save or have for it, and your organizational and planning skills. Honestly, I’m terrible at planning stuff, beside the fact that I despise it. But even then, I did get to visit a few places once I was in Germany. Now, I didn’t travel around the world or anything like that, but whether you go to Australia or France, there are always ways you can move around to discover places that are new to you.


6.      Growing up:
This one goes in hand with earning money while you’re abroad. I was an Aupair when I was 18. Now that’s not precisely young, but it isn’t like one is completely mature at that age. So the fact that you’re alone, in charge of your own money, and have a lot of responsibilities on you (the children, your school!), does make you grow up, at least a little! And then you’re stuck in another country, it’s not like your parents can fish you out of a problem (unless it’s financial and they’re able to help you), and extreme experiences will stretch you in ways you can’t even imagine. It sounds a little scary, I know, but it’s fun and definitely a thousand times worth it.

7.      Opening other opportunities:
Being abroad will help you know people, and perhaps discover other interests that you didn’t know you had. It can also open the doors for future jobs, or for attending university there. It can help you meet people from different countries, and maybe even develop friendships deep enough for people to receive you in their homes when you come back. Then it’s like having a home in different countries!! Some people (especially girls) use their Aupair year to look for a boyfriend (or husband!!). Anyway, I won’t comment on that, but only state that that’s not what I did =P (Well, once you have a boyfriend, you close your doors to meet or flirt with other cute guys, right?)

So whether you think being an Aupair is right for you or not, please do you homework and read a lot about it. It helps a lot to be informed, and know what other people say about it, what it implies, and what it requires. That will hopefully help you decide if becoming an Aupair is something for you, and something you would enjoy.

Have an awesome day!

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