I had the best time working as an Au Pair for a year before going to University, and meeting up with my host family in Paris last weekend has reminded me of some of the amazing memories I had and what great experience it is to work as an Au Pair.
So why spend a summer or a year working with children abroad?
1. Exactly that! You get to spend time working abroad in a job which is loads of fun, fairly low-key, with free food and accommodation.
I think that choosing to become an Au Pair is one of the easiest, hassle-free summer jobs to organise. Once you have found your host family, your accommodation is also sorted, as is all of your food for your time abroad. I found that looking for accommodation in Paris for my term abroad was the biggest nightmare, so it is great to walk into a job where your home comes as part of the deal!
2. It is a great chance to keep up your languages by immersing yourself in a different culture, or to even pick up a new language.
I primarily chose to spend a year in France not only because I love the country but also because it was a great way to improve my French before I started my languages degree at Leeds. Although I spoke English with the children, being immersed in day-to-day life in France meant that I came back feeling confident to strike up a conversation with anyone in French and had a load of conversational phrases I didn’t know beforehand.
3. Your weekends are your own to explore, make friends and live life as one extended summer holiday!
I was extremely lucky to life in such a beautiful region in France, an hour from the slopes and 5 minutes from Lake Geneva. As my host family were superstars on the slopes (Mathilde, aged 5 was whizzing down black runs whilst her 10 year old brother Jeremy was doing half-pipe jumps on his skis!) I couldn’t say no to my first season on the slopes. I spent most weekends skiing with friends or with the family, who both very kindly put up with teaching me how to ski! Post ski-season, I spent the sunny weekends by the lake, canoeing to the beach with friends or swimming at my friend’s own secret beach!
4. You will make best friends for life.
Thrown into life in a different community and culture made me nervous to make friends, but I ended up with the best group who will be best friends for life! My host family knew another family with an Au Pair, so we were introduced, and then the circle of other Au Pairs in the town grew. I spent every free moment with these girls, and it was great to have such a close group to share the good days, the not-so-good trickier days, the roadtrips, the beach days, the ski weekends and the nights out with.
After my host family came to visit last weekend, it reminded me that you really can make friends for life during your time as an Au Pair. This family will always hold such a special place in my heart, as we were very close during my time with them.
Two other best friends I will always have are Mathilde and Jeremy. We spent months and months playing, baking, colouring, lego building, singing and tap dancing so these two children will always be important to me.
My circle of other Au Pairs are another group of friends I will always stay close with. Despite living in different countries, New Zealand, France, Spain, Austria and some travelling, we had such a great year together that I know we will always stay in touch.
So how do I become an Au Pair?
I found my job online through Au Pair World, a website which allows you to set up a profile and view the profiles of families looking for an Au Pair until you find a match. I was speaking to three or four families, and had Skype conversations with two. As soon as I saw the family on Skype I knew I had found the perfect family, location and set-up!
The advantages of using this website are that there are no agency fees, as it is simply a database of families and Au Pairs, and the work is all down to you. I liked this as I was lucky with my family, but I can imagine if you were unlucky and didn’t get along so well with yours, having an agency as the middle man to negotiate might be quite useful.
Was the job difficult?
Absolutely! I had just turned 18, and had been driving for 6 months. Although I had a lot of experience working with children, the prospect of having sole responsibility of two children, driving on the other side of the road and living in another country for a year was of course daunting!
I had a fantastic time, but definitely had my fair share of trickier days. Disagreements with the children, mustering up the energy for a full day with the children when I was exhausted, breaking my arm on the slopes and negotiating the French hospital system, discovering a mosquito allergy and hopping in and out of A and E, bumping the car the family had given me, being bitten by a spider and puppy training a tiny puppy when the family brought one home one day. But these were all part of the adventure, and I wouldn’t change anything for the world!
Overall I couldn’t recommend working as an Au Pair more. I am half working as an Au Pair during my time in Paris living with a host family, spending time with the children in the evenings and at the weekends. Although it is exhausting, the children are amazing and it is a great way to immerse yourself more in the culture and have cheaper rent.