Written by Elizabeth Weitzel (U.S.-Michigan)
My experience abroad may be a little different from what you’re used to hearing. I didn’t study abroad through a university, and I didn’t spend time backpacking through Europe after graduation. To fulfill my own desire to travel, I decided to go abroad as an au pair. Now, you may be wondering exactly what an au pair is. Some people I talk to kind of know what I mean because of the classic 90s movie, “Au Pair” (that’s the only reason I knew what it was when I first came across the idea). And some people have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.
On a surface level, it’s a pretty simple explanation. An au pair is basically a nanny, but a nanny who is from a foreign country. The most important part of the job is that you teach the kids you’re looking after how to speak your native language. In my case, I moved to Pescara, Italy, and taught two boys, ages five and three, how to speak English.
As I said before, I didn’t study abroad in college, and I had never been out of the country other than to the Bahamas. Like most young people, I ached to travel and experience a culture other than my own. Being an au pair was the perfect combination of jet-setting and working. I knew I could see some of the places I had always wanted to see, all while being paid to do so.
After chatting with another au pair and doing some online research, I ended up making an account on aupairworld.com. I didn’t end up going with any of the families I met through the internet, but I will say that this is the most common way for potential au pairs to get set up with a host family. Personally, I got a summer internship I had been vying for and decided to go with that instead. Luckily, one of my college friends picked up on my au pairing idea, and found a family herself through the site.
Fast forward three months: I finished my internship and was more confused than ever about what I should do with my future. Coincidentally, my friend was wrapping up her time as an au pair. She reached out and told me that friends of her host family were looking for their first-ever au pair, and she wanted to see if I was still interested. It made me nervous, but I jumped at the chance to do what I had really wanted to do all along.
Before saying yes, I facetimed my potential host family numerous times to see what they were like. I think that doing this, getting to know your hosts beforehand, is crucial. That, and going with your gut. If you don’t click with the family, or the living arrangements don’t seem right, or the kids seem like too much, don’t feel bad saying no. Lucky for me, I fell in love with my host parents, their two boys, and the grandparents I lived with. The language barrier was difficult at times, there were some tough cultural differences to get used to, and I experienced the usual homesickness, but my experience was overwhelmingly positive.
The blog posts featured in this section are written by friends we've made around the globe that want to share their experiences, lessons they've learned, and tips and tricks.