What is an Au Pair? How I Got Paid to Travel
Are you a nanny or child care professional in the United States? Are you looking for a way to make easy money when you travel to a foreign country? Look no further!
There's many options open to you for work when you arrive in another location, such as study abroad, internships and volunteer work. Some things offer pay, some are in exchange for your time and some of them are at your expense. I chose to be an au pair. What is an au pair?
I see a lot of my friends adventuring in foreign countries during and after their college careers. I wanted to find something where I would not only travel, but make money while doing it. I have always loved kids, travel and I take pride in my work. These are the only three ingredients needed to perform work duties as an au pair--more specifically, a love and experience working with kids.
I get asked a lot of questions about my experience abroad, so I'll be answering many of them here.
WHY DID I BECOME AN AU PAIR?
After I graduated in 2013 with my Bachelor's degree, I felt like I needed more adventure in my life to come into my own and discover my true gifts. I had heard about what an au pair was through some friends of mine and decided that it might be a good fit for me after some research.
WHAT IS AN AU PAIR / HOW DOES IT WORK?
An au pair is someone from a different country who does child care and/or basic housework in exchange for room and board. As an au pair, you'll usually be living with the family. I lived with a family in London, England from August 2013 to August 2014. My specific schedule was waking the kids and taking them to school, pick-ups from school, homework help and basic housework Monday-Friday. I had weekends off and during the day while the kids were at school, my time was my own. This type of schedule is a little bit busier than others, but I was paid very fairly for the extra work!
HOW DID I FIND MY FAMILY + DID WE GET ALONG?
I'm a dual U.K.-U.S. citizen, so I didn't need to go through the sometimes hair-pulling visa process. I used the website Great Au Pair and found my own family. I didn't have the safety of a legal contract and an agency though, so that's something to seriously consider. Of course, it takes some time to get used to each other, but keep in mind that you're literally living in a stranger's house--it's not going to be easy from the beginning.
I started connecting with my host mom and children after a few days, but I didn't feel fully at home until a few weeks in. That's perfectly normal! Now when I go back to visit, I make myself right at home on the couch and at the fridge. I felt weird about hanging out with them on my times off at first, but honestly, the more time you spend with them, the closer your bond will become.
WHERE CAN YOU WORK LEGALLY (AS AN AMERICAN)?
American citizens can only au pair in certain countries that have an agreement with the U.S. I know France has one, along with Australia, China and a few other countries. As an American, it's moderately difficult and you have fewer options than other countries. Don't forget to check online and see if your desired country is allowed! Even with the current law in place, you can still find plenty of countries that you can work in, you just need to make sure you go through the correct process of gaining a proper visa. This is where an agency comes in.
WHY DO YOU NEED AN AGENCY?
Agencies can help you with the correct way to enter the country and work as an au pair. Agency fees can be expensive, but they serve as a good resource. Not only do they assist you with the process, if things don't work out with your family they generally put you in lodging until they can re-place you. The agency also gives you and the family a contract or helps you to write one. This is the rules and expectations of both parties involved. Each contract is different, and so is each agency.
HOW DO YOU FIND + MAKE FRIENDS?
Most of the time, there will be plenty of other au pairs in the area! If you go through an agency, they can give you a list of the other placed au pairs in your location. I found friends through a Facebook group called "Oh! Pairs au pairs in London". You can find plenty of groups on Facebook for lots of different areas. You can also find au pair friends through the school your host kids go to, or if you take a language course while visiting!
SOME SOLID RESOURCES:
I really, really recommend this opportunity. I gained life experience, new friendships with other au pairs from all over the world and a whole second family who loves me even to this day.
If you have any questions about au pairing or travel in general, leave your questions in the comments below!