are nowadays becoming an increasingly popular option amongst individuals wanting to experience the ultimate holiday adventure. With so many forms of overseas work now available and in just about every continent, it seems almost hard picking where you want to be and what you want to do.
I mean there’s internships, volunteering or working in camps, teaching English, AuPair work or possibly sailing the seven seas as a stewardess/steward…the opportunities seem endless, and luckily for us, nothing is too far out of reach!
I took the opportunity while one of my best friends, Kareena, has been living in the USA for the past 18 months working as an AuPair (nanny), to pick her ear on how her AuPair journey has been – and if it was all as she had imagined and dreamed it to be.
POCKETFULLOFME: What made you decide to move overseas and be an Au Pair?
Kareena: I wanted to be an Au Pair as I was seeking change from my daily life at home and wanting a new lifestyle and cultural experience. I really enjoy working with kids, and being an Au Pair is a cheap and easy way to travel around the world.
POCKETFULLOFME: Where are you located and how many kids are you a nanny to?
Kareena: I’m living in Great Falls and I have 3 kids, aged 11, 9 and 2. Two boys and youngest a girl.
POCKETFULLOFME: Any requirement needed prior to apply?
Kareena: I attended an information session about being an Au Pair before filling out an online application. You do need 200 hours of childcare experience.. This could be anything from babysitting experience, your job, any subjects/degrees you’ve studied that are relevant to childcare, for e.g. some Au Pairs are here in the USA as they have a particular degree working with children, such as Autism and Child Psychology. You do also require 3 separate references from 3 people once you are applying.
POCKETFULLOFME: How difficult was it once you applied to find work? Did you choose your destinations as to where you wanted to potentially live?
Kareena: It was relatively easy, as the Au Pair company you are with matches you to the ‘most right’ family for you and think you would both suit each other. You are always guaranteed a family if you apply. I couldn’t choose where I got to live during my first year, however if you choose to extend for 6,9 or 12 months you can choose a different destination around that country.
POCKETFULLOFME: Describe what a typical day in the life of an Au Pair is like from morning to night..
Kareena: Typical routine on a school day…Wake up at 7am, get the kids ready for school and make sure they have lunch packed, dressed, beds made and teeth brushed. I will drop them off 8.10am for the bus and drop my youngest off at preschool which runs 9.15 -12pm.
In the afternoon, I make sure kids laundry is done, kitchen and bathroom are tidy and put my youngest (Cate) down for a nap. When Cate isn’t at preschool, we go to the library, playground and do various activities.
In the afternoon, I will pick the boys up from the bus at 340pm and they usually have soccer after school so I make sure they have snacks packed and are ready for soccer. Once their training is over, I come home and depending on who is home – make the kids dinner or wait for my host parents to return home.
POCKETFULLOFME: Approximately how much do you earn being an Au Pair?
Kareena: I earn around $200 a week- which isn’t a lot but in saying that, I have rent free, phone bill, car service, and my food is also paid for.
POCKETFULLOFME: How do you cope with home sickness?
Kareena: I surround myself with positive people, friends and my host family. I find it helps to talk about it and keeps your mind busy. I also make food from home, like pavlova and vegemite scrolls.. Sure you could contact home, to let them know how are your feeling, but I don’t always get time and with the time difference it can be hard -sometimes thinking about them would make me miss them even more…
POCKETFULLOFME: What are the best bits of your job?
Kareena: It is rewarding! You are helping these kids and watching them grow! You also have time to explore the country and do lots of sight seeing. I have learned various qualities and life skills just from this experience alone, not to mention the many lifelong friends I have made during my journey as an AuPair.
POCKETFULLOFME: And the worst?
Kareena: This job is not easy! You’re experiencing a new culture and living with a family you don’t know (at first!). Different rules apply and adjusting to the change can be hard initially.
POCKETFULLOFME: Do you get the time off from work to be able to travel? Tell me a bit about where you have ventured to while you’ve been in the USA?
Kareena: I get most weekends off, plus two weeks paid holiday. I have travelled to New Orleans, Chicago, San Fran, New York City, Lancaster, Ocean City, Atlantic City, Michigan, West Virginia, Miami, Puerto Rico, Philadelphia, Boston and Salem.
POCKETFULLOFME: How long have you been an AuPair now?
Kareena: I am currently on my 18th month as an AuPair. Time has flown by! Usually your contracted for one year, however it is possible to stay for another 6,9 or 12months as an Au Pair. You can stay with your current host family or a new one after that first year has ended..
POCKETFULLOFME: What can you say you have gained from this experience?
Kareena: I have learnt from being here – how important communication is, being honest, you need to be very flexible with your time in this job, speaking up for yourself, you cannot rely on everyone (learn to be more independent) and open-minded and willing to give things a try. What is normal to you isn’t sometimes normal to others. Money comes and goes (spend on experiences) I have spent more money on experiences than anything else while being here.
I love this quote “you’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think”. It relates in so many ways! Go out and see the country you are an Au Pair in!
POCKETFULLOFME: Any advice to give to anyone considering applying to become an Au Pair?
Kareena: If I had more time I would do it again, although I do want to go home and study. One of my au pair friends was here for her 2nd time as an Au Pair.. There is a cut off with most Au Pair programs; once you are 26 you can no longer do it.
This job isn’t for everyone. I would recommend it if you like being with kids, enjoy traveling and willing to give new things a try. It’s a real cultural experience and it is important to remember that it is a job first, and travel comes second.
POCKETFULLOFME: What will you miss the most?
Kareena: I will miss my host family. You form a special bond.. and I will miss the friends I have met while I’ve been here. Some of the food! Like Cheesecake factory, silver diner, TGIFridays, Sweetgreen, Georgetown Cupcakes, Frozen Yoghurt! Unlike in Australia too, I will miss how easily it is to go to another country in just a short 5 hours drive! You could be in Pittsburgh, West Virginia, New York, New Jersey, the beach etc. Depends on your job/life back home.
POCKETFULLOFME: You are currently on your final month as an AuPair…What happens after?
Kareena: As part of my Au Pair program, there’s a certain point towards end the where you have to request flight home. Also you have the option to choose another destination (other than your home country) that are within the Au Pair program.
I am flying to Europe for a 7 week visit before heading back home to Australia. My first arrival will be in Vienna, Austria. From there I will travel around Austria, Germany and Belgium visiting my old Au Pair and school friends. After Belgium, I will be taking part in a 13 day Greek Island hoping tour with Contiki (tour group). I had previously done a tour with them that I enjoyed plus is a great and easy way to travel around.
POCKETFULLOFME: Any last words?
Kareena: Remember – exchange isn’t a year in your life, it’s a life in a year!
Interested in becoming an Au Pair? Or for more info on the program, visit…