Being an au pair comes with a lot of benefits:
you will receive the experience of a lifetime living abroad; you will get income, food and lodging in exchange for childcare and other cultural exchange activities; you will meet interesting people from all around the world and become friends that will last a long time; you will learn the local language; and you will be able to highlight this experience on your resume to attract any employers.
As such, young adults are often drawn to such an opportunity. There are also five considerations that you should think through before entering a program.
- Understand the program scope and responsibilities: Every country’s requirement is different. For au pairs in the U.S., you are required to care for kids in addition to language tutoring. Simple house chores are expected, such as children’ laundry and a room. For au pairs in China, you are not expected to do chores except for tutoring in English. Knowing what is needed from you and having a clear understanding before entering the program is highly recommended. Talk to the agency or even the au pairs from the same program to exchange information. Otherwise, you are committed to an extended period of time and potentially monetary output.
- Know it takes a certain personality: An au pair plays the role of cultural exchange which involves dealing with children in a household. Before signing up, ask yourself, do you have a love for kids? Are you open to doing housework? Can you accept cultural differences without becoming judgemental of a certain culture? Don’t become an au pair solely for travel. This will not be a good start to the journey.
- Acknowledge and accept that there will be hurdles: Au pairs work for a host family in exchange for food, accommodation and payment. Living and working for a family in a house can be an uncomfortable encounter in the beginning. There will be ups and downs due to a new environment requiring adjustments. Additionally, handling kids can be a discouraging task at times, especially when they’re having a tantrum. Recognize that it will be challenging for the first couple of months while getting used to everything, but keep in mind that this feeling will pass, and you will enjoy and excel once you overcome it.
- Know your place: After all, you will be working for a family as an au pair. There will be house rules you need to follow and limitations around what you can and can’t do. There will be times where the family needs their alone time, and you will need to be prepared for it.
- Prepare for culture shock: No matter which country you end up going to, there will be cultural differences that you either find interesting or uncomfortable. Regardless, being able to keep an open mind before jumping to conclusions will serve you well in the long run.
To sum up, being an au pair will be an awesome experience, but there are areas to consider before signing up. It is always recommended to do some research and ask as many questions as possible to the agencies prior to jumping into it.
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