By the time you reach university, the novelty of the lengthy summer holidays begins to wear off. You get a little tired of spending days in your pyjamas, and of nobody ever finding true love on Dinner Date. You dream of travelling, but haven’t come up with a way to make your student loan cover your adventure. The solution? Become an au pair. I spent an amazing month last summer as an au pair for a Spanish family, but not before months of scouring the internet for advice and experiences. Here are some key questions and answers to aid (and hopefully persuade) your decision.
What does it take to be an au pair?
To be an au pair, you’ll need to be flexible and open-minded in order to adapt to the new routine, expectations, and culture. There is no essential experience required, though it is useful to have some previous contact with young children. There is also no set time period, as all families have different requirements.
How do I find a family?
This can be done efficiently through the internet, and there is no need to pay for agencies. Personally, I used NewAuPair and AuPairWorld, and spoke to quite a few families. There are more, but do check reviews and be precautious when using new sites.
Will it make me more employable?
Yes. Being an au pair will improve your adaptability, develop your cultural awareness, make you more understanding of others, and perhaps allow you to learn or improve your language skills.
Is it expensive?
Not at all. Au pairs are often expected to pay for flights, but generally accommodation and food is all provided at no cost. You should be paid in return for your work with the children, and for me this meant that I came back in profit (even after buying endless fridge magnets at the airport…).
Do I need to speak another language?
If your host family speak English, then speaking their language is not essential as they often want you to interact with the children in English to help them to learn. However, it is useful to have a grasp of the local language to be able to socialise and have a greater sense of freedom.
How many hours will I be expected to work? / How much free time will I have?
Questions like these are ones that must be arranged beforehand with the family. I hadn’t been made aware that I was actually expected to give daily classes to the children, which led to me hastily preparing PowerPoints in the early hours of the morning!
What will I gain from the experience?
It’s difficult to summarise the benefits of being an au pair, so a list will have to suffice: greater cultural awareness, lifelong friendships, language skills, new recipes or music, different perspectives, and most likely some adorable drawings from the children.
Overall, if you’re looking for a productive way to spend your summer that will allow you to see more of the world and meet some great people, I would definitely recommend trying out au pairing. If you’re still unsure after reading the advantages, consider it from the opposite perspective: there are no disadvantages. Provided that everything is organised and discussed in advance, you will feel completely comfortable and come back with plenty of stories to tell!