I had dreamed about traveling overseas throughout college, but since I graduated with student loans to pay, I assumed I wouldn't be able to pursue travel until later in life. However, the desire stuck with me. I began researching ways to live and work in other countries. The best option I found for me was au pairing, and the best avenue I found for au pairing was through Interexchange.
Jill grew up in Missouri, then lived in Southern California for five and a half years, where she attended Biola University and graduated with a degree in English writing in 2016. After working post-grad as a retail phone operator and nanny for over a year, she decided she wanted to seek out her daydreams of traveling the world, and began as an au pair in Western Australia.
Why did you choose this program?
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Interexchange guided me through each step of the process – applying to the program, interviewing families, applying for a Visa, and preparing to move to a new country, and working as an au pair. Their in-country partner, smart aupairs, overlapped for part of this process, and once I was actually in Australia, they became my main contact (though Interexchange was still available).
I had to do things like find my own flights and fill out my Visa application, but they gave me all the resources and were always available for questions.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
You're going to meet people from all over the world. Australia is full of both Australians and other travelers – make friends with both! The travelers will likely surprise you and are often willing to be a tourist with you, and the natives can give you a greater feel for the country and culture than tourist activities can.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
On an average work day, I'd get myself ready for the day, then begin getting the kids' breakfast and making their lunches. I had to do a lot of multitasking in the mornings as I balanced keeping an older boy on track with getting ready for school and wrangling a toddler. After school drop-off, the toddler and I would go to various activities in town and play/learn at home until he took a nap. After school, it would be homework and baths, then helping out with dinner preparation. After dinner, I could relax on my own or with my host parents.
On weekends, I tried to spend time exploring the city, beaches, and hiking spots. At first, I went solo a lot or tagged along with my host family's activities, but I soon made some friends my age and began hanging out with them.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I think my biggest fear was just in the decision to go to Australia at all, wondering if it was the "right" next step for my life as it was such a big change, and I'd been doing pretty well where I was. It was certainly a season of transitions for me.
As I was trying to make the decision and doubting myself, I read a book about opened doors we come across in life, and it brought me to the conclusion that I may as well continue walking through this open door until it slammed shut in my face – and it never did! I'm glad I took the opportunity to do something different and scary. I had good days and difficult days, but good has come from both as I've learned from both.
What do you do when the post-excitement slump settles in?
Something I didn't necessarily consider before going was how average life can feel sometimes. It's good to make the most of being in a new country, but don't feel guilty that you do develop a routine and sometimes mundane life.
My first placement was in a small rural town, so I spent many weeknights relaxing in front of the TV or with a book and a cup of tea. But that doesn't mean I didn't get to explore on the weekends. Now and then, I'd feel like I wasn't doing/seeing/traveling enough, and sometimes that was a sign that I should plan an adventure, but sometimes I needed to realize that the fact I was living life in another country – even one that seemed mundane – was pretty amazing!