Why did you choose this program?
I choose Au Pair International because of the hands-on support I received right away. When I contacted my placement coordinator, Jelena, she responded quickly and we set up a time to meet in person.
Jelena was very welcoming and walked me through the steps of becoming an au pair and how the Au Pair International program worked. She explained to me the different countries I could consider for my application.
After meeting with Jelena, I knew right away I wanted the experience of being an au pair. I choose New Zealand because I've heard really wonderful things from everyone that has visited there.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
Au Pair International assisted me with every step of the process. They showed me how the application worked, explained how interviewing with host families works, and the steps that follow once I've matched with a family. Of course, on my own, I had to complete the application, upload documents, and organize the interviews. However, Au Pair International looked over my application and let me know if I needed to make any adjustments to my application.
I could also ask questions at any point if I was wondering how anything worked in the process of becoming an au pair.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Don't be afraid of trying something new! It can be hard moving to a new country where you don't know anyone besides your host family. I wasn't sure how to go about making friends in a new city and new country. My host family put me in contact with another au pair in our neighborhood. It was great we organized play dates and also met outside of work hours.
My agency also hosted weekly playgrounds and once a month au pair events. I also joined an Auckland Hiking Group. Here, I met friends to go on weekend trips with. I join another group called Girl Gone International for international women living in Auckland, New Zealand. Girl Gone International has groups all over the world in larger cities.
Research and find a variety of ways to meet people (Facebook groups, MeetUp, or with your agency). I was nervous at first, but everyone is so friendly and they want to meet new people and make friends also!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
This depends on the family, the number of children, and the children's ages. For me, I looked after one child that went to kindy (preschool) three days a week for half days. Then I had two full days where we went to swimming lessons, gymnastics class, or I planned an activity. I worked 35 hours a week and also cooked for my host family two nights a week.
Each au pair's hours, expectations, and schedule will depend on the family. I've met some au pairs that are with the children full time (usually newborn or under 3 years old) and some au pairs that care after all school-aged children.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
For me, I don't think it was necessarily a fear, but more a challenge.
I have lived away from my family before, but I have never dealt with a 19 hour time change. New Zealand (depending on when the USA and NZ have time changes) is 19 hours ahead. I was "living in the future", as my friends would say. This can be a real challenge when trying to video chat and stay in contact with friends and family back home. Eventually, I got used to the change and would often call home on Mondays, when my host child was at school and it was Sunday afternoon back in Minnesota.
What is your favorite memory from being an au pair?
The moment my host child called me a "second mummy." I was not expecting to feel so comfortable and at home in another country. I do have a second family in New Zealand now. I am so grateful I decided to become an au pair. It is such a unique and special experience. I've always loved to travel, but living in with a family and becoming a part of a family is an experience like nothing I've ever had before while being abroad!