Alumni Spotlight: Erin MacDougall


Erin MacDougall, is 19 years old (18 when she left for Australia) and is from Vancouver, Canada. She left for Australia on Feb 6th 2013, and returned Feb 4th 2014. Erin is currently a swim coach for competitive swimming, and soon to be Lifeguard. She loves swimming and competing in triathlons. Erin will be going to University in Fall 2014, and plans on travelling a lot more after that!

Why did you au pair in Australia with GeoVisions?

I decided to become an au pair in Australia, because I have always wanted to experience living in a hot country, and I love working with kids, so I thought that this job would be a good fit for me.

As au pairs we get to live in with the host family and children. This was appealing to me as I imagined it would be a great experience to see what it is like living with another family, and being able to build a strong relationship with the children.

I chose Geovisions because they had great reviews, and seemed like they had a lot of knowledge and experience about working abroad.

They answered all my questions to the best of their ability and made an effort to make sure that I found a host family that would work for me. I appreciated how thorough they were with information about the prospective families, so that nothing was left to question.

What was the best part of being an au pair?

There are so many great things about being an au pair. I personally loved the balance I was able to achieve between working and travelling.

I loved working with my kids, and when I was off duty I had enough time to explore the city and meet up with my au pair friends. I also really liked being a part of another family.

My host family was amazing, and they treated me like a family member or close friend. It is nice having adults to talk to, that will share their time with you, and that are happy to give advice or help with any problems that you may be having.

I really enjoyed building a relationship with the kids, I never thought I would get attached to them, especially as they could be VERY trying at times, but all the “I love you’s”, and “I’m going to miss you so much when you leave” comments, completely justify why I decided to become an au pair.

What was the most challenging aspect of the experience?

The most challenging aspect of being an au pair is really just getting used to living in a foreign country, finding your way around, and figured out the best way to handle the kids. The first month or so was pretty tough and stressful, as you are trying to learn a lot of things all at the same time.

Figuring out driving and where to go, what to do when the kids aren’t behaving, learning about all the routines and activities that the children do, and the loneliness that comes with being in a new country and trying to find friends there. This is an inevitable part of the job, but there are lots of things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.

Use your host parents as a resource! Don't be afraid to ask them questions or write things down for you.

Set yourself up for success, meaning try be organized and write down your duties step by step, so you know what you are expected to do throughout the day. I also contacted my mother and used the Internet for advice on how to handle the kids, as that is one of the toughest parts of being an au pair.

The kids may still be giving you a hard time but at least you have some knowledge on how to handle it, and it gets a whole lot better the more time passes and the more that the kids get to know and love you.

What was the most memorable place you visited in Australia?

There are so many beautiful and awe-inspiring places in Australia. I travelled the east coast before I went back home, and there are a few places that a really enjoyed.

I quite liked Byron Bay, which is a very relaxed, easy-going, “hippy” town. There are lots of interesting stores and shops there, and great food.

I also liked Surfers Paradise because it has quite a lot of nightlife and has that big city feel to it, but also has beautiful beaches right beside the bustling metropolis.

Cairns is a bit of a touristy city, but of course has the amazing great barrier reef, and many other adventurous activities such as skydiving (highly recommend that), bungee jumping, white water rafting etc.

One of my top favorites would have to be the Whitsundays. They have the most amazing beaches-clean white sand, crystal clear water, and many fun activities as well.

Any advice for someone considering becoming an au pair in Oz?

My advice to anyone wanting to become an au pair in Australia would be to do lots of research and ask lots of questions about the job, and what it is like living in a tropical country. Be as prepared as possible!

Also make sure that you have lots of information on your prospective host family and that you Skype with them and the kids so that you can get a good idea of what they are like, and if it would be a good fit.

Again don't be afraid to ask the host family lots of questions, it will show that you are really interested and are putting in the effort, and it will better prepare you for the experience.

It would be very beneficial if you were able to talk to someone that has been an au pair or has lived abroad. It is great to get some advice on how to handle homesickness as it happens to everyone!

If you do decide to become an au pair in Australia, my biggest advice to you would be have fun and don't let yourself get stressed out or unhappy! This is one of the most memorable and exciting periods in your life.

Travel as much as you can, make lots of friends (there are great au pair groups on Facebook and “meetup”) and don't forget to keep in touch with your friends and family back home.

I hope my responses will help you in making your decision, have an amazing time and good luck!!