How I Became an Au Pair
Are you wondering how to become an au pair? Interested to know what the application process is like? Jessica from Germany has spent more than 5 months working as an au pair in America with the CulturalCare agency. Here she shares her experience including why she decided to apply, how she got started, what happens after you register your interest and tips for what to do if you are interested in a similar experience.
Deciding to Become an Au Pair
My journey started in July but the actual preparation started way earlier in the summer of 2016. I always knew that I wanted to go and work abroad after school but with so many opportunities available I really didn´t know which one to chose. I decided to attend lots of different presentations of things to do abroad in my local hometown in Germany and then made my choice.
I always loved to be around children and had previous experience through volunteered in a kindergarten and working as a babysitter. Partly due to these experiences and my fondness of children I decided I wanted to work as an au pair abroad. The next question was where to go and which agency to choose.
Choosing a Destination
Since I had a big interest with British culture, my first thought was to go to England. I did a lot of research of agencies offering au pair jobs in the United Kingdom but none of them really convinced me to apply. At the same time I was in contact with a girl who I knew from school who was working as an au pair in America but without an agency. She told me that her current family would be looking for a new au pair soon and this matched perfectly with the time I wanted to leave. So I started thinking about going to work in the USA. At the same time though I had some doubts about going to America independently especially without going through an au pair agency because you have to organise everything by yourself and it's of course a lot more risky.
Finding an Agency
One night I googled agencies offering au pair jobs in America and the website of CulturalCare came up. Without really thinking about it I registered for a presentation meeting. One week later CulturalCare called me to remind me of the meeting which was so good because I almost forgot about it! The presentation was awesome! They gave us all the information I needed and we did a first interview in English to see if my language skills were good enough.
After the presentation I was sure I wanted to be an AuPair in America with CulturalCare! The thing with becoming an AuPair without an agency was not relevant anymore at that time since my friend broke up with her host family and was back in Germany. Time and summer went by and some doubts came up again. I read more and more about the au pair role and what it was like to actually live in America but I had reservations and hesitated to start the process of becoming an au pair.
In January 2017 CulturalCare called me again and asked why I´m not starting the process. This was the point where I told myself that I will do it. I started the application process by collecting photos and references, filming a video, getting a passport and other things CulturalCare told me to do. They always kept in touch with me and were really helpful along the way. When I was finally done with my application I was put forward for the matching process.
Getting Placed With a Host Family
In the beginning I was really nervous and it was difficult for me to talk to families over skype even though CulturalCare prepared me with a handbook and possible questions. I talked to three families after I found the one where I ended up going. With my final family, which was a single mom with two kids I needed a lot of patience because she let me wait for several weeks before hiring me. One day I got a video of her with the kids asking if I want to be their au pair and emotions of happiness were flowing through me. It was final, I found my family!
Getting Ready for Departure
I had around 4 months left to prepare everything and to get my visa and documentation sorted. I kept in contact with my future host mom and I got help and answers to questions from her current au pair. I joined lots of au pair Facebook and WhatsApp groups and got excited about the prospect of leaving to work abroad.
At the same time I was still in contact with CulturalCare and they helped me with any questions I had, prepared me with online courses and also booked my flights for my au pair experience. The next step was to catch the flight to New York and attend the CulturalCare training school which is there to help prepare international au pairs when arriving in the United States for the first time.
Cultural Care Training School in New York
After the long process of decision making and preparation the final day had come! On the 3rd of July 2017 my family dropped me off at the airport and I met the other girls who would take the journey with me to New York. I already knew some of the girls by texting on WhatsApp but still I was very nervous and excited. Once we checked in everything was so quick. We all said goodbye to our families, some with tears in the eyes, some without but in the end we were all just very excited for the upcoming trip. The girls were all very nice and I made first friendships.
After almost missing our second flight from London to New York we finally made it to Newark airport. A shuttle from CulturalCare picked us up and took us to the Hofstra University where the training school took place. By driving there we got a first imagination of New York City which was breathtaking!
When we arrived the Culturalcare staff welcomed us and made us even more excited for the upcoming time. On this day there was not much planned since it was the arrival day of all the aupairs from the different countries. We had time to explore the campus, to get settled in our rooms, to eat and of course to talk to all the other aupairs. In the evening we just had an information meeting where the Culturalcare staff informed us about the schedule for the upcoming days.
The next day was July 4th, that means it was Independence day in the USA!
After having our first class in the morning we headed to New York City. I spend most of the time with two of the girls who I met at the airport and we were really getting along with each other well and I´m still in contact with them. The first thing we did was going on top of the Rockefeller Center, which was for most of the AuPairs a gift from their host families. It was totally worth it! We took a lot of pictures, the weather was amazing and the view incredible!
After that, our bus tour through New York started which was, for most aupairs, also a gift of the host families. Our tour guide was funny and made it really interesting. We drove through the streets of Manhattan and stopped to see the statue of liberty. The rest of the day in New York we could spend however we wanted. My friends and me spent most of the time at timesquare taking pictures and strolling around because we loved the vibe it had. Unfortunately, we couldn´t stay for the fireworks because we had to drive back to the campus. However, we at least saw some of it from the bus when we were driving back.
All in all it was an amazing day and it gave me a first impression of New York, where I will go back very soon to spend New Year´s Eve with a friend. (actually one of those who I became friends with in training school!) The next day started with a breakfast buffet again which was always really good. They had a buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner and they always tried to include food for everyone by, for example, serving typical foods from different countries but at the same time also some american dishes.
After that our classes started again. In that week we had for example a first aid class, we learned about the shaken baby syndrome, about driving in the USA, about how you could deal with behavior issues and about fun ideas what to do with children. At the same time games and presentations where included to also introduce ourselves to the group and to get to know each other better.
Two other highlights of my week in the training school were the candy picnic where every aupair presented candy of their home countries which they brought from home. It was a fun way to interact with other aupairs and at the end music was being played and some aupairs danced. The other fun thing was the karaoke night, where the aupairs could choose songs and sing together.
All in all, it was a great time and a good chance to make some first friendships before we would all head to our host families. At the same time it was hard to say goodbye again to the people who I just met but I was lucky that I had some other aupairs taking the journey with me from New York to Seattle. Also here I got to know another aupair with whom I became good friends and to whom I´m still in contact with!
Another very exciting step would came and we would meet our host families for the first time in person...
Working in the USA
I have now been working as an au pair for over 5 months which has flown by. I would highly recommend this experience if you would like to work in a different culture, make new friends and travel. There are lots of agencies offering au pair jobs abroad and they help you every step of the application process and arranging the whole experience.
If this experience appeals to you and if you have any questions about working as an au pair abroad feel free to contact me on instagram.
By Jessica Benson