Being an au pair in China during the Coronavirus outbreak

Being an au pair in China during the Coronavirus outbreak by Hannah Rhodes

This article was written by Hannah Rhodes, published on 26th March 2020 and has been read 4128 times.

Hannah is a gap year student and has now been in Hangzhou, China, for three months. The au pair program (Abridge Academy which works with a local company called Lopair) is very flexible and, despite living there through the Coronavirus pandemic, she believes she will probably stay for around 6 months. Here is her unique experience and her tips for students who are also self-isolating abroad while working in childcare...

It has been almost two months since most of us here have ventured outside our respective housing complexes. Still, I’m optimistic - not only is daily life set to resume in a matter of weeks, but the last two months have been spent happily with my host family.

The government restrictions required everyone to stay at home during the quarantine period and wear a face mask if you have to go outside for essential trips (e.g. to go to the supermarket). Life during the quarantine was therefore very different, we did not go for meals out or fun trips to the park, but we managed to improvise and enjoy lots of games at home!

Much neglected in the news has been the comedic side of the Coronavirus outbreak - improvised protective gear, alternative communication methods, interesting exercise regimes and inventive indoor games. My host family’s house has seen no shortage of the latter. We have practically played all sports but water polo inside the house, using bottles as bowling pins, transforming milk cartons into a ping pong net, substituting boots for football goalposts, and the list goes on. My host kid and I have also discovered that, with a little creativity, a modest cardboard box or plastic bag can go a long way. Think dinosaur costumes, eco-friendly dresses, miniature zoos - you name it, we’ve made it! While lacking any culinary talent myself (I had a go at a few local dishes but nothing particularly worth mentioning or edible!), many have turned into Michelin-standard chefs in the course of the last few months, and I wouldn&39;t be surprised if many households opt never to eat out again. Although needless to say we’re all looking forward to being out and about again, life inside has been anything but as horrific and dull as some reports are making it seem.
Another thing to be kept in mind when we find ourselves complaining about confinement are the heroic efforts of the medical staff on the front lines of the pandemic. The willingness of doctors and nurses in Hubei and elsewhere to dedicate sleepless months to saving patients, all the while risking their own lives, has been inspiring. I started off my journey here with an interest in Chinese language and culture, but have since also gained an admiration for the strength and selflessness of local people.

At the onset of the outbreak, friends and family back in the UK were understandably very concerned, questioning my decision to stick it out in Hangzhou. For me, a large part of this decision was my desire to learn Chinese and the belief that the virus wouldn’t get in the way of this. Indeed, increased dialogue with the family and the opportunity to watch more Chinese films has meant that my Chinese has continued to improve. My Chinese course hasn’t suffered either, with online classes short of nothing that the classroom has. As the virus extends its reach, I’m now more worried about the UK than I am about the local situation. Still, I am confident that so long as my country can learn from China’s experience and implement some of its measures, all will be well in the near future.

My main tips for students self-isolating while au pairing abroad

  • Stay positive and see the situation as an opportunity to learn
  • Try and keep to your usual routine and good habits
  • Play lots of fun games and activities with the kids, just as if you were playing together outside
  • Take the time to enjoy new hobbies or develop a new skills, for example working on your Chinese (we were provided with free online Chinese tutoring to replace our usual in-person classes)

A big 加油 (fighting) to all those fighting the virus in China and across the world - we can do it!

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