Considering becoming an au pair?
Emma Pengelly is a student at the University of York, studying Spanish and Linguistics. She is spending her year abroad as an English Language Teaching Assistant in Lima, Peru, before moving to Argentina for a second teaching placement. After working as an au pair last summer, these are her tips for getting the most out of the experience.
A little advice for anyone considering working as an au pair and some reasons why you should just do it…
1. Location, Location, Location!
If I could stress any point the most it would be this. Make sure you choose a location that you will be HAPPY in! At the end of the day, this is the place you will be living, sleeping and breathing for the next however many months so don’t rush the choosing process; you can afford to be fussy at this stage.
I based my decision on my eagerness to improve my Spanish language skills so I knew if I lived in a big city it would be all too easy to remain in my English bubble because of a city’s multilingual nature. If you’re in a similar position, choose a smaller town where English is more unlikely to be spoken. I stayed in Soto del Real around 40km north of Madrid in which I rarely met a native English-speaker. This meant that every day, whether it was on the street, pharmacy or café, all I heard was Spanish. But equally, if you’re going au pairing for other reasons then a busy, vibrant city could be the better option for you.
2. Be a little bit selfish
And I don’t mean take away that toy that makes too much noise for your liking! Be selfish by ensuring that you get what you want out of the experience.
It’s easy to feel like au pairing is a lot of hard work with not very much reward in terms of pay. So keep reminding yourself of why you wanted to become an au pair in the first place; whether it was because of the language, the culture or working with children, make sure you fulfil your original objectives!
3. Be patient
Au pairing soon taught me the truth in patience being a virtue. You will have just joined a family you most probably have never met before (apart from over a slightly awkward and pixilated Skype call) so expect to feel like a bit of a trespasser in their house initially!
It will take time to feel settled in a home that isn’t yours so keep reminding yourself that you are welcome there; au pairing is a two- way arrangement. By the end of your stay you’ll be feeling like another member of the family. Amongst the highs and lows, au pairing is one of the most rewarding experiences you could fill your summer with! Record it with photographs and stay in contact with your family when you are home. You will share memories for a lifetime.
Want more advice? Read more of our articles about being an au pair.