Working as an aupair: Lizzie spent the summer in Italy
Lizzie Fane decided to work as an au-pair in Asti, Italy. Here, she gives us an account of how it went and what you should bear in mind regarding the job.Where? Asti, near MilanWhen? July - September 2006How? Through Greataupair.com
What pushed you to go off and work as an au-pair?
To improve my language skills before completely submerging myself in Italian university life on my upcoming year abroad. I decided to spend two months au pairing in Asti, Northern Italy, for a young Italian family with two kids (7 and 9). This was completely unchartered territory for me, having no experience of looking after children, but the family I found on GreatAuPair.com simply wanted a fun, enthusiastic and creative English girl to inspire and amuse their children, and I thought I fitted the bill!
Did you fall on your feet? What would you recommend others do to help them improve their language skills?
I knew that I wanted to submerge myself in Italian culture so I'd be able to cope better when I arrived on my course at Florence University. I thought getting a job out in Italy would be the best way to learn the non-textbook lingo, realised that an au-pairing position would be the easiest job to find from the UK. I would definitely recommend it to other students.
How did it go?
I loved it! I was very lucky that the family was really well-adjusted, the kids got on brilliantly with each other and while the parents were at work, I could go to the grandparents (who lived next door) with any questions, and they did all the cooking! I was in charge of getting the kids up in the morning and making sure they had breakfast. Then I helped them with their English holiday homework, organised treasure hunts in the garden (clues in English), did painting and drawing with them, taught them to play the piano and sing English songs - actually I probably had more fun than they did! We went next door to the grandparents' house for lunch and then I had free time until supper! I really enjoyed my afternoons in Asti and went exploring around Milan, Turin and Genoa, I read loads and went to fun events with the family - outdoor film screenings, the opera in Verona, the village at the base of Mont Blanc... - they effectively adopted me for two months.
What were the best bits about it?
Getting to know the kids (we're still in touch!), improving my Italian HUGELY, and having an Italian family I could visit on my year abroad.
Well, I was alright, but it is a lonely job. Having all those free afternoons means you need to be happy in your own company as you don't naturally meet people your age.
What do you think makes the best person for the job (personality traits etc...)?
You need to be self-motivated, fun and enthusiastic. Being childish helps too! They loved it when I made an effort with the language, they really helped me and were quite proud of me by the end, so it's definitely important to go with a mindset prepared to learn and absorb as much as possible.