I’ve heard every excuse in the book as to why people can’t be Au Pairs: it’s too much money, it’s scary, I’ll lose my job if I take that my time off work. I’m going to put an end to all of those nasty thoughts in your head right now and let you in on a little secret: You can do it! And here are some reasons why you should:
1) You get to travel inexpensively
If money is an issue for you but you still want to get out and explore the world, then being an Au Pair is a great opportunity for you. You’ll need to save a bit of cash for your passport, visa and flight but other than that, you‘re ready to go!
While not only getting free room & board, you’ll also be receiving some pocket money. This can go towards weekend trips, language courses or just treating yourself to some shopping.
2) Full immersion into a new culture
Your friend who backpacked across Europe in a month may have stayed in every hostel on the continent, but can they say that they know how to make a traditional gâteau au chocolat or can fluently have a conversation in Italian with a lady at the bus stop? When you’re living with a foreign family, their culture becomes your day-to-day. You will begin celebrating new holidays you never knew existed or adapting new ways of thinking. And these things will last a lot longer than the free pair of sunglasses for from the pub crawl.
3) You’ll learn more about your own culture
As much as you are there to learn about your host family’s culture, they want to learn about yours too. You may find yourself saying things like, “Oh yea, I guess Canadians do say sorry a lot” or “Your milk doesn’t come in a bag?!” When introduced to a new culture, you will take a step back from your own and observe it from a third party perspective. You’ll gain a further appreciation and pride for your own country.
4) Learn a new language
If you choose to travel to a non-English speaking country, then you will have the opportunity to learn a new language. When surrounded by it every day, all while attempting to communicate, by the end of your year abroad you’ll be speaking, understanding and writing the language!
Most host families want their children to learn English which is why they hire a Canadian Au Pairs. You can come to the agreement that the parents will speak their native language to you and you will speak English to the kids. Doing this will increase your brain activity as learning a new language is like aerobics for your brain!
5) Teach a language
After some time there, you will feel the pride of watching the kids linguistic skills grow throughout your time abroad. At the beginning, they may only understand bits and pieces of what you’re saying but by the end you’ll be discussing which cup is better: the purple one or the green one.
Also, some Au Pairs tutor on the weekend to families in the community who want to learn/improve their English language skills. This is a great way to make some more connections in the community and earn some extra cash.
6) Study abroad
Something most Canadians don’t know is that in some countries, studying is free for locals and foreigners alike (check out Germany). If you’re planning on studying abroad where tuition fees are not quite as luxurious, then I go back to my first point: Free room & board. Many students balance part-time jobs and school to help gain experience and pay for their education. Why not do this in a new country where you can learn a new culture all while living for free? You’ll be the all-time traveling super hero: student by day, Au Pair by night!
7) Gain a new family
Many Au Pairs leave their year abroad feeling as though they made deep connections with their host family. After multiple family dinners, outings and fun days in the park, it’s nowonder that some Au Pairs find it difficult to leave the family. Children develop at such a fast rate when they’re young and it’s amazing to watch them grow and learn every day. The Au Pair may leave feeling like the big sister in the family.
8) Make lasting ties across the globe
The great thing about being an Au Pair is that it gives you the opportunity to meet other Au Pairs. As this is a foreign program, you will likely get to meet people from all across the world! As if the host family isn’t enough to just call up the next time you’re in Italy, what about your new German friend? I’m sure she would love to have you for a visit. Or, take a trip down under to stay with your new Aussie mate. Or, have a weekly Skype chat with your new Danish pal. Making international friends gives you an excuse to pack up your bags again and explore someplace new.
9) Personal growth
Living abroad leads to self-growth in so many ways. Just stepping out of your comfort zone and navigating your way through a new town/city/country will help you gain more self-confidence and self-reliance. On top of all of that, if you’re learning a new culture and new language your views of the world will change and you will diversify your thoughts, values and experiences.
10) Competitive edge on your resume
When applying for jobs, employers are looking for applicants that stand out from the others. Traveling can be a giant “ice-breaker” for the interview. Also, employers understand the benefits of having a group of culturally diverse employees in the workplace. Learning how to maneuver your way through cultural barriers and being able to adapt to cultural differences are huge skills which cannot be learned in the classroom.
11) The paper work isn‘t that bad
Alright, most of you who were not lucky enough to have foreign parents will have to get a visa. Believe me, it’s not the most glamourous process but, it isn’t impossible. To ease the stress and make sure it’s done correctly the first time, you might want to go through an agency to complete the grueling paperwork. A good place to check it is International Nannies.
12) There’s nothing stopping you. Just do it!
School, friends, and boy/girlfriends will all be there when you come back. If you don’t have any kids and you’re not the president, you don’t have any excuses! The world is out there just waiting for you to explore it and home will still be there when you get back. A year abroad is not that long, especially if it in one that will positively impact you for the rest of your life.