You want to go to Europe? You want to see Europe?
You want to immerse yourself in all things European?
BECOME AN AU PAIR.
It's a great gig for anyone wanting to spend a good amount of time abroad and I highly recommend it since I did it for a year in Brussels, Belgium.
What is an au pair?
It's a French word meaning in a pair, and the idea behind the term is the cultural exchange between a young adult from another country and a family, particularly with their children. Typically, an au pair works between 20 - 40 hours each week with a family's kid or kids. They can do many things in the household such as babysitting, cooking, light cleaning, chaperoning, etc. An au pair receives a small monthly pay, room and board, and other little extras for working with their chosen family.
Where can I find au pair jobs?
Start the process three to four months before you plan on going. You can get an au pair position online. There are many websites that offer au pair programs, but they want to charge you for their services. To me, this seems kind of like a scam when you have to pay for a job. Be careful with these sites. I used a free service through the website GreatAuPair.com. It's a great and simple matching service.
How do I get the job?
You create a free profile on GreatAuPair.com or whatever site that you choose. Write as much about your experience with children as possible, or if don't have too much experience, why you are open to working with children. You can include your personal job preferences and preferred locations in your profile page. After your profile is created, you can start searching for families in the places that you would like to immerse yourself for a year or longer. It is okay to be picky about choosing the family for that reason, so be as picky as you would like to be.
I have made contact, now what?
Once you have a few families lined up, set up Skype interview sessions to see if they are a good overall fit for personalities, work expectations, as well as being a good employer. Do not hesitate to ask questions. The more questions the better idea you will have if this family is for you.
Some questions that I asked when going through the interview process:
Hope these questions help you in your au pair search and interview process. Again, do not be afraid to ask questions since you will more than likely be living with your chosen family.
I got the job! What do I do now?
Congratulations! This is the first big step to being abroad! If you have your passport already, great! If not, apply for that as soon as possible in order to travel internationally. Now you have to complete some paperwork in the form of contracts and visa requirements. Each country's visa structure is different and can be looked up on their individual immigration websites. You can ask your family if they have had any experience with the visa paperwork as they need to sponsor your employment. Remember to make a checklist of all the items needed to complete the visa process and keep any receipts for reimbursement purposes. Be flexible as working with government agencies can sometimes take longer than expected to complete documents.
Visa is obtained, now how do I get to the family?
Start searching for flights to the nearest airport to the family's house. Your family should give you a window for when they would like you to arrive. I arrived a week before school started for the children. This was a really good idea because I got to know their routines and where places of importance were. I recommend using Kayak or Skyscanner for flights since there are many filters that you can use for searches. You're more than likely going to be booking a one-way ticket, so budget between, $600 - $900USD from America to Europe. Ask your chosen family if they will be able to provide transportation or give the best way to get to their home. Again, keep all receipts for reimbursement if that is what you and the family agreed upon in the contract.
You're on your way....
Now you are ready for the adventurous leap across the pond to Europe!
Best of luck to you and the journey ahead.
Read more about my experiences as an au pair in BEING ABROAD.