Many college students want to travel the world but don’t have the money to fund their adventures abroad. One unique opportunity to explore a new country is to become an au pair, a young foreigner who usually helps with housework or childcare in exchange for room and board.
If you’re interested in becoming an au pair, there are a number of ways to find a family that is in need of help. Your first step should be to ask friends or family if they know of any families living abroad who are looking for an au pair.
Another convenient place to look is an online service such as Nannies Abroad or Au Pair in America. These websites match prospective nannies with international families seeking help. Specific jobs vary based on the family, but most au pairs act almost as older siblings for the kids they are in charge of.
Leslie Rasmussen of Boise, Idaho, lived with a family in Rome after a friend suggested she work with his friend’s family to immerse their children in English. While there, she helped out around the home with everyday chores such as preparing lunches, making dinner, and driving the kids to tennis practice.
Ashley Wade of St. George, Utah, decided to become an au pair in Spain because she wanted real-world experience in a foreign country, something she didn’t think a study abroad could offer her. She recommends finding a family that will treat you like another member of the family, not just like a nanny. She believes the family you choose to live with can make or break your experience, so you can afford to be picky.
For Kelsey Parker of Pocatello, Idaho, the hardest part of her au pair experience in Belgium was the language barrier. But as she helped the kids with their English, she came to feel like she was part of their family. She recommends keeping a journal of day-to-day experiences as a way to remember everything.
Finding a Safe Experience
Being an au pair can be an exciting adventure, but you need to plan very carefully before taking off around the world. Many scammers troll au pair–service websites in hopes of ripping off potential employees. Here are a few tips for recognizing and avoiding a scammer:
- Avoid ads with poorly written descriptions.
- Do not answer requests for unnecessary personal information (such as passport details).
- Never agree to wire/send money to anybody.
- Avoid ads from people with odd or suspicious email addresses or profiles.
- If an offer sounds too good to be true, ask to Skype with the family before agreeing. If they refuse, you have probably come in contact with a scammer and should stop contact immediately.
Spending a few months as an au pair can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Aside from getting the chance to see a new part of the world, you’ll be able to get to know the country’s culture on a personal level.
Photo Credit: Ashley Wade