I’m 2 months in to my second year here as an au pair—and just like my first year, I’m having just as much fun! I decided to extend with the same host family because we get along well and we all just work well together. Plus, I wanted to continue watching my host kids grow as much as I can before I have to leave.
Yes, I would—although I did have my own set of challenges like a lot of au pairs do while they adapt to their new lifestyles here in the US. For me, it was getting used to American food and changing my eating habits to fit around work and my host family. Overall, I would think I had a pretty successful year—I accomplished what I wanted, that being travel, gaining a second family, and learning about myself.
I’m no expert in being an au pair, but having been here awhile, I can give some advice to future au pairs—which is exactly what I looked out for before arriving in the US. So here is my list of tips for having a successful year that has helped me make the most of my experience:
Since arriving in the US, I’ve tried to adopt a more positive attitude. This has really helped me create a good relationship with my host family and helped me fall in love with the area I live in a lot quicker than it would have had I been looking at all of the negatives.
Communicating well with your host family and anyone else you meet while in the US is, in my opinion, one of the most important factors that determines how your year goes. Communication is key to building a relationship with your host family and gaining a better understanding of your host kids and childcare responsibilities.
It’s important to understand that things are going to be unusual compared to what you’re used to back home. Your host family may do things differently to what your family back home may do. They will eat differently, celebrate different holidays and have different traditions. And that’s okay! This is a cultural exchange experience; embrace the differences and learn about them and share your traditions and favorite foods with your host family. Expecting that things are going to be different than what you’re used to is an important part of this experience. The more you expect and embrace it … the less culture shock will affect you.
I didn’t take this one seriously until about 6 months into my first year. I started to feel tired and started to miss home more, so I decided that once a week (at least) I would do something for myself. For me, that was going to grab a coffee and walk around Target on my own. For you, it could mean going to the gym, or reading a book, or going to get your hair done. Whatever it is, make sure you do it—it really helps you forget about homesickness for a while.
Last but not least, building trust with the people you live with is very important. Without trust, there is no relationship. I found this most important with my host kids; they are young and shy so I wanted them to feel comfortable with me. I always try to stick to my promises with them and always follow through with stuff that I’ve told them I’m going to do. And because of that, I have a great relationship with my host kids and host parents, too.
Having a successful year could mean something different to everyone. I encourage you to keep in mind the reasons you decided to become an au pair—and follow through with them and make them happen. That way, you’ll have the best year accomplishing your goals!