10 years ago after I finished my college years, I was dying to start my adventures abroad. Even though I was already working as a teacher for my 4th time (In Mexico they can hire you as a teacher at private schools as long as you are studying for that field). The payment was really low so I didn’t have much savings back then.
I remember spending so much time daydreaming and googling ¨How to move abroad with no money¨and dreaming about and after reading so many blogs and articles. A turning point for me was finding Au Pair world. Browzing through I realized it was possible to move abroad with no money!
Becoming An Au Pair
Once I’d found Au Pair world I learned that I could move to Europe. I would live with a family, while taking care of their kids in exchange for food, housing, and ‘pocket money’.
This was so exciting for me to learn. I already had experience working with kids and it was something I really loved. I made my profile on the website (Completely free) and added a couple of pictures and a description of myself and my experience working with children.
In the beginning I remember not having that many families reaching out to me and you are also able to contact families and see if they could be interested in you. After sending a couple of requests, I got a lot of no´s and very few families reaching out to me.
After a couple of months of searching and waiting, I got a message from a family in Belgium who was interested to hear more about me. The mom called me and we had a conversation in English about myself and my experience. She told me about her family and 2 phone calls later she decided I was the right match for her family, and so the paperwork began.
Becoming an Independent Au Pair
The Au Pair program is a very common program to have an exchange of cultural experience. I didn’t know much about it or anyone around me who would have done it, so it was hard for me to know what to expect, I only knew I would be working with kids as always but this time in a different country and at home.
Since I didn’t go through an agency, I had to work through the entire Au Pair application process on my own. Luckily the host mom helped by sending me a list of the documents and requirements that the government in Belgium would need from me.
This included medical testing and a criminal record check document. We started the process around October 2009 and by July 2010 I was flying to Europe. This normally takes this long, but I was just still working in Mexico and they needed me until the next year, so I took my time to do everything. I paid for my flights and also for all the paperwork, but I was able to pay my flight on monthly payments, so I didn’t have to pay that right away.
As any experience and any job, there are good and bad things in everything. There were things that I wish I knew about before starting my adventure that I would like to share with you.
Things To Know Before Committing To An Au Pair Match
It is important to know what to ask before matching with a family because trust me, you do not want to find your self living with a family that you don’t gel with over the other side of the world in a country that you don’t like.
Ask about the location of their town or city
How far is civilization? As an au pair, you only get pocket money so keep in mind that probably you would have to spend money on transportation either buses or trains and sometimes these are not the cheapest.
Check about airports and main train stations close to the town. If your main purpose is to explore and travel, I’m sure you will need to know about this to see also how expensive it will be to travel while living there.
How many kids are you willing to take care of?
In my first experience, I was taking care of 4 girls and as a teacher, I thought how hard would this be if I already had 15 kids in the classroom. Remember kids don’t behave the same as a school than at home, so it is important to keep this in mind.
Talk about weekends off.
If they need the au pair to work on weekends, it is important that you know that they have to give you at least 1 weekend per month free. This applies either with an agency or not. I would recommend talking about this with the family before you travel.
Ask exactly what they expect from the Au Pair experience and what they are expecting from you, ask anything you think would be important since the beginning and if it’s possible, ask if you could talk with the previous au pairs as a reference (in case this applies).
Voice Your Concerns
If you don’t feel comfortable with something, communicate with them before the situation escalates. It’s always worth remembering that you aren’t getting paid a full wage. The family I stayed with had a responsibility to provide me with food and transportation in addition to spending money. Transportation in Europe is mostly by bike or public transport where as in the USA having access to the family car is more normal.
My Personal Au Pair Experience
I personally learned a lot from the culture in Belgium and also the culture in Europe in general. During my au pair program, I was able to do small trips to some other countries around such as The Netherlands, Germany, UK, and Italy. I was also able to meet amazing people from countries that I didn’t even know about that even 10 years later, we are still very good friends.
The Au Pair program definitely changed my life for good, it allowed me to see and explore everything that was out of my comfort zone. This was my first time out of my country and I learned so much. It not only taught me about other cultures but it also made me appreciate my own country even more and everything I had waiting for me back home.
After this first experience abroad, I wanted to learn more about other ways to live similar experiences, so I would like to share with you guys about other ways to travel with a small budget, so stay tuned for the next post!