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A Suitcase Full of Adventures, Stories and Experiences

We love hearing stories from our Au Pairs in Canada, especially those who have change throughout their time with the host family. Here, we want to share another Au Pairs testimonial to her time here in Canada. She is a German girl who came to Canada to find adventure but she was able to experience so much more. Laura Testimonial part 1

My name is Laura. I’m 19 years old and from Germany. After graduation, most of my friends started studying right away, but I wanted to explore the world, to have a great adventure and to be able to tell an awesome story. Since the first time I heard someone mention that they were an Au Pair, it turned into my dream to become one. I like to spend time with children, and being able to live in another country while spending time with my host child and traveling appealed a lot to me. When my family and I visited Canada for the first time, I was very impressed by this country and its amazing nature. Canada is a huge country, the second largest in the world, and I only saw a tiny part of it in Ontario, but it was already enough to impress me. I was sure I wanted to be an Au Pair in Canada. Being an Au Pair is a great opportunity to explore a different country, to get to know its culture and lifestyle, to meet new people, to spend time with children, to travel and to improve the language.

I will skip the part with applying as an Au Pair, waiting for the work permit and finding a host family because it wasn’t very exciting except the part with the host family. Waiting and hoping every day for getting my work permit and finding a host family was really fraught but worth it.

After two goodbye parties with my family and friends and saying goodbye to my parents and my sister at the airport, my adventure began in February 2015. I flew to Vancouver on my own and had my Orientation Day there. On the same day, my host family, consisting of my host parents and my eight year old host child, would pick me up, and we would take the ferry to Victoria on Vancouver Island, my new home. I was very nervous and excited, but it was gone soon when I met my host family. I felt so welcome and familiar right away, and all my worries were gone.

Laura Testimonial part 2Now, after living already 11 months in Victoria, I know being an Au Pair in Canada is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I haven’t regretted it once. I made so many new and incredible experiences and found a second home and a second family. My first impression about my host family being a lovely, kind and funny one has never change. Every day we have lots of fun, a lot to laugh about, and I’m part of this awesome family. For my host child and I, it took a little while to get to know each other, but now, we have a close relationship, and I will miss him when I leave. We have lots of fun together, and I enjoy spending time with him. Most times, I take care for him before and after school. Before school, I make sure that he is ready in time and drop him of at school, only a short walk from home. After school, I pick him up again, and we do some fun stuff, like going for a bike ride or to a playground. Despite of taking care of my host child, I had many opportunities to travel. For a few days, I went to Seattle, US, a ferry ride away from Victoria, and often to Vancouver, a ferry ride away as well. I also explored British Columbia, a province in Canada, and found amazing spots. For almost one month, my host family went to Europe, and I decided to stay in Canada, instead of visiting my own family in Germany. I came to Canada to explore this country and not to go back to Germany during my vacation. I travelled almost the entire month and went to the Canadian Rockies with an organization. The Rockies are amazing, and I enjoyed exploring them in a group of young adults. As well during this month, I explored whole Vancouver Island with another Au Pair. We went to Tofino and did a three days hike close to Port Hardy. During this hike, we carried all our stuff which we needed for three days and slept in the woods and at the beach. I never imagined I would do such a long hike without any connection to the world. However, I was impressed by it and the nature and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again because it is an incredible adventure. We had luck to meet only a wolf during this hike and to see a bear during the drive. During my host child’s summer breaks, my host family and I went camping and flew to Hawaii for one week. Even though Hawaii is really beautiful, I’m still more impressed by Canada. I celebrated all the holidays, like Christmas or New Year, with my host family, and I enjoyed it.  For me, it was weird to unwrap the presents at the morning of Christmas Day (25.12) and to have no fireworks on New Year’s Eve, but I had a great time and made new experiences.

My time went by so fast, and I can’t believe that I’m leaving Canada in less than one month. I made so many great experiences I never imagined and I will miss everyone I met. I really enjoy my stay in Canada, and I can’t say I like it here; rather, I love it here. Victoria is a wonderful city with a lot to offer and to explore. Everything is close by: Downtown Victoria, woods, ocean, lakes, hills, nature, the mainland of British Columbia and the US. I have the nature right in front of my doorstep with a lake close by, woods and deer, squirrels and racoons in the backyard. Canada is awesome, and I’m really feeling home here. I love the nature, the city of Victoria and the mentality of the Canadians. When you leave the bus, you shout Laura Testimonial part 3“Thank you!” to the bus driver through the whole bus. Everyone greets you and talks to you. I improved my English a lot. First, it was challenging for me to speak English the whole day, but now, it’s no problem whatsoever. I was shy to speak English at the beginning because I made a lot of mistakes, and still now my English isn’t perfect. However, I learned to just speak English and not to care about my mistakes. The Canadians are impressed by my English skills and by the fact to be able to speak more than one language.

During my last 11 months, I made my own Canadian life and got to know so many new people. For me, it won’t be easy to say goodbye to my host family, to all the people I met during my stay, to my Canadian home and to Canada in less than one month. However, it doesn’t have to be a goodbye forever, and it won’t.

I really recommend everybody to take the opportunity and to go overseas. I left my family, friends, my German home and Germany 11 months ago and didn’t know what to expect in Canada, but I will return to Germany with a suitcase full of adventures, stories and experiences. Being an Au Pair in Canada is an incredible adventure and a great lifetime experience. I got to know a different country, culture and people and learned a lot about myself while finding a second family and home.

No More FOMO: An Interview with Letitia B.

Letitia CollesumWe’ve all heard the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Right? Well what about, “You don’t know what you’re not missing until you return.” Through my experiences, I’ve noticed so often that young adults are afraid to leave their home, friends, family, boy/girlfriend because they think that they will miss out on some big event that will happen while they’re away. There is such a culture of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) that people don’t take chances anymore. Everyone is sitting idle by their phone waiting for the next best thing to happen but aren’t willing to take their own leap into adventure! Here’s the thing: when you travel and come back home, things usually stay the same. And if there is a major event, you’re only a Skype call away.

Recently, I’ve had the chance to talk to Letitia B who was just an Au Pair in Italy! Letitia is a 19 year old from a small town in South-Western Ontario. I was able to ask her a bit about herLetitia Italy experiences as an Au Pair, what the best/worst parts were and why young adults should take the plunge into traveling abroad!

1) Can you please tell us a little bit about your experience as an au pair?

I spent January  to May in Italy, living with the sweetest and most incredible family in Turin, a big city in Northern Italy, bordering Southern France. I was looking after and teaching English to two wonderful and very unique girls.

Valentina, the older sister, is a very independent, free-spirited and an intelligent 5 year old. While Viola, who is 3 years old, is a more affectionate girl who loves to joke around and make everyone around her laugh. The area they lived in was really great too, the mountains were an hour drive north and the seaside was an hour drive south.

2) What did a typical day look like for you?

Both girls had school from 9:00a.m. to 3:00p.m. Monday through Friday, so this required me to wake up each morning between 7:00a.m. and 7:30 a.m., have the girls up and dressed by 8:00a.m. and we’d leave for school around 8:30a.m. My family lived just outside of the city, on the hills in a beautiful little  area called Cavoretto, which had a small school that was only 10 minutes walking distance from home. After dropping the girls off, I would usually go with my host mother, Francesca, to the gym, to the market or shopping. I’d walk into the city on Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s for Italian courses, and then stay afterwards to have lunch or hangout in the park with friends I made in class. Having friends from all over the world definitely enhanced the experience, I miss each of them so much! Also an an Au Pair you have weekends free to travel or do whatever you feel.

3) What made you want to be an Au Pair?

My older sister was an Au Pair in Hungary after she finished high school, and I knew that I didn’t want to start University right after graduating. I realized in October that I wanted to travel during my year off, started looking at being an Au Pair in November, and left for Italy right after New Years. I realize how spontaneous everything was, and I think that’s what made it so exciting, I can’t stand the anticipation of waiting!!

4) What was the best part of being an Au Pair?

Being an Au Pair is easily the best job in the world. It allows you to combine travel with work, you get to  explore another part of the world, hangout with kids, make some pocket money for your travels, and live with a really awesome family (most families are awesome because they’re willing to invite practically a stranger to come live with them and take care of their children.)

My family went to Oman for vacation in April, and I was able to go backpack around Italy for the few weeks that they were gone. It definitely showed me what the rest of Italy is like, I saw cities like Verona, Venice, Rome, Florence and Bologna. There are no tourists in Turin like there are everywhere else. It’s a beautiful and timeless city and remains my favourite in all of Italy!

Letitia Child5) What was the worst part?

I couldn’t say there was a ‘worst’ part. I was homesick, which did suck. I’m very close with my family and it was hard being away from them, but making new friends who are going through similar experiences and feeling like you’re a part of your host family makes the experience and transition way easier. It’s strange realizing, now that I’m home, I’m actually homesick from living there too:  my friends, the foreign city and the feeling of being on my own in a way. I guess I wish that my experiences weren’t just stories and that my family could have been there to live it all with me.

6) What advice would you give to young adults looking to live abroad?

Don’t be scared! You will regret not travelling and seeing the world. Even being overseas for a short amount of time made me realize how much of the world I want to see. The truth is, and I was told this so many times: is that when you come home it feels like nothing changed while you were gone, you haven’t actually missed out on everything like you thought you would. When you go abroad you will experience culture shock, and that’s inevitable, but the best thing you can do it just accept it all. Coming home brings on the reverse culture shock, and its’s so weird.

7) Now that you’re home, what do you plan on doing?

Leaving. I’m doing a year at Wilfrid Laurier University, then I plan on going to Australia or New Zealand to Au Pair again, and afterwards to backpack through Southeast Asia. School can wait.

8) Was being an au pair everything you expected it to be?

Yes and no. All of the expectations were the same, although I thought it would feel more like a job. I felt more like a family member than anything, Valentina and Viola were, and still are, my little sisters.

9) Are you still in contact with the family now and will you go back to visit?

I still talk to my family often, we Skype and text as much as possible. The father, Antonio, is a Geographer and recently got a job in Bolivia, so they packed up their stuff and moved there in the beginning of September (cool right?). They’re a really great family and have such a surreal and spontaneous lifestyle, I was so lucky to be a part of it. I ABSOLUTELY plan on seeing them again, I’d love to see how the girl’s English will improve.

10) Looking back at who you were before you left for your year abroad, how have you changed since?Letitia mitten

Again, all I want to do is travel now. My mom had to convince me to go to school this year. One thing I’m very careful with is spending and saving money now. I’m definitely more keen to spend my money on travel than physical things.

 

12 Reasons To Be An Au Pair At Least Once

 

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.

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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! 

Traveling Woman

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.