Being an au pair was by far the biggest risk I’ve taken in my life. Before going, I spent hours trying to figure out if I was insane or just plain stupid—I was about to accept a position living with and caring for complete strangers, in a country I had never been to before. What could possibly go wrong? I couldn’t stop the thoughts running rampant in my mind.
Luckily, six months down the road, I can now say it was one of the best decisions I could have made. My host family was welcoming, I found a great group of friends, and I made irreplaceable memories. Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything, but there are certain things I wish I'd known before I began this adventure. Here are five of them.
1. Put yourself out there (even if it makes your uncomfortable).
In the post-college world, people tend to make friends through living and work environments. However, when you live with and work for your host family, making friends can be a little daunting. That makes it very important to put yourself out there (and I mean way out). Go to bars alone and make friends, ask that friend of a friend of a friend for coffee, and certainly reach out to anyone that you know in your city. Whether you’re there for six months or a year, it passes quickly and you’ll want to take advantage of every moment.
2. Say yes to adventure. . .
Saying yes allows you to experience things you wouldn’t normally do. Too often, we are stuck in our routine and rigidly refuse any invitations that might cause us to deviate from that. My rule in a new country is to always say yes—you never know where it will lead you.
3. . . .but also know when to say no.
Though it’s true you should say yes to adventure, there are certain things you need to learn to say no to, especially regarding your mental health. This was by far the hardest thing for me to master. As a born people-pleaser, I’ve never been good at saying no, no matter the request. It can get really tricky drawing the line between working and not working, but it’s vital that you do. Set a schedule of when you are “on the clock” and make it clear when you aren’t.
4. Hold out for the right family.
If your host family seems to have everything you want, except for one glaring detail, hold off. In the moment it might not seem like a big deal but you shouldn’t have to compromise on what you need (especially because you’ll be living with them). Hold out for the right fit, because it is out there.
5. Speak up when necessary.
If you aren’t happy with the way things are going with your host family, make it known. Don’t be afraid of being impolite or causing drama. Your happiness is crucial to being a good worker and your host family would absolutely want you to be happy.Add this article to your reading list