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Escaping the Nine-to-Five Grind

Justine Hall

I wanted to go abroad, but I didn't want to teach English. Here's what I did instead. 

“Just got an interview with this killer start-up.”

“Finally got the letter. . .I got into grad school!”

“The company’s flying me up to their office next week; I’ll probably move up there as soon as we graduate.”

It was smug phrases like these that felt as if they were permeating my life—and every conversation I had in the months and weeks leading up to my graduation from college.

Sure, I had plenty of friends who were uncertain about what they were doing once "student" would be officially removed from their LinkedIn page. But, I knew, at least for the foreseeable future, I didn’t want to join the masses in taking a nine-to-five job.

Obviously, I didn't want to sit around aimlessly. It was quite the opposite. During my college years, I had so many internships and jobs that I was typically working at two at a time. I like having work to do. Yet, I wanted to do more than sit behind a desk and type on a computer while trying to steal glimpses from a window to the real world.

Finding the right job

I realized there are so many jobs and occupations that don’t require a Monday to Friday schedule. Those jobs tend to require more grit, perseverance and audaciousness. I felt something in me that was telling to take a chance on the next year and find work abroad. One of my greatest passions is writing, and all of senior year, whenever I got the “what are your plans after graduation” question I would reply that I wanted to write; however I could. And I love people: talking to them, learning about new cultures and traditions. In my book, what better way is there to experience that than working and living abroad while mastering a new language?

I didn’t see myself as an ESL teacher—something about the idea of me corralling 20-plus middle school kids didn’t sit well.

Once I knew moving abroad was the right decision for me, everything didn’t instantaneously fall into place. It took a lot of preparation. I had to decide what job I was going to take. I knew one of my main goals while living abroad was to become comfortable speaking conversational Spanish. I also didn’t see myself as an ESL teacher—something about the idea of me corralling 20-plus middle school kids didn’t sit well.

I landed on au pairing, an idea that had always appealed to me. Once I looked into programs, it was also appealing financially; my room and board would be taken care of and I would be given a weekly salary.

Making the right decision for me

The key to landing on au pair as my next job title was the conversations I had with people who had done it before. I remembered someone on Facebook posting about au pairing years ago, so I searched Facebook and found her. She was a few years older than me, and though I didn’t know her that well, I messaged her to see what her experience was like. She replied, giving me honest answers to all my questions: visa application, cost of living, family relations, etc. She said the experience was one she would always recommend. I also asked professors if they knew of any students who had au paired or even moved abroad to Spain. Slowly, I built a network of people, and unanimously, despite any of the challenges they encountered, everyone told me if I was up to it, I had to do it.

Moving to Spain for a year, living with a family of five and taking 20 hours of Spanish classes a week scares me. I don’t know what to expect, no matter how many expat blogs I read and how many packing lists I make. That is exactly why I’m going. To me, life is about doing things that are out of my everyday comfort zone; challenging and encouraging me to grow far more than I ever could sitting inside the same four walls.

I realize I’m lucky to be in position where I have a choice in what career I want to pursue. I know I could find a job in the U.S. that would pay me far more than au pairing will, and far more than any of the freelancing I’ll be doing over the next year. But I wouldn’t be totally happy or satisfied. I would find myself wondering whom I would be if I had moved abroad, and now I won’t be wondering—I’ll know.

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Justine Hall

When she’s not immersed in life as an au pair, Justine Hall can be found wandering the streets of Madrid, practicing her Spanish with anyone who lets her and chronicling her experiences as a freelancer.

Website: instagram.com/justinetherese11/

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