Why you should consider Au Pairing

Chinese Tea House Potsdam

As 2011 begins to wind down, it’s time to start thinking ahead towards next year. Do your plans for 2012 include being an au pair overseas? If you are considering a gap year abroad, working as an au pair might make sense for you.

Why? For starters, working as an au pair is a very affordable way to see and experience a new place very inexpensively. The only major cost would be that of the plane ticket to your new country of residence. If you’re lucky, that expense may even be covered in part by your host family. You get room and board as well as a monthly stipend. The monthly salary you get won’t make you rich but is enough to be able to enjoy life.

Another good reason for working as an au pair next year is because in the shaky world economy we are in right now, finding a “real” job isn’t as easy as it has been in the past. Unemployment is still very high in some countries, and jobs are continually being outsourced or cut out altogether. So instead of being at home without a job, why not get some overseas experience and learn a new language?

Another – and maybe the best reason – to consider being an au pair in 2012 is because it is worth it. Yes, working living in a new place and working with kids can be challenging at times, but the au pair job can also be incredibly rewarding. You gain a new family, a new language, invaluable life experience, and more as an au pair. So why not go for it?

 

Au pairs in America – Stay and travel!

girls on beach (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

Did you know that au pairs working the USA get to stay and travel even after their au pair job has ended? Yes, they actually do! America is a major au pair destination, and as it is such a giant country, au pairs often don’t get to see everything they want to see during their time as an au pair. Thankfully, the U.S. Department of State lets people in the U.S. on a J1 visa (for students and au pairs) stay and travel for up to thirty days once they have completed their au pair job. For a common tourist visa you can obtain online easily, visit estapermits.org, but for J1 visa, you will have to apply via your local American embassy.

Get the most out of your thirty days of travel by getting organized and having a plan. Now I admit, I don’t really like to plan, and when I worked as an au pair I liked planning things out even less than I do now. But by getting your ducks in a row before your contract is over, you will be able to see and do a lot more than by simply running off once you have finished your job without having planned at least a basic plan. You don’t have to have an outrageously detailed vacation schedule, but know where you would like to go and decide what you can afford to spend on the trip, and you will be that much ahead.

Depending on which agency you went with as an au pair, you may be able to get special travel arrangements during your post-work journeys. Go Au Pair has
a Bed and Breakfast program for their au pairs. Au pairs with their agency can travel and stay with host families around the U.S. for free. Other au pair agencies offer help to their au pairs, so be sure to find out what is available.

Consider traveling with other au pairs to cut cost and increase the fun factor. If you have made friends with other au pairs during your work, think about traveling together during some (or all) of your travel time. You will be able to save money on hotels, food, and rental cars, and you won’t run the risk of being lonely during your travels.

What about you? If you are an au pair, will you be traveling once your job is over? Where to?

Why a gap year makes sense

Travel girl(photo courtesy of dreamstime)

Gap year. The name sounds a little bit strange, but it is something that is becoming more popular as people become more interested in exploring the world before settling down or just to take a break away from everyday life. What used to be something for random adventuresome souls is now a bit more normal.

So what is a gap year? It’s when you take a specific amount of time (usually a year, just like the name!) and spend it doing something more or less unrelated to what you had been doing. It’s a bit like a sabbatical. For example: if, after completing high school you decide to back pack across Asia for a year before starting college, that would be a gap year.

I actually did two gap years. After my high school graduation I worked for several months in a carpet mill – no kidding – to save up money to travel to Israel, where I ended up staying for the better part of a year before returning to the U.S. to begin my studies. I worked on a kibbutz in northern Israel and then worked with Youth With A Mission in Jerusalem. My second gap year ended up being the year and a half that I spent as an au pair in Germany. Both were life-changing experiences I loved.

So why take a gap year? Breaks are invaluable, and long breaks where you get away from the familiar and into the world can be immensely rewarding. My two+ years were challenging in many ways but also irreplacable. The life lessons you learn and friendships you make during the a gap year are truly one-of-a-kind.

Working as an au pair is a great way to spend a gap year. The benefits are many – you can move to an interesting place and live there very affordably. As an au pair, you also have the benefit of living with a family, so you are not completely going it alone. You will also learn a new country, culture, and language, which is one of the main goals of a gap year (getting away from the familiar). Other gap year opportunities include volunteer work, backpacking, and teaching.

I could wax poetic about all the reasons to consider a gap year, especially as an au pair. But I won’t. Look into it yourself – if you are in between jobs and/or studies, I highly recommend taking a year to go abroad. For more information on a gap year, visit gapyear.com.

What about you? Have you done a “gap” year? Are you thinking about it?

Au Pair eBook SALE – and PRE-LAUNCH

Au Pair eBook Pre-launch

I am currently updating my eBook, The Girl’s Guide to Being an Au Pair. It’s been three years since I first made it available so it is time for an update. I will be adding up-to-date information, more specific details on the au pair job in the most popular countries, and expanded tips for traveling abroad. The update will be completed this summer and should be available in August. The new version of The Girl’s Guide to Being an Au Pair will be available for sale here and at other eBook retailers and will be available in versions for eReaders as well. More details to come …

eBook Sale

In the meantime, I am putting the current version of my eBook on sale until the launch of the new version. Why? Well, it still has A LOT of pertinent information that I think will help you if you are thinking about being an au pair. I also don’t want to keep charging full price when there is a new version on the way.

For the rest of June and July, The Girl’s Guide to Being an Au Pair will be on sale for $5.00. That’s right – only $5.00 for an eBook that will help you learn all you need to know about working as an au pair, including tips on surviving a new culture, dealing with problems that may come up with your host family, making the most of your monthly pay, and more. The sale price will last up until August 1, 2011.

To purchase your $5.00 copy of The Girl’s Guide to Being an Au Pair, please go to the eBook page for more information about the eBook, or visit PayPal to purchase your copy, either with your PayPal account or credit card. The process is simple and your eBook will be sent to you via PDF file within a few days. Take advantage of this offer while you can (or wait for the latest-and-greatest in the new version of the book, the choice is yours!).

Enjoy!

Why be an au pair?

Paris picture(photo by dreamstime)

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. (St. Augustine)

So why should someone work as an au pair? We have already discussed many of the reasons why people decide to go abroad to work as au pairs. Some people are trying to fill a “gap year” in life (between studies or jobs), some simply want to have a good time without too much responsibility, to learn a new language, and still others are au pairs because they have no other way to find legitimate employment, either in or outside of their home country. I have discussed my personal reasons for going overseas as an au pair, which was a combination of several reasons: language learning, a sort of (ok, forced) gap year, and a bit of running away from where I was at the time.

But here’s a thought – why not work as an au pair simply for the love of travel? Well, why not? This is a simple, but perhaps slightly more uncommon, reason to go abroad. In today’s world, especially in western countries like the United States, it is rather frowned up to spend time without pursuing a concrete goal or purpose.

I know I have a hard time when I don’t have an actual reason to justify travel. Even now, as a working professional, I rarely spend the time and resources on travel just for the pure enjoyment of travel in and of itself. There has to be a reason to justify it, whether language study, visiting a friend or relative, or going somewhere for business.

The reality is that our world is an amazing place worth seeing and exploring. And anyone who wants to spend time doing just that should not need a reason to explain why. The travel alone should be more than enough reason to consider working as an au pair. Sure, working as an au pair is fairly hard work that you need to be prepared for, but it is a fantastic way to be able to travel and see places you may not otherwise be able to se.

So what are your thoughts? Are there any au pairs out there work took the au pair job just to travel? How was your experience?