How to become An Au Pair Abroad
Being an Au Pair is a great way to get experience in child care and allow you the opportunity to live in a different country. I recently spoke to an Au Pair from South Africa who now lives and works as an au pair with a family in Southern California. At the time of this posting, she has been there 10 months, and has found this experience to be an excellent opportunity to learn about others and see a bit of the USA at the same time.
Elishia offered some great advice on how you can acquire an au pair job that will send you to live in the US or elsewhere around the world.
An au pair is similar to a nanny in that they watch over the children of the house. The au pair could be from anywhere in the world, and is in the country specifically to work. The Au pair will live with the family and provide child care services. They also have the benefit of being able to study in the USA, paid in part by the host family. This is a great benefit for anyone looking for an opportunity to study abroad, with the added security of already having a job and other basic necessities covered.
Being an au pair, your main responsibilities are with the children, making sure they have all of their basic needs met, while also keeping them occupied and out of trouble. This position requires the patience and understanding that anyone who has or works with kids can appreciate.
Think of this position as parents inviting you in to be a part of their family. Your food and lodging are all covered, all you have to do is watch over the children for 45 hours per week. Typical duties of an au pair include; driving to school, cleaning up, playing with the kids and preparing snacks.
The obvious benefit for being an au pair is that you get to live aborad and you get work. That makes the au pair job a great opportunity for anyone with the freedom to pick up and move across international borders.
Another benefit of being an au pair is the education. Not only the education you are allowed to receive from a local secondary school, but the life lessons of working with children and living abroad. As you would be coming over on the J1 Visa, you also have the opportunity to attend classes at the local university.
While living in the USA you should be comfortable in the house and feel like you're at home. You're free time is exactly that, so you can do with it what you please. Many au pairs like to go out and have a few drinks, while others prefer to relax at the end of their day. You are given your own room, so after work you can get away.
While families are generally understanding if you want to go out and hit the sauce like a depressed soccer mom, you are still there to work and if your work suffers, you may be asked to leave. This isn't spring break, it is child care.
Finally, part of the agreement for being an au pair includes time off to see the country or just get away. Everyone is allowed two weeks paid vacation during their year contract. As well, since you are essentially part of the family, when they go on a vacation, you can go too.
Financially, the au pair can save a bit of money, or they can squander it away on drinks and travel, the choice is yours. Payment is based on a weekly stipend of $200 per week, which adds up to about $10,000 per year. As with many travel jobs the real value is in the life essentials which are all provided. Food, lodging and travel costs are picked either by the host family or the agency.
These costs could easily rack up thousands, but since they are covered your only real expense is time and whatever fun things you choose to spend money on.
To become an au pair you have to sign up through an au pair agency that is recognized by the US state department. For the basic information on becoming and au pair check out their site which lists requirements. Requirements include being aged 18-26, English speaking skills, clean criminal history and a few other obvious basics.
There are several agencies which will help you through the process of placement with a host family. They are listed below.
Au pair care - they provide au pair placement services for people around the world.
When you sign up for your account, you will have to submit your past experience in regards to child care and job history. You need to have 200 hours of experience with children to qualify for a position. You also need references to back up your past history. Some may make these things up, use family members or generally exaggerate their experience. It happens and while nobody's perfect as long as you do your job, you'll be fine.
Expect to have a couple different interviews with the agency and/or the host family via Skype, phone or another method. While the agency vets prospective au pairs, it will ultimately be up to the family to approve you as their au pair.
After getting the job offer, you will then be sent to au pair training for a period of time that's not more than a few weeks. While there you will meet other au pairs and learn the basics of the job. You also do basic training sessions in serious areas like first aid, and the not-so-serious things like peanut butter and jelly sandwich manufacturing and bedtime story charactor recognition. The latter being the more difficult for people not accustomed to our sandwich culture. After the au pair training, you are sent to your new family.
Each local area that au pairs are sent has an au pair director who checks in on the family and the au pair to see how things are going and to ensure that no one is taking advantage or being taken advantage of. This is a valuable part of the process as it ensures people are working well together.
If the situation is not working out, that local director will offer assistance in finding another host family. This is not the end of the world, sometimes things just don't work out. You have a set amount of time to find that new host family, and if you can't then you're paying for your flight back home.
After a year contract living with the host family, you are then offered a choice. You can continue for another term with that same family, start a new term with another family, or go home.
The second contract can be for a different length of time, depending on what you work out with the family and your local director. The choice is yours. If you choose not to continue on as an au pair, then enjoy your time off and start spending that savings.
To get started, locate a designated au pair placement agency and make sure you qualify. After that, your agency will help you carry on. Find out more about the personal life of an au pair in the USA.
The world is too amazing not to share.
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