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THOUGHTS, COMMENTS AND REFLECTIONS FROM PEOPLE WHO HAVE PARTICIPATED IN THE AU PAIR IN AMERICA CULTURAL EXCHANGE PROGRAM
BROADEN YOUR HORIZONS WHILST LIVING ABROAD WITH AU PAIR IN AMERICA!
SCOTT NEUFELD/Vernon Daily Courier
Melanie Inzunza spent a year in Hawaii as an au pair. She said she blossomed while working in the island paradise.
By SCOTT NEUFELD
The Vernon Daily Courier
Melanie Inzunza’s lifelong dream was to be a teacher in Hawaii. After spending a year in the islands working as an au pair, she says she’s finally achieved her goal.
“I lived in a nice house on the beach,” she said. It’s just a good way to spend a year.”
For many Canadians it can be difficult to get a visa to work in the United States, but Inzunza said the Au Pair in America program is the perfect way live to and work in the country. The program is for 18 to 26 year olds who have experience working in child care. Inzunza said she took care of four teenagers which was a big responsibility but she became more independent and more confident as a result.
“The program is good if you’re 18 and you don’t know what to do and you don’t want to go to college right away,” she said. “I just kind of blossomed while I was there.”
Unlike most of the other 4,000 au pairs that are part of the program each year, Inzunza had met her host family in advance. She said she had been backpacking around Hawaii when they told her about the program and invited her to take care of their children. The host family pays for room and board as well as an allowance of $139 per week for shopping and entertainment expenses. Inzunza said she was lucky enough to be provided with her own vehicle. Some might be turned off by doing housework but Inzunza said that au pairs are different than maids and are not expected to do the cooking and cleaning for the whole family.
“This is strictly focused on child care, you’re not responsible to clean out the fridge or buy groceries,” she said. “You’re just the child care person.”
Inzunza said she worked a maximum of 45 hours a week and spent much of her work day shuffling her charges to sporting activities and to school. In her free time she volunteered as a teacher at a local school and as part of her educational requirement she enrolled in Hawaiian studies courses at a university. However, lnzunza said the best part of the trip was spending time with the other au pairs who were in the area.
“I just kind of blossomed while I was there” Melanie lnzunza
Once a month they planned trips together to sample the best of what Hawaii had to offer.
“What I enjoyed most was meeting with girls from all over the world,” she said. “It’s so much fun to have all these friends right away because usually when you move somewhere on your own don’t have many friends.”
Having returned from her year of working abroad last month, Inzunza is now living in Vernon and is working as one of the few Canadian ambassadors for the program. She said she hopes that more local young woman will consider the program because travelling aboard can have such a positive impact on a person’s life!
“I just achieved my goal in life of living in Hawaii,” she said. “Who knows what your life would be like after one year away?”
Lynsey’s Au Pair Story
“I like to think I was meant to come here. The friends I have made during this year will truly be lifelong friends.” Canadian au pair Lynsey tells us what being an Au Pair in America means to her!
I decided to become an au pair because I went straight to university after high school and I always wanted to take a gap year and travel but I didn’t have the chance before starting university. So I got my degree and came across this “au pair thing” at a job fair, actually at my university and it really interested me. I did some research and found Au Pair in America and it seemed like the perfect thing for me so I got in touch with the local representative in Canada. I love kids and still like to be one myself sometimes. I’m a very fun, outgoing and playful person. I applied and went through the process and found a wonderful host family in Washington D.C, which is an absolutely amazing place to live. Orientation in New York was exciting because it was the start of this exciting new adventure and everyone there was going through the same thing as you.
I like to think I was meant to come here. The friends I have made during this year will truly be lifelong friends. Going through this experience together of living in another country, being away from home and traveling together has been incredibly eye opening and life changing. I have definitely fallen in love with the USA and that’s why I decided to extend my au pair experience and stay for another year.
My experience so far with looking after my host kids is that they definitely keep you on your toes and can be challenging at times but having someone who looks up to you and wants to be like you is the sweetest thing. It feels rewarding to be like a big sister and a role model to them.
I did two travel courses for the education component of the program. My first class was about the wars and slavery in the South. This course involved travelling to Nashville for a weekend which was very fun, it’s such a cool, country place! My second class was about the Amish country and I travelled to Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a day with my class to see how they live, which was very fascinating because they don’t use technology and they work very hard on farms.
So far in my au pair experience I have travelled to 10 other States but I have to say Washington D.C is my favourite. It’s a great place to live because I feel like it’s in the middle of everything. You can take bus trips up to New York or Connecticut or you can do road trips down to Virginia, North Carolina or South Carolina. Flights to Florida or other places down South aren’t too long which is great.
I would tell other potential au pairs to just do it and apply. You really don’t know what this experience can do for you until you are actually living it. Sometimes it’s like a dream, it’s so surreal. The different places you can visit and things you can see is something you can’t get by working in a regular job at home.
Applying to the Au Pair in America program really has been the best thing I’ve ever done. I’m so happy and have become much more independent through being an au pair. This experience has taught me so much about myself and I’m constantly learning new things. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.
My name is Marie and I am an au pair in Alexandria, Virginia.
I have been in the States now for 5 months and I am thoroughly enjoying my experience. I decided to become an au pair because when I was home in Ontario Canada, I found that I never took time out of my busy schedule to travel and enjoy the things in life that I wanted to experience. So, I let my manager know I would be resigning, signed up to the program and started my Au Pair in America application. Once everything was finalized, I had matched with a family, my flights were booked, I’d finished packing and I was off!
Orientation was first, in New York, then after 3 days we were all off to meet our host families. Orientation was a great experience! I met so many girls from all over the world, and everyone was in the same position as me. We were all excited about becoming au pairs and for the new experiences we were going to have. There were so many stories shared, friends made, and fun times had, especially on the NYC tour. After finishing Orientation, it was on the train and off to meet our host families. It was such a cool experience to see all of us being greeted with such love and warmth from our new host families who were so excited to see us and finally have us there, with them in the USA.
One bonus of the program is that you are living with a family that knows the local area really well and everything around, including the secret places you might not know about as a tourist. As you are in the USA for one year, you get to know your local area really well and you are totally enriched and immersed into the experience.
When it comes to choosing what you want to study, there are SO many options, including courses which allow you to learn about a place and then go and visit it. I just signed up for a course which is all about Nashville, Tennessee and I can’t wait to start it. There are so many educational options for au pairs and I think it’s a really important aspect of the program because it allows you another opportunity to meet people and do something you haven’t taken the chance to do before.
There is definitely a lot of work involved with taking care of the children, but the reward and experience of it all is so amazing. I’ve developed such great relationships with my host kids, two beautiful little girls who are 4 and 1 year old, and I now consider them like my adopted nieces. I have had such a great experience with my host family, they are so generous and kind to me and they do feel like my second family. They include me in everything they do, I’ve been able to get to know their extended family, and we are all so comfortable around each other, it’s a wonderful environment to live in.
If I could offer some advice to future au pairs, it would be, to make the most of your au pair experience you have to be very open minded and adaptable. Change can be hard, but if you approach it in a positive way and try your hardest to be flexible and work with your host family’s needs, your year as an au pair will go really well. Another key thing is ensuring you are communicating openly with your host family at all times. If you have an issue or just something you need to talk about, you have to speak up about it. Keeping everything bottled up will just make things much worse. Your host family and your local community counselor will not know something is wrong unless you tell them so don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for help. It’s really reassuring as an au pair to know that in addition to your host family, your community counsellor is always there for you. She can help guide you and be there for you if a problem arises or if you just need someone to talk to. I’ve felt totally supported through-out my time as an au pair so far.
There have been SO many highlights of my time as an Au Pair in America so far, but one of my favourite memories is the first time I saw Washington, and in particular the Lincoln Memorial. I went on a cold day in February on my own. There was no one else around, everything was so quiet and peaceful and I was just astounded by what I saw. The pillars around the memorial just amazed me, and the memorial itself was so breath-taking to see.
This entire experience has been an eye opener and such an exciting adventure. There are so many things I had never experienced in life before becoming an au pair. I had never felt such freedom and independence to go out there and try something totally new.Marie
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