Hello and welcome to my first blog post!
My name is Sammy-Jo, I’m 22 years old and three years ago I made the best decision of my life: I became an Au Pair in the US!
How did that happen? Well, I’m glad you asked!
Growing up in a German-American household, I knew I wanted to get to know more about American culture. And where would I do that if not in the United States? So, after finishing school, I decided I wanted to spend a year abroad in the USA. I didn’t know how to do it, though. I had considered internships, but found I wouldn’t be able to explore much of the US that way. The Work and Travel program seemed like a nice option, but I didn’t like the idea of having to pay for rent and groceries. A friend told me about an event where former Au Pairs talked about their experiences and the Au Pair program in general. I decided to join her and I’m so glad I did! As an Au Pair, I would not have to spend my money on rent or groceries. And as a nice little bonus, I would have the chance to travel for a whole month after the year was over.
I didn’t hesitate much longer and signed up for what turned out to be the best experience of my life.
What followed was a long process of writing my application, choosing photos, getting references and proving that I had over 200 hours of experience in childcare. I had been a camp counselor, a babysitter and an English tutor, so I knew I had the experience, but still: 200 hours felt like a lot. And then, FINALLY, host families started contacting me.
I didn’t know what to expect. How many kids would I have to look after? Where would I move? Would I live in the countryside and be surrounded by fields of crops? Or would I get to enjoy the energy of a bustling city?
Two months into the application process I still didn’t know. I had talked to Host Families in Colorado, Virginia, California and Oregon. But none of them seemed to be my perfect match.
Then, I received a message from a lovely family from New York. A married couple in their thirties with three wonderful kids: Elliott, Marc and Rose. I read their profile over and over again and every time I did so, I only wanted to meet them more desperately than before. The Skype call came and I had never been more nervous in my life.
What if they didn’t like me? What if I’m not what they expected?
With every replay of that infamous Skype call melody I got more tense. When the call got answered I found myself face to face (well, face to screen) with my future Host Dad. In all my nervousness I only understood half of what he said, but I answered nonetheless, hoping I didn’t sound extremely stupid. He explained my duties as their Au Pair to me, talked about Judaism and their dietary restrictions and whether I had a problem with working for a non-Christian Host Family. I didn’t. A week later I got another call, this time from my future Host Mom. She, too, asked me some questions (“What are your favorite subjects at school? What do you like to do in your free time?”) and again, I answered as best as I could.
When they asked me to be their Au Pair, my heart jumped and I wanted to scream “YES!” right into their faces. But, pretending to be a very mature 19-year old, I asked if I could talk to the kids first. They didn’t mind at all and yet another few days later, I got to talk to three excited children who jumped and laughed and told me jokes and showed me all of their stuffed animals. I loved it. I had found my perfect Host Family.
Now came the not-so-fun-part. Going to the embassy and applying for a J1-visa. It wasn’t as difficult as I had expected, though. My Au Pair Agency helped me with every step of the process.
May 2nd drew closer and I realised I should start packing my suitcase for my year abroad. I took the biggest suitcase I could find and tried to fit my whole life in it. (My dog didn’t seem to like the idea of being in my luggage too much, so she stayed in Germany.)
One day before my flight I got overwhelmed with emotions. I wouldn’t see my family and friends for a whole year. Thankfully, I have the best friends in the whole wide world and they threw me a surprise party on my last day at home.
16 hours later I was on my flight to New York City. I missed my family, but I was also really excited to start my adventure. My fellow Au Pairs and I got picked up from the airport and were transported to Au Pair training school, where we went over the basics of childcare for a week.
My homesickness got worse every day. On my way to my Host Family I kept thinking: Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe I should book the next flight back to Germany.
But all of that changed when I finally met my Host Family in person. They greeted me with big smiles and warm hugs. All of a sudden I didn’t feel homesick anymore.
I had found a new home and a second family, in New York.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know me better. If you did, I will be posting more articles soon.
So stay tuned!