AuPair.com would like to introduce Jordan Fields from “The Places Jo Goes”! Jordan comes from Oklahoma, USA and was recently an Au Pair in Spain. She has a blog where she talks about travelling and lifestyle and gives amazing tips to her readers. Read more about it here!
You can also find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!
In this article, she interviews her friend Samantha who was also an Au Pair – but in Australia!
It was July 2015 when Samantha Mclaughlin left her Texas home with a one way ticket to Melbourne, Australia. A recent college graduate with an eagerness to grow and a desire to embrace the unknown of the Land Down Under, Samantha would end up spending 15 months in one of the most livable cities in the world.
After asking Samantha why she would recommend the Au Pair experience to others, she said, “It’s an experience that will bring you so much growth as a person and something that you will appreciate for the rest of your life. It’s terrifying, exciting, emotional, tiring, rewarding, heartbreaking and everything in between but so beyond worth it. Take the leap. Buy the plane ticket. Go for it. Trust me.” - Samantha Mclaughlin
Samantha’s time spent in Melbourne has allowed her the opportunity to share her expertise and experiences with others. Follow along as we take a dive into Samantha’s life changing journey as she opens up about her advice, top lessons learned, and favorite memories from her time spent abroad!
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself and where you were an Au Pair?
I am 25 years old and have lived in Texas my whole life (aside from attending college in Oklahoma for 4 years). I have two wonderfully supportive parents as well as an older and younger brother (shout out to the middle children out there!) who I love very much. Leaving them to go be an Au Pair in Melbourne, Australia for an indefinite amount of time was beyond hard for me, but I was so fortunate to have their constant love and support with my decision to go and get a life-changing experience.
2. Why did you decided to become an Au Pair? What inspired you?
I first heard of what an Au Pair was through a chain of people. My mom’s secretary has a daughter around my age and her friend was an Au Pair in Spain. The information was passed from her, all the way to my mom, and then to me. I was immediately interested in the idea and began researching online.
This is very cliché, but true nonetheless - I have loved kids my entire life. I feel drawn to their curious, impressionable minds and am inspired by their carefree and worry-free spirits. I knew two things when I graduated from college: #1. I want to have an experience of a lifetime and do something way out of my comfort zone that would help me grow as person and #2. Ideally, I’d like #1 to also involve kids.
Being an Au Pair across the world. #1: Check. #2: Check.
3. Why did you choose Australia? Did you choose the place or the family first?
Originally, I wanted to go to Spain. However, for me, the idea of a language barrier became too much. Communication was a very important aspect of me committing to be an Au Pair and I knew if I couldn’t clearly communicate with the family I was going to be living with, I wouldn’t be happy.
I chose Australia for two reasons. First, it is an English-speaking country and second, no one I knew had ever been there. After I decided where I wanted to go, finding a family came pretty quickly afterward.
4. How did you decide on the family that you au paired for?
I was actually with two families during my stay in Melbourne. I picked both families based on what they were looking for in an Au Pair, but mainly based on the connection we had with each other. I felt that this was a very important aspect with my choosing of a family to not only work for, but also to live with.
5. Did you need to get a visa? If so what was that process like?
Yes, I got a Work & Holiday Visa. It was actually relatively easy to get. The family I was going to be staying with had multiple Au Pairs before me and helped me throughout the process with any questions I had.
6. What did you like about being an Au Pair in Australia?
Oh wow, I could go on forever. I loved it so much. Everything about it. I loved being a part of another family, impacting their children’s upbringing, learning their culture and ways of living.
7. How long did you go for and do you suggest aspiring Au Pairs to go for a specific length of time?
I was there for 15 months (July 2015-Oct 2016). I think how long you decide to stay just depends on the person. I went to Australia with a one-way plane ticket not knowing how long I would be there. I had 12 months in my head, but was really just playing it all by ear. I will say, my time spent there may have been a lot shorter if Facetime wasn’t around. It was my saving grace on those inevitable homesick days. If my family and friends lived in Melbourne, I would’ve never left. Ultimately, they are the only reason I came back home.
8. How many kids were you taking care of? Their ages?
For the first family I was taking care of two kids (about 4 and 2 years old) with a baby on the way, and the second family I was taking care of two girls (2.5 years old and 5 months when I started).
9. What was your schedule like? What were your responsibilities?
It fluctuated occasionally, but more often than not it was M-F 7:30AM-5/6ish PM. My main responsibilities were taking care of the kids and their needs. The older girl was at school every day, so I was only responsible for the baby most days. I took her out of the house daily for a walk to the park and to music class once a week. I was expected to follow a sleep schedule as well as a strict sleep training method, pick up the toys, help with baths, and little household chores when I could (unloading dishwasher, cleaning countertops, sweeping/vacuuming, etc.). I enjoy a tidy living space so I always tried to make sure the house was ready for the parents once they arrived home from work so that all they had to worry about was spending time with their babies before they went to bed.
10. In a nutshell, can you explain the Australian culture? Or the city you were in?
Melbourne is a very hip and active city, which I immediately fell in love with. Everyone seemed to be out and about exercising and walking places. That’s kind of unheard of in Texas. We don’t have much public transportation where I’m from so I had very little experience with it prior to living in Melbourne. With time, I got the hang of it and eventually found it to be so helpful for me when trying to get around, especially considering I didn’t have a car while I was there.
All the food was so beautifully plated, and each café was unique and always trying new “up and coming” food concoctions and innovations. The architecture and interior design were absolutely stunning. I felt like I was living in an Instagram/Blog world.
11. Did you have the opportunity to travel to other places while you were there? If so, where to?
Yes! I traveled to the Gold Coast and Thailand with my host family, Sydney with my mom, and Japan with my dad.
12. What are some things you wish you knew before you were an Au Pair? Or some things you would have prepared more for?
I wish I had known some of the more “real” stuff about living with a family while simultaneously working for them. That was a little bit of an adjustment and also a major learning experience for me. It’s not always rainbows and butterflies and of course I expected things to happen, but for me personally, I had to adjust to the lifestyle of living with my boss.
13. Did you save a lot of money before you went? Were you able to save there? What are the expenses like?
I saved a little bit, but not a ton. The most expensive part was getting there. I was fortunate enough to have my parents help me in the beginning with my expenses, however, after a few months of being abroad I had saved a good bit of money that I had earned and was able to use that for my spending. Australia is pretty expensive, but I was paid a weekly rate as well as an overtime hourly rate which always added up, so I didn’t have too much of an issue with money. It also helps when you have your room and board and food being paid for.
14. Was it easy to make friends abroad? How did you make friends?
This was definitely something I was worried about before I left the US, but making friends and meeting other people, especially Au Pairs, was surprisingly easy! I became a member of a Facebook group for Au Pairs and families in my area and there was always Au Pairs posting in there, asking if anyone wanted to meet up for coffee or lunch or an outing. I also met people through my host family and their friends who also had Au Pairs.
15. What are some of your top lessons learned?
1. Obviously always trust your intuition, but it’s ok to talk to strangers and ask for help/advice if you need it.
2. Cherish those moments with the kiddos while they’re little. The time will come and pass quicker than you think.
3. Don’t be afraid to talk to your host family about a concern or worry of yours. They will probably be a lot more open-minded than you anticipate.
4. Mom and Dad are just a call away.
5. Take pictures, but live in the moment. Stare at the mountain or ocean or whatever scenery you’re in front of for just a few minutes longer. Take it in.
6. Walks are good for the mind body and soul.
16. Favorite memories?
1. Watching one of the little girls that I primarily looked after sit up by herself, crawl, stand, talk, and walk for the first time. It’s a memory I will hold onto for the rest of my life.
2. My host family is Jewish so they don’t celebrate Christmas. We were on vacation at Surfer’s Paradise during this time and of course it was very hard not being with my family over the holidays. While I was out exploring the town, my host family drew a little Christmas tree with ornaments on a small piece of paper, taped it on the wall and put a gift under it. I walked in the apartment and almost cried because of it. They wanted me to feel at home and it was the sweetest gesture anyone’s ever done for me.
3. Although this was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, I will always remember the night I left Melbourne and having to say goodbye to my host family. I’ve never experienced such a heartbreak and I wasn’t expecting it to be as hard as it was. It is a favorite memory because despite it being gut-wrenchingly difficult, it was such a beautiful moment to experience with these people who were complete strangers to me in the beginning but had now become such a huge part of my life. They had become my family and I’m forever grateful for the relationship and bond I formed with them.