au pair

My journey to become an Au Pair in the USA

by Maryann on Mar 17, 2020
My journey to become an Au Pair in the USA
We all have dreams that can lead us to make life-changing decisions. A few months ago, I made this decision: I'm going to be an Au Pair in the United States. I found my host family and things are becoming more and more official but the journey has been long and full of questions. In this post, I explain to you my decision, the process I followed and how I am currently preparing to leave Europe for America. 

Why did I decide to be an Au Pair in the USA?  

The United States is a country that many people dream about. The American culture has a big influence in the world today and most of us have already watched teen TV shows or Hollywood movies, listened to American music, dreamed of seeing the skyscrapers of New York, and so on. I also have often heard that Americans are friendly and positive and I want to discover that by myself. Moreover, I enjoy learning foreign languages, so what better way to improve your English than to live in an English-speaking country for a while? 
 
Becoming an Au Pair in the USA is a project I've had in mind since high school. When I graduated from high school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to study and I thought about becoming an Au Pair in the United States. I finally put this project aside because I didn't feel able to go across the ocean by myself when I was only 18. Now that I am about to get my Bachelor’s degree, I tell myself that if I don't make this dream come true now, I will never do it! 

Gathering information and starting the process

Once I was completely sure of my decision, the first step was to choose an agency. The Au Pair program in the United States is highly regulated, that’s why it’s mandatory to go through an agency approved by the U.S. government. This agency will be your sponsor to obtain the visa J-1. Choosing the agency that will allow you to go to the USA and support you for the whole year is not the easiest part. Indeed, there are plenty of agencies out there! I had already inquired about several agencies when I was 18 and had already spoken with counselors from two different agencies. So when I had to choose one for good, I already knew which one.  
 
In addition, there is a big community of French-speaking Au Pairs in the USA. We have a Facebook group and Instagram accounts where the previous, current and future Au Pairs can share their experience, give advice and ask questions. Therefore, it was easier to get information about au pairing in the USA and to read testimonies. I am sure you can find similar groups of Au Pairs from your country! 
 
I officially started the process in December. The agency called me and asked me questions about whether I meet the requirements of the program or not. Then I had access to my account on the agency's platform and I could start filling out my file. It took me a month to do it! It's very long because you have to provide lots of documents, go to the doctor, choose photos and answer questions. You can also make a short video to introduce yourself to the families. I did it because I think it's a good way for families to get to know us. Once my file was finished, my counselor checked it out and gave me some advice on how to improve it. Then, our profile is sent to the agency office in the United States for approval. 

How did I choose my family? 

Once my profile was online on the agency’s platform, families were able to get in touch with me. Only two families at the same time could select my profile for 72 hours. It's always a very long time to wait for a family to contact us. We’re excited to find out where they live, how many children they have and their ages, what kind of activities they enjoy, etc. 
 
The first family I’ve talked with was the good one. Our conversation lasted for more than an hour and we mentioned almost all the details of the program. It wasn’t just a job interview because we had the occasion to laugh and to discuss other things. They asked me questions about me, what I am currently doing and they very seem to care. 
 
Few days after the interview, they sent me an email where they offered me to match because they believe that I am the Au Pair they are looking for. Even though I was convinced that they are the perfect family for me, I preferred asking them to make another video call where I could see the kids and maybe ask more questions. I didn't want to rush because the departure is only for this summer, so we still have time. I also wanted to talk to other families to make sure that it wasn’t a quick decision due to my enthusiasm. Once you've matched with the family, you can't change your mind, otherwise, you have to pay a pretty high fee. It's important to take your time and think it through. You're going to spend a whole year living with them, so it's a big choice.  
 
We finally made the second video call. I asked them a few more questions, they showed me the house and the most important thing: I spoke with the kids! They were a little shy, of course, but they still seemed happy to meet me and talk to me a bit about themselves. 
 
I finally decided to match with this family. I felt like they were not just looking for someone to take care of their kids but also to have a new member of the family. They are excited to make me discover the US. One of the first questions they asked me was “Have you ever been to the US ?” and when I said “no”, their reaction was “Omg that’s so cool, we will make you discover America!!”. It reassured me a lot because they understood that one of the first goals of the program is the cultural exchange
 
I'm sure that now you're wondering where exactly I'm going to live in the US. Here it is: I'm going to live in Maryland, right next to Washington D.C.!! 

The next steps before leaving 

Once we matched, the agency sent me all the papers I need to apply for a visa. I had to fill out documents online and make an appointment at the US embassy in Paris. The agency provides us a document that explains all the steps to follow and it is easy to understand. While waiting for my visa, I have to take online courses to prepare myself to adapt to the American culture, to learn more about procedures, insurance, safety, etc. I also need to create a scrapbook that introduces my Host Family, where I will be living, ideas of activities to do with the kids, etc. 
 
After all, I think a very important thing to do before leaving is to stay in touch with the Host Family. If you get to know each other before your arrival, the first few days will be easier. You'll feel less like you're living with strangers. Since we made it official with my Host Family, we've been sending each other a few emails to keep up to date with what's going on in our lives. They have even made some short videos of their daily activities with the children so that I can discover their lives. 
 
I hope that this blog post has helped you in whatever way possible. Becoming an Au Pair in the USA and living away from your family and your reference points for a year is not an easy decision to make. I'm really looking forward to this summer to finally discover the United States but I also have a lot of doubts, and that's completely normal. 
 
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Some Thoughts...
Julie
Jun, 18, 2020 - 10:06 pm
J'ai beaucoup aimé ce témoignage. Merci beaucoup
Ogunleye
Jul, 11, 2020 - 11:07 am
Great experience
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