But what about the au pair? As an au pair, you’ve put in a lot of time getting ready for your program year. You’ve had prep work prior to departure from your home country and again after you arrived in the United States. The orienting continues as you begin to learn about the unique needs of your new host family. And of course you want to have an amazing year! It begins with starting your program off right, so here are seven quick tips on how to do just that.
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your host family and your local coordinator. Both the host family and local coordinator are here to help you make your year great! If you feel any homesickness or culture shock, communicate that to your HF and LC right away so they can help you through it. If you don’t understand something, be open and honest that you are not understanding. Your host family will help you to understand. It's also important to communicate your expectations to your host family. Do you want your family to come for a visit? Are you planning for a special trip while you are in the U.S.? Do you really like to go out and dance at night? The sooner you speak to your host family about these things, the better.
### Connect with your host children and the family.
Spend your first weekend with your family getting to know them and how they run their home. You will have plenty of time to make friends, go out, and see your surroundings. The first weekend (and the first week) are so important in establishing a relationship with a family who will be hosting you for an entire year, or more! A great relationship with the children is also incredibly important for a happy and successful year. You will not stay long in your HF if your host children dislike you. Figure out how to bond with the children.
### Practice driving.
Most au pairs are going to need to get a drivers license for their state. In New Jersey, you must obtain your drivers license within a certain amount of time after arriving. Practice driving with your host family and then take your exam as soon as possible. Don't wait until the time is up before you take the test.
Get to know your Local Coordinator.
Understand that your LC is here to support you and help you have a great program year. Don't hesitate to reach out to your LC for advice or information. Keep your LC well informed at all times so she can help you as best as possible.
Attend cluster meetings.
This will not only make your LC very happy, but it's a great way to connect with the other au pairs in your cluster. It is also a great way to get involved in activities or discussions you might not experience outside of the meeting.
Reach out to the other au pairs in your cluster and in your community.
Your LC will give you the information of au pairs in the cluster—reach out, they want to hear from you! There are also various FB pages dedicated to au pairs, including one for your cluster.
Get to know your community.
There are lots of the things to do in the various towns all over New Jersey. Join the gym, check out your local library, and get to know the hot spots for a quick bite to eat or a cup of coffee and free Wi-Fi. Get involved in your host child's school or scout troop by offering to share something from your culture with their class. Volunteering is another great way to get involved in your community.
Immersing yourself is the only way to have a great year! Don't sit by your computer chatting with everyone back home. Be a part of your experience, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity!