Au pair programs are a special type of cultural exchange for those interested in child care, but it can be difficult to decide whether an au pair program is the right fit. If you're thinking about becoming an au pair abroad, there are a few questions you should ask yourself.
Do I have significant experience caring for children?
Yes. This experience will be valuable, as child care will be your main responsibility as an au pair. And though it's helpful to highlight all experience when applying, organizations often like to know if you've had any jobs other than caring for a family member, such as a younger sibling.
No. If you don't have child care experience, then an au pair program is not a good fit.
Would I be happy adjusting my schedule and lifestyle to align with my host family?
Yes, I'm excited about host family living. Excellent! While you should bring along your own healthy routines and hobbies, adjusting a good bit to your host family's lifestyle is an important step in developing a positive relationship with your hosts, and a big part of the cultural learning experience too. Openness to collaboration and making adjustments is key!
No, I want to have more independence. As an au pair, your responsibilities could begin early in the day and sometimes include work in the evening. This makes it harder to go out on any given night. You might want to consider another type of program, like a Working Holiday, where you can structure your own experience.
Do I have formal child care training?
Yes. Great. Experience and training with children is an asset for this program. Be sure to mention this on your application!
No. Formal training isn't usually a strict prerequisite for au pair programs, although it could be an advantage in the placement process. Most organizations do require references demonstrating that you've had previous experience caring for children.
Do I have basic proficiency in my host country's language?
Yes. That's perfect! Second language skills will help you immensely during your time abroad and you'll want to brush up before you travel.
No, but I'm willing to practice! While second language skills might not be required, success as an au pair demands strong communication. If English is not the main language where you hope to travel, consider taking a course or finding a language partner.
Have I lived abroad before?
Yes. Great. Then you're probably well aware of the challenges of adjusting to a new cultural landscape and potentially learning a new language. Your past experience will be incredibly helpful on your program.
No. Proceed thoughtfully. Most of our participants have not lived abroad before, and that's okay! However, if you are unsure whether you will be able to commit to the full program period and the responsibilities involved, please contact InterExchange to discuss other options.
Other questions to consider:
- Do you have a significant other, kids, or pets that you can't be away from?
- Are there challenging circumstances at home that may require a great deal of attention while you're abroad?
- Do you have extensive and ambitious travel goals that you hope to achieve in the middle of your program?
- Are you dealing with chronic illness?
- Do you have a desire to lead an intensively active social life, particularly at night?
If there are any issues that you feel could prevent you from fully embracing the experience as an au pair abroad, we invite you to contact InterExchange to discuss them before moving forward with your application. We look forward to hearing from you!
InterExchange is proud to have an experienced team that is dedicated to international cultural exchange. We come from a variety of backgrounds, but nearly every member of our New York City-based staff has extensive experience traveling, working, or living abroad.