Taking Care of Yourself

Shannon M. from the United States is an au pair in Australia.
Shannon M. from the United States is an au pair in Australia.
Photo courtesy of InterExchange

Like all rewarding experiences, being an au pair is sometimes difficult. Dealing with your stress will help to make your year abroad more fun, and it will also make you a better childcare provider. Use these tips to make your days easier:

  • Recognize when you are feeling stress, and use your free time to relax.

  • Keep a journal. This will help you to enjoy the wonderful days, and to get through the more difficult days. 

  • Communicate often with your host family. If you are feeling frustrated, see what you can change about the situation.

  • Keep in touch with your program coordinator and any other au pairs in your area. You can support and encourage each other.

  • If you have had a hard day, spend some quiet time, without television or other distraction. Listen to music. Take a hot bath. Read a book. Take a walk around the neighborhood. 

  • Get plenty of sleep. If you are tired, you are more likely to get frustrated and sick. 

  • Eat a healthful diet and exercise regularly so that you have enough energy to make the most of your day. 

  • Take vitamins to stay healthy.

  • Wash your hands often. This will help you avoid getting sick. 

  • When you do get sick, be careful with cold medicine. Many cold remedies will make you very sleepy, which will make your work more difficult. Make sure any medicine you take when you work is labeled as “non-drowsy.”

Laura W. from South Africa is an au pair in Michigan, USA.
Laura W. from South Africa is an au pair in Michigan, USA.
Photo courtesy of InterExchange

Personal Safety

The countries in the InterExchange au pair programs are generally very safe places, but it’s important to keep safety in mind. If you use your common sense, you will be able to avoid most difficulties and have a wonderful, safe year.

  • Do not hitchhike. Hitchhiking is more common outside of America than in other places, but it is not worth the risk. 

  • Do not accept rides from strangers.

  • Jog or walk in daylight.

  • Don’t carry more money than you will need that day. 

  • Don’t carry your passport with you if you don’t need it, but do carry some kind of identification, such as your driver’s license.

  • Avoid parks, woods, and remote areas when you are alone, especially at night. 

  • Be careful when using an ATM to withdraw money, and take extra caution at night. Your bank can give you advice on safely using ATMs. 

  • Let your host family know where you are going and when you will return, and contact them if your plans change.

  • If you feel you are being followed, cross the street and observe what the other person does. Put space between yourself and the person following you. Pretend to see a friend, even if it is a person you do not know, and call out or wave to that person. You should try to attract attention and scare away the person following you. If a store, restaurant or business nearby is open, go inside and ask for help.

  • If you think you are being followed while driving, drive to the nearest police or fire station.

Learning a Language

There are many ways to boost your language skills without taking a formal language class. You’re already doing the best thing for learning a new language: immersing yourself in a language and culture! Below are a few tips for learning as much as you can during your au pair program:

  • Watch television in your free time. Television is an excellent way to learn a language in context. Even if you don’t understand everything that is said, television will help you to acquire a lot of new vocabulary.

  • Read local newspapers and magazines. This is also a great way to learn new words and idioms.

  • Talk, talk, talk. Conversation is the best way to perfect your language skills. Use social opportunities on your days off to practice your conversation. 

  • Keep a notebook dictionary: Write down new idioms you learn, words that are hard for you, or anything you don’t understand. This personal dictionary will help you remember as you learn.

Some Last Thoughts

Remember, your au pair experience will give back to you as much as you put into it. Your attitude will make all the difference; positive thinking really works. Enthusiasm and patience pay off and will help you to have one of the most wonderful years of your life. Good luck and have fun!

Next: Child Care Test »

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation