Home is where you find it

Lo­cals dive into Ital­ian cul­ture by join­ing fam­i­lies as au pairs

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - COMMUNITY - BY ALYSHA CAMPBELL

They packed their bags and hopped on a plane to new lives with new fam­i­lies.

Four for­mer Three Oaks stu­dents got their pass­ports stamped in Italy and dove into the cul­ture by liv­ing and work­ing for their host fam­i­lies.

An au pair isn’t a nanny or a babysit­ter, more like a big sis­ter or brother, said Han­nah Bul­ger, 18.

Bul­ger may spend time tak­ing care of the chil­dren, teach­ing them English, and gro­cery shop­ping, but she also has the time and free­dom to do as she pleases. In the af­ter­noons she usu­ally has about five hours to ex­plore her home away from home, go­ing to the city cen­tre or even tak­ing a train to some­where else nearby.

She gets back in the evenings just in time for sup­per and to play with the chil­dren, all the while speak­ing English to them. With the kids in bed, she has the rest of the night off, but still likes spend­ing time with her hosts in her free time. She en­joys her host fam­ily, but not all au pairs are so lucky.

“I’ve heard a few hor­ror sto­ries from other au pairs.”

Com­mon ground is im­por­tant be­tween you and the host fam­ily. Find a fam­ily that has sim­i­lar morals and re­ally cares about you, she says.

Bul­ger may be straight out of high school, but this isn’t just a gap year for her.

“It’s the be­gin­ning of my life and a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

There is a way to live a re­ally sim­ple life­style where you don’t have to work 40 or more hours a week in or­der to be suc­cess­ful, she said.

It isn’t just the Ital­ian cul­ture she’s soaked up in her time abroad ei­ther.

Two months ago she would never have imag­ined hav­ing friends from all over the world. Her friends, from Aus­tralia to Mex­ico, bring their sep­a­rate cul­tures to her Ital­ian ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Work­ing any­where for­eign, not just as an au pair, com­pletely opens your eyes and helps you see the world from a new per­spec­tive.”

Summerside and Italy are com­pletely dif­fer­ent, she said.

Ital­ians seem to have mas­tered the art of re­lax­ation, not let­ting work come home with them at the end of the day. Bul­ger’s host dad never speaks of his work­day when at home with his fam­ily.

“He en­joys spend­ing time and putting a lot of ef­fort into cre­at­ing a pos­i­tive en­vi­ron­ment.”

Bul­ger doesn’t know if she wants to con­tinue as an au pair af­ter this fam­ily, but has en­joyed the ex­pe­ri­ence and can see her­self stay­ing in Italy re­gard­less when it’s over.

Sar­a­lyn Wil­liams, 21, how­ever has been with mul­ti­ple fam­i­lies.

With the most ex­pe­ri­ence of all the Summerside trav­ellers, work­ing in the U.S. and Italy. She sug­gested it to Ma­jor MacGre­gor and Ellen Arse­nault, who were look­ing to do some trav­el­ling of their own.

MacGre­gor has his hands full with three young boys all un­der the age of 10. There’s lots of play­time and prac­tis­ing English, but the boys aren’t the only ones learn­ing.

“I’ve learned a bit of Ital­ian and how to cook pasta ‘cor­rectly’”

Ap­par­ently our weather tol­er­ance is vastly dif­fer­ent as well.

MacGre­gor went to an opera one evening and the tem­per­a­ture was 23C de­grees, cold enough that they were sell­ing blan­kets, he said.

MacGre­gor urges not to do this sim­ply to travel. You have to be will­ing to live with a fam­ily, adapt to how they live and look af­ter chil­dren.

Want­ing to travel is ex­actly how Arse­nault started her jour­ney though, and it’s worked for her.

“I feel so lucky to, not only have ex­pe­ri­enced the fa­mous sights and tourist attractions in Italy, but also to have the cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence of liv­ing with a fam­ily who has shown me some of the hid­den trea­sures of Italy.”

Wil­liams, MacGre­gor and Arse­nault may have been school­mates, but have grown closer dur­ing their time in Italy.

In their spare time the three have trav­elled to­gether to many places such as Florence, Rome, Venice and Mi­lan.

While they may all busy mak­ing mem­o­ries abroad, they hope to all re­unite back home on the Is­land in 2018.

“Peo­ple of­ten stay in one place with the same friends but it’s been amaz­ing trav­el­ling and meet­ing new peo­ple,” said MacGre­gor.


Han­nah Bul­ger, (from left) Ellen Arse­nault, Sar­a­lyn Wil­liams and Ma­jor MacGre­gor stand­ing in front of the Lean­ing Tower of Pisa. The four Summerside na­tives crossed paths in Italy work­ing as au pairs.

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