Home is where you find it
Locals dive into Italian culture by joining families as au pairs
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.