Au pair programmes
If YOU are up to taking care of children for about five to six hours a day, five days a week, then being an au pair could be a cheap, easy way for you to travel and experience living in another country.
Au pairs are basically nannies hired from foreign countries. It’s an arrangement that works both ways: the host family gets to hire a relatively cheap nanny, and the nanny in turn gets to experience living in a different culture while having their food and accommodation taken care of.
Julia emmanuel, 26, was an au pair for a year-and-a-half after she graduated in 2007, taking care of two children in Vienna, Austria.
“I read something about au pair programmes before, so when I was studying in england and about to graduate, I just thought I’d research it on the Internet,” said Julia, now a PR executive back in Kuala Lumpur.
she stumbled upon a website, easy Au Pair (www.easyaupair. com). It didn’t require a membership fee, so she registered for a profile, and sent it to as many families as she could. Within a couple of weeks, two families had replied wanting to hire her.
“It was a really easy process. Once you have your profile, you can just click and send to as many families as you like,” she said.
What she got in return for her taking care of the hosts’ children were a plane ticket to Vienna, food and lodging for the entire duration, a German language course in the University of Vienna, and the opportunity to travel all over europe in her free time.
“I’ve been to Germany, switzerland, Prague, all over Austria ... so many places. I even went with the family on a trip to Budapest,” she said.
The best part for Julia was being able to experience first hand the cultures and traditions in Austria.
“I had a friend there who was from the countryside, near salzburg, and I stayed with her a lot during my holidays. I learned so much about their culture there. There’s just no better way to experience a country than to actually stay with the people,” she said.
But according to Villashani Jeyakumar, 25, who was an au pair for two years in Virginia, the United states, there are some au pairs who’ve had bad experiences.
“I met a German au pair who was paired with a Vietnamese American family. They were rude to her, and made her work past her working hours without paying her over-time. But au pairs in the Us have ‘counsellors’ that help with their problems, and they were able to help her find another host,” said Villashani.
Villashani found the job through Aceglobal (www.aceglobal.org), a company that helps customers find au pair programmes in the Us, New Zealand and Australia.
Back when she applied in 2007, Villashani paid around Rm5,500 to the company, and everything was taken care of - airfare, visa application fees, finding a host family (applicants can choose which state in the Us they want to go to), orientation programmes and so on.
Au pairs in the Us, however, can be paid by the host family anything from Us$500 to Us$1,000 depending on how many hours they work, and they can only stay for two years, according to Villashani.
“If given a chance, I would have stayed on indefinitely. It was such a wonderful experience, and I learned so much,” she added.