People tend to view life in a predetermined, linear fashion: graduate high school, go to college, get a (preferably high-paying) job, find a nice partner, buy a house, have 2.5 kids, etc… the popularity of this equation makes it difficult to remember that you don’t have to experience life that way. Nothing’s wrong with it—many people find it quite lovely—but if you’re like me, settling down and living by a nine-to-five time card just isn’t for you.
You can create your own journey. Think beyond your realm of comfort and research other cultures to determine what works best for you. It takes a lot of courage and plenty of people will try to discourage you (probably as a result of their jealousy), but it’s more than achievable.
alternate way to see the world #1: become an au pair
Benefits: you get to live with a family, allowing you to experience the culture and improve your foreign language proficiency. Your time is split between watching children, taking classes and plenty of free time to explore.
Restrictions: usually only available to unmarried individuals in their late teens to mid-twenties
Cost: agency registration, translation of documents, background check and visa – around $500
Compensation: housing accommodations, meals and a weekly pay
1) Find your Au Pair agency through an accredited website to insure you aren’t registering with a fraudulent company. Start your application about two months before you wish to leave. Applications are usually several pages in length and will question your chosen foreign language proficiency, your motivations and your previous child sitting experience. References, a background check and a personalized letter may also be required.
- Union Francais des Associations Au Pair (French accreditations): http://www.ufaap.org/
- Fee Revee is the agency I used to become an au pair in Paris. I found their prices reasonable and their staff extremely accommodating. They cover other areas in France as well: www.fee-revee.com
2) While you can’t apply for your visa until you know your departure date, obtaining the necessary documents can be a lengthy process, so start as early as possible. Visa stipulations vary greatly by country—check your consulate’s website for a list of the documents you will need. If you don’t already have a passport, you should apply for one several months before you’d like to depart.
3) The Au Pair agency will let you know what they need in order to process your file. A translation by an official translator of your birth certificate, diploma or other important documents may be required.
4) Choosing a host family is similar to browsing an au pair dating site: if you like the family’s profile and they like yours, then you can chat through webcam. If after video chatting you decide you like them and they like you, you’ve found your family!
5) You will then pick the university and program you’d like to attend. You must be enrolled at a university for the entirety of your au pair stay in order to satisfy your visa requirements.
6) Finally you may apply for your visa. When you arrive at the consulate’s office, have each document in original and a photocopy. Processing times vary, so don’t book a plane ticket until after your visa arrives.
I hope this helps any aspiring au pairs! Follow me or subscribe by email to receive future updates on alternative ways to travel.