When young people come to employment offices looking for opportunities and new inspirational channels to improve and build their future, I always suggest them to consider different ways of life-long learning possibilities. One of them could be the Au-Pair programme. As I personally did not participate in it so far (I had my experience in Australia), I asked Giulia, a former University colleague of Venice Cà Foscari, to describe how and if she enjoyed her experience as an Au-Pair in Germany.
Why did you decide to become an Au-Pair?
I have always wanted to be an au-pair somewhere in the world. Soon after my graduation I seized the moment and, in order to better improve my language skills, I applied for a position in the country I always loved: Germany.
Where did you spend, and for how long, your programme?
I lived in Cologne for a year, from January 2013 until December 2013
Where did you start the search for a host family?
I used an online website www.aupairworld.net, where I could upload my personal profile and begin to interact with lots of families interested in my background and experience.
How have you been selected?
First of all, as I mentioned, I had to complete my online profile, indicating my main characteristics and what kind of family I was looking for (i.e. whether a family with newborns, disabled children, single-parent family etc etc..). Obviously, I also had the chance to choose a list of “preferred” cities. My initial aim was to get picked for Berlin. Eventually, I had to write a small letter of presentation and subsequently, I was contacted by several families who liked my profile. For each family I read myself their presentations and at the end, I decided to get in touch with a family based in Cologne. The contacts and the conversations were handled through emails and Skype calls until…the flight was booked! To be honest, by recalling all the procedure, I couldn’t have found a better family!
How was a regular day scheduled? Describe us a daily routine and consequent significant activities.
My duties used to begin early in the morning. I usually woke up at 6.30 am, set the table for breakfast, prepare some snacks for school and got the children (Jan, 6 years old and Eva, 2 years old) awake. Jan was an independent child and I should only choose which clothes he needed to wear, while Eva was a completely different story. I dressed her, changed her and washed her. Afterwards, I drove them school. As an au-pair I had the duty to clean their bedrooms and wash their clothes. In the morning I had lots of free time to complete the tasks and also to pamper myself! Around 12.30 pm I used to pick Eva up at school and once at home I cooked for both of us and then I put her in bed for a nap. The children’s mum got home at 3 pm daily, so she was in charge to go and pick Jan up at school. During the rest of the day we usually enjoyed the afternoon altogether, playing or doing some homework and creative games. Dinnertime was the only moment with all the family present, myself included. Jan and Eva went to sleep around 8pm every night and so I had the time to go out or stay at home talking with the parents or watching the TV.
Can you tell us pros and cons of the experience?
In the pros I would say this experience has totally changed my way of living, considering I moved from a small town of a thousand residents to a cosmopolitan city. I discover my strenghts and my limits, as well as I learnt to be indipendent. The most positive aspect has definitely been that one of living with a wonderful family. We still are in touch, almost once a year I tried to visit them. I tried because now….I live in Cologne! This experience gave me the courage to undertake the most important journey of my life since then: attending the University here in Germany!
On the other hand I will list as cons the fact of the distance from family and friends. I gave up a lot by taking the decision to move here and several relationships have revealed themselves as fake and superficial.
What does mean “to meet another culture” in your opinion?
I have immediately learnt to adapt to the new culture, as pertaining to the daily habits and to the food. It absolutely was not a burden for me; actually I feel this culture belongs to me and I am passionate about all of its aspects. Everyday is always a new discovery!
Which competences and skills do you feel you have acquired from the Au-Pair experience?
Surely, my language skills increased and I improved my self’-esteem and self-confidence, believing in my potential day by day. Competences as problem-solving and quick-thinking have been acquired and strenghtened.
Would you recommend your peers to take part in a programme like this?
Absolutely! This is an experience that changes your life and the perspective on the reality, especially when you are in your twenties. Thanks to my advices a girl from my town decided to leave and live six months in Finland. Maybe at the very beginning one might be frightened, because you are going to leave by yourself and to live alone in a foreign city, far from your family. The day I was leaving Italy I cried, but not as much as the day I had to leave my German family.
To conclude, how will you dismiss us?
Na klar! Ich möchte auf jeden Fall diese wunderschöne Erfahrung weiterempfehlen..am Ende lohnt es sich immer! Tschüss 🙂
Giulia Balzan is 25 years old and she attended Cà Foscari University of Venice. After graduating in Languages, she decided to be an Au-Pair in Germany in order to master her fluency in German. She now lives in Cologne and she is doing her Master at the local University. Good luck for you future!
The Au-Pair programme allows young people from 18 – 30 to take a different experience within families of different countries. Usually, an au-pair looks after children and take care of the house (by doing some soft domestic chores) while the hosts are at work. An Au-pair is entitled of days off and a weekly pocket money.