This is a question I have been asked countless times over the last year.. I usually end up sending multiple unorganized essays, there is just so much to it to answer in one simple message. I decided to divide it up and explain it the best I can.
1. Loneliness is a real thing.
Here’s what I thought: I’m a nice person, I’ll find friends pretty quickly or I’ll just make friends with the family. Wrong. While it’s possible (and recommended) to make friends with the family, you’re going to find that you still need some people your age who remind you it’s not crazy to want to party. It’s a different culture, which can make it hard to find people you really get along with. Most “friends” last about one night out. If you are staying for just a few months, then it feels a bit redundant to let a guy take you out (or it did to me). Also, making new friends can be expensive…
2. You can’t doubt your decision to go.
Everyone will be doubting you. If you doubt yourself then you aren’t going.
3. It’s not a vacation
There will definitely be multiple days a week where you wish you could “call-in.” If you don’t have a work ethic, it will definitely teach you how to have one.
4. It’s difficult to put the experience into words
Sometimes, I will try to explain what I am going through to friends and family and it just can’t be properly understood by anyone but you. This heightens the loneliness a bit but eventually it makes you learn how important it is to trust how you handle situations. If you take advice from someone who does not understand the extent of the situation it just makes you look foolish.
5. Real free time = Money
Okay, this one depends on the family I guess, but it is true for the most part. I found myself becoming a hermit because I would rather spend my money traveling to cool places rather than getting a coffee, beer, food, or tram tickets. When you are at home, it’s can feel like working. The kids are not robots, you cannot just turn them off when you’re on your day off. Which means, if your kids come up to your room while you’re glued to Netflix asking “do you play?” you swallow your scowl and say “yes!”, because you like them and it would break their hearts if you said no (and also set a bad example!) So, in other words, the best thing to do is just get out of the house.
6. You will learn things
What you learn depends completely on the family and what you want to learn is dependent on you. The loneliness really sets you up for some mind exploration. Eventually you’ll get tired of screens and need some time to just think, it just takes you to places. It gives you time to analyze your life from an outsiders point of view, especially if you are gone for a long period of time. It gave me time to accept and deal with feelings I didn’t even know existed. It’s important to want to learn things, and give the effort to learn things you didn’t know you were going too… For instance, learning to live less selfishly.
7. No, it will not magically decide a degree for you.
It gives you more time to think, but that’s pretty much it.
If you truly want to come then it will all work itself out. It will never seem like enough.
9. Necessary Experience
Honestly, I recommend some sort of experience with kids because you will be around them all day, every day. There are some families who just want you around so that their kids practice and speak English and others that will leave you with the kids for 6 hours and expect cleaning. It opens up choices for you if you have at least babysat.
This is easily the best perk. If you decided to save your money and not go out too much your aupair money will be enough to fund a weekend vacation about every month.
My personal reasons: I wanted to be alone. I was so ready to not feel dependent on anyone but myself. So, when people sat their reminding me of all the “bad stuff” I told them that that’s was why I’m going. Yes, I wanted to explore Europe and take a gap year, but also I still wanted to learn things. As for money, I wish I would have came with more, but I will be saying that until I am a millionaire. I had experience: formal jobs, babysitting jobs, and even teaching field experience; I was still unequipped. Honestly, it feels a little bit like having a kid of your own if you are doing the job correctly… So I am convinced no one is prepared. Having a weekend vacation really helped me.
Advice: If you read that and you still want to be one, but the “money” thing is the only thing stopping you; then you’re stopping yourself. Find a way.
PS: I will be writing another about how to become one and one about advice very soon, so if you are interested please look out for it (: