by Gitte Carstensen
Summer 2015 will be my 10-year anniversary of finishing my year as an au pair in america. Life has been great since, but my time as an Au Pair is definitely still one of best years of my life. The au pair experience continues to play an important role today: my host family is still “my American family” and my au pair friends are still my very close friends. Besides my great personal relationships with people from around the world, I have also gained a lot of cultural and educational knowledge, which is very valuable for my professional career today. I can without a doubt say that going to a foreign country as an au pair year was one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Multiple benefits of being an au pair
When finishing high school in my home country Denmark I wanted to see a different part of the world and get some life experience, before going back to school to study. I was excited to work for a wonderful family with four children and I was looking forward to an unforgettable time, but little did I know that it entailed so many various kinds of benefits.
The travelling benefit
While living in America I had the
opportunity to travel and explore many unique places. My host family lived in Connecticut; therefore I saw a lot of the east coast. I went to beautiful Boston and on many day trips to New York City. I felt the cozy southern atmosphere, during my one-week stay in New Orleans together with a friend. When my parents came to visit, we travelled to the west coast, where we among other things saw the Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles ans went hiking in Grand Canyon, drove up and down the hilly streets of wonderful San Francisco and enjoyed the craziness of Las Vegas. I was also so lucky to travel with my host family to Paris, France and London, in the United Kingdom for a family holiday. As a European it was really fascinating to see Europe through the eyes of Americans.
The educational benefit
Having to take care of four children under ten years absolutely strengthened my multi-tasking skills. Furthermore I was able to improve my foreign language skills, not only my English skills, but also my German skills through my German Au Pair friends. In addition to my Au Pair work, I was also able to further my education, because going to school is a part of the Au Pair program. I took a Public Relations course at Fairfield University and later a Religion versus Science course at Yale University. It turns out that my year abroad has had a great impact on, what I wanted to study and later on work with.
The cultural benefit
Coming from a small city in Denmark, it was very exciting for me to try the American way of life and also meeting other cultures through new au pair friends from all over the world (e.g. Brazil, South Africa and Germany). The experience made me even more curious to learn about other cultures and has helped me understand the possibilities and challenges, when different cultures meet. Now I easily get acquainted in new countries and their cultures – a very important quality for me, because today I live in Germany working in a multinational company.
The personal benefit
The host family and the friends I make during my au pair year are people I share this unique time with and therefore I will keep a very special bond with them for many years to come. Quite a few people, who I met in my year as an au pair, are today still very important people in my life. With modern technology and social media it is extremely easy to keep in touch my people for your au pair year.
It is funny to see the children I cared for grow into young adults and keep a close friendship with their parents. Since my time as an au pair I have visited my host family three times and I am so blessed that my host parents will be attending my upcoming wedding. They truly are my American family. My Brazilian friend Pauline stills calls me her Danish sister today and my two German friends Janika and Jasmine will be visiting me in a couple of weeks for a girls weekend.
Feeling safe and home in a foreign country
To make sure that I had a safety net while in America, I went through the organization Au Pair in America. Very thoroughly they assisted me in finding the best-fit host family for me and they made all insurance- and travel arrangements for me. When arriving to America I stayed four days in a hotel with many new au pair like me, where we learned about the American culture, the do’s and don’ts while in America, babysitting, first aid and other useful information. Throughout the year I received support from the organization and had an area counselor, who arranged events for me and other Au Pairs close by. I can definitely recommend future au pairs to go through a well-structured organization – this way I got the full package of the au pair experience. Going abroad through Au Pair in America was very profitable investment in my future.
Gitte Carstensen is now 30 years of age and has earned a Master in International Business Communication and Public Relations Degree.