My decision to become an au pair shortly after I graduated college was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The experience I had as an au pair was truly one of the best periods of my life so far! An au pair, if you aren’t familiar with the term, is “a young foreign person, typically a woman, who helps with housework or child care in exchange for room and board.” I lived with a family in Rome, Italy and took care of their two children each day. I would have never learned the things I learned about myself and about Italy if I had stayed at home. Embarking on an adventure like au pairing definitely takes courage, but it’s so worth it.
1. You aren’t getting any younger.
This one might sound harsh, but it’s one of the main reasons I took the leap to become an au pair. There are certain experiences that you can really only have when you’re young, and au pairing is one of them. There certainly isn’t an age limit on au pairing, but it’s typically done when you’re anywhere from 18-30 years old. I was in a rush to get back to Italy after I studied abroad and fell in love with it, and au pairing was the perfect way to do that.
2. You’ll get to experience a new culture.
Besides your study abroad experience if you did that, when are you going to be able to experience a new culture like this, for an extended period of time? Au pairing is a great way to really dive headfirst into a new culture, because you’ll be living and breathing in it. Eating habits, language, schedules, priorities are all going to be different. For me, it was a great way to evaluate what I want in life, even how I want to raise my future children. Experiencing a new culture is one of the best ways to learn more about the world, and how you fit in it.
3. It’s a cheap way to live abroad.
By becoming an au pair, you will have free room and board in exchange for watching the children. Typically this means that you will have your own room (maybe even your own bathroom), all of your meals will be covered, and often you will get paid a weekly stipend on top of this. Your duties might include some household tasks, but for the most part will be taking care of the children after school until dinner time, if they are of the school age. Most au pairs have mornings and weekends off, which is really nice!
4. It’s a great way to see the world before your first job.
After graduation is a great time to consider au pairing because you have a natural break time. If you already have a job lined up, considering asking if you can move your start date back a few months. That will give you time to au pair in another country before you’re tied to your desk! While you’re an au pair, chances are you’ll have time to do some traveling to. I did a lot of travel on the weekends, even just day trips to other cities in Italy. It’s so convenient to travel in Europe, so I took advantage of that!
5. You’ll meet new people from around the world.
When I was an au pair, I made friends with people from so many different countries! My best friends were from the Netherlands, Germany, and America. In addition to those friends, I made friends with Italians and people from a handful of other countries who were also living in Rome! It was so exciting to me to have friends from around the world, and hear about their experiences. We were all tied together by the common bond of living in Rome, a large city that’s easy to fall in love with, despite the many frustrations it can cause on a daily basis.
6. You can practice a new language.
One of the best parts about being an au pair, for me, was that my Italian excelled like it never had before. I had self-taught myself, then took classes at college, before I moved to Rome. Living with an Italian family I was able to pick up on so much more of the language! Being in a country and hearing the language every day (and speaking it every day) is one of the best ways to learn. By the time I left, I was very confident in my Italian and it felt really good.
7. The host family will welcome you into their family.
My host family was so welcoming to me, from the minute I arrived! They make sure I had everything I needed to be comfortable, and answered all of my questions about their family and the city. They even gave me recommendations on what to see, what buses to take to get to the train station, and where I should travel on the weekend. We had dinner together almost every week night, and I cherished that time so much! I felt comfortable from the first day, and feel so lucky to have lived with such a kind family.
8. A new city will become your home.
Which is so exciting! When you’re an au pair, you aren’t just visiting a new city, you’re living there. If you’re restless like me and tired of wherever you spent the last few years of your life, then au pairing might be right for you. Discovering a new city meant I was never bored. I was always finding a new place to go, a new cafe, a new view, a new restaurant. You’ll fall in love with it either head over heels right away, or over time as you peel back the layers.
9. You can explore the city and travel with your free time.
As an au pair you are working, because you have to take care of the children and whatever household chores your host family expects you to help with. But when you’re not doing that, you’ll find that you have plenty of free time! I wandered around Rome so much, I started to know it like the back of my hand. In addition, my weekends were free to travel. So more often than not, I hopped on an early morning train and went to explore other destinations in Italy!
10. You will learn more than you ever thought possible!
About yourself, about your new country, about a new language, about a new culture. I would have never learned these things had I stayed home. That’s the beauty of au pairing. You grow up and become more of yourself, if that makes sense. It allows you the freedom to be who you are, while providing a secure job and place to stay in a foreign country. Nothing is more exciting or worthwhile than that!
Have you considered au pairing? Leave any questions you have about it in the comments below!
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Maggie is the blogger behind The Artful Everyday, a travel and lifestyle blog dedicated to living intentionally and finding beauty in the ordinary. She loves the idea that we get to escape our normal lives when we travel, and that it allows us to be more open to the world and its cultures. Maggie lived in Florence while studying abroad, then was an au pair in Rome last fall. She is very passionate about traveling in Europe, especially Italy, and living abroad. Maggie studied Interior Design at the University of Minnesota, but is currently pursuing a career in writing.