When I look back on my summer as an Au Pair in Grenoble, a heap of memories come flooding back – so many which are good… some bad however, I look back at it with fondness. During the six weeks of being an Au Pair, I learnt more about myself and about the world than what I had done during my first year away at university in Paris.
It all came about during the Easter break back in England whilst conversing with my Mum about how I didn’t have anything planned for summer. Then my Mum suggested Au Pairing. So I began looking on Au Pair websites until I found a family.
Do your research
I was extremely lucky and found a lovely family however, so many friends have had bad experiences. So do your research before you commit to anything. A lot of families want the Au Pair to teach their child/ren English so if you’re wanting to practice a foreign language, search for a family who doesn’t require this.
My first night was spent in a 50’s BMW that the father had done up. Not only was I getting used to a very old car (that had a choke and no power stirring) but also driving on the opposite side of the road. After many mishaps such as taking the wrong exit and having to reverse onto a roundabout, I learnt to love this dysfunctional car and became a master of driving on the right side of the road.
The family had recently just moved into their beautiful bungalow situated on top of a hill surrounded by the Alps. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t wish I could wake up and see that view again. They had a pool and a big garden which was perfect for me and the boy since there was always something fun to do.
Go in with the right attitude
Some days can be really hard but don’t give up. The family I was living with had just lost their Wife and Mum. The boy was clearly still grieving and would of course play up and be really naughty. There was a morning when he refused to get out of bed to go to school whilst his father was away on business for two days. I felt absolutely helpless as I knew he just wanted his Mum, not me. However, seeing those moments when the young boy was happy despite everything the family had been through made it all worth while. I realised on that morning that I wasn’t simply here to do a job, but I wanted to make a difference to this boy’s life.
Keep yourself busy
Au Pairing can be quite lonely and isolating at times. When you arrive in a new place, you may not know anyone or perhaps have only just began learning the language. There are plenty of Au Pair websites and Au Pair groups on Facebook full of Au Pairs that are searching for company too. I had weekends off and spent my time travelling in the south of France and Switzerland. While the boy was at school I used to go jogging and cycling around the town. Although really hilly, I got to know the town and became friends with the locals. I had even brought some of my piano music and became friends with the woman who owned the piano shop in town. We exchanged music and my dream finally came true when she let me play on her grand Yamaha piano.
Don’t be afraid of travelling on your own
During the six weeks, I had visited Grenoble, Lyon, Geneva, Annecy… to name a few. I made so many friends from all over the world in the hostels I stayed in, one of whom I am seeing in Montreal in September when I go live and work in Quebec. Travelling on my own for the first time made me so independent. Meeting people from all over the world with different backgrounds really opened my mind and gave me that travelling bug everyone talks about.
(me getting soaked by the Jet in Geneva)
Always say YES
I became friends with family friends who invited me one weekend to hike in the alps with them. One night when the father was away, a family friend even came round to make me escargot which was surprisingly delicious. I met some of the most kindest and selfless people whilst living there who I will never forget.
Looking after a child at the age of 19 not only brought relief to my Mum when I told her she wouldn’t be having grandchildren for a very long time, but gave me so much responsibility that I’d ever been given before. Of course I learnt to cook and look after a child but the most important challenge I had to overcome as an Au Pair was finding the balance between being a friend to the boy and sustaining authority. I have always been the fun Aunty at home who never had to discipline my nephews but I learnt that children actually thrive of some discipline. Making sure the child knows you have authority actually makes them feel safe and learn respect.
Get involved in their life
Towards the end of the six weeks, I realised how involved I was in their lives. I had gone to see him perform in his school choir and made a cake just like all the other mums. I was helping him with his homework, cooking for him, playing with him, disciplining him when he was naughty and looking after the six month year old puppy as well as the cat. But when I look back, it was totally worth it.
A lot of people don’t put being an Au Pair on their CVs, however, out of all the jobs and internships I have had, I most definitely learnt the most about responsibility, time management and prioritisation whilst being an Au Pair.
My advise is to go for it and be an Au Pair!
Feel free to comment and let me know of any experiences you’ve had Au Pairing or travelling, it would be great to read!