Lindsey's Au Pair Story
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m 21 years old and I’m a senior at UNC Chapel Hill. I’m studying Political Science and Global studies with a minor in French.
Why did you want to be an au pair?
I knew I was going to be traveling to Paris with my family for a week at the beginning of the summer so I thought it would be really cool if I could find a way to just stay for the entire summer and work. I had been taking French since the beginning of high school, but had never been fully immersed.
How did you find your host family?
I used a website called aupairworld.com. I made a profile and it matched me with families that were looking for an English-speaking au pair for the summer. I started messaging back and forth with my host family and eventually we started talking over Skype every week. After a few weeks we decide that we would be a perfect au pair-host family match!
What was your family like?
There were two boys in the family, ages 4 and 11. My host dad worked pretty often during the week so I would stay at the home and help my host mom with the boys. She worked at the hospital a few days a week, and I would watch the boys by myself.
What did an average workday look like for you?
When the boys were in school, I would walk them to class every morning and then hang out at the house with my host mom during the day. We would cook and clean together sometimes, but for the most part we would go shopping, go to vineyards, hang out at the pool, or go to parks and restaurants. At night, we would all cook dinner together, eat by the pool in the backyard, and then I would do the dishes and clean the kitchen.
When the boys went to bed, I would hang out with my host parents and watch French movies or the news and talk about American and French culture and politics.
When school was out for the summer, we would all go to the beach or hang out by the pool all day. We took a few day or weekend trips to visit museums or famous castles, and on the weekends we would go into the city (Montpellier) to go to wine/art festivals or just to walk around and explore.
Do you have a story about your experience that you can share?
A story that I will NEVER live down is about a month into my time as an au pair, I bought a train ticket to visit my best friend who was studying abroad in Seville, Spain for the summer. I had barely spoken to people my age for the time that I had been in France, so I was really looking forward to seeing a familiar face. My train left really early in the morning, so I packed my bag quickly and my host mom drove me to the train station.
I got on the train and fell asleep for about an hour until I was woken up my border police who had boarded the train once we crossed into Spain. They asked to see my form of identification and as I searched through my purse I came to the very unfortunate realization that I had forgotten my passport… I was escorted off the train and held in a Spanish police station for a couple of hours (mind you I don’t speak any Spanish).
I contacted my host family and my host dad had to drive to Spain with my passport. I missed my train (obviously) and didn’t get to go to Seville, but I’m just really glad that I had such a great host dad who was willing to help me out.
What advice would you give to someone about to go through the experience?
My advice to someone who is about to become an au pair is that it’s really important to be ready to adapt to any situation you might be thrown into. There were times when I would be left alone at dinner parties with a dozen French people speaking rapidly in a language that I could hardly understand at the time, and I had to fend for myself in order to be included in the conversation. Or for example, one weekend, I traveled with my host family to a tiny town in the middle of France to attend the funeral of one of their close relatives. I felt completely out of place, but I just had to go with the flow. Just be ready for entirely new situations and challenges, and be ok with the fact that you might make mistakes or seem a bit awkward at times.