Most people want to travel during their gap year. But with so many amazing destinations and work abroad programs to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start.
If you’re interested in paid work abroad programs, consider becoming an Au Pair. This exchange visitor program is perfect for you if:
- you love children
- want to perfect your English
- want to learn more about life in the United States
- would love to live with a U.S. Host Family and become an extended member of the family
Does this sound like you? Then the Au Pair program is the perfect work abroad program for you.
What’s it like working abroad in the USA?
Au Pairs often say that coming to the U.S. feels like stepping into a movie. It’s surreal to see iconic places you’ve seen on TV. Things are both the same and different from how it’s portrayed in the movies.
If the idea of working overseas seems scary, you aren’t alone. Becoming an Au Pair is not an easy decision.
But most Au Pairs say it was the best decision of their lives.
Reezah, a former Au Pair, even says that the Au Pair program has taught him that the American Dream is his, too. His Host Family supported him in many ways, from learning to drive on the opposite side of the road, to making him feel welcome and part of the family.
“I don’t think ‘impossible’ is something that exists for me anymore. They made me feel at home and taken care of. They had my back in every possible way.” - Reezah, South Africa
One Au Pair, Gene, says her Host Family gave her the courage to pursue her dreams. She’d always wanted to study at a U.S. university. Not only did her Host Family make this possible, but they encouraged her to take the classes she wanted.
“It was my greatest dream to study at a university. They have both been through this whole process of challenges and learning, they have never left me alone and they have always been there for me... Achieving this has been one of the most satisfying feelings.” - Genesis, Ecuador
Living with an American Host Family and living “at work.”
You might be hung up on the idea of living with a Host Family. But it’s important to know that one of the core principles is living in a U.S. home and experiencing life as an American for at least one year.
This is the best way to truly experience the culture and get a feel for the American way of life. Plus, it gives you the best exposure to U.S. foods, traditions, and the best opportunity for language immersion.
And even though it can be challenging to live in your place of “work,” it can also be the most rewarding.
For example, the moment when your Host Kids climb into bed with you just to snuggle.
Or going on family outings, such as state fairs or boating trips.
Or having a glass of wine and chatting with your Host Mom after the kids are in bed.
This is exactly what former Au Pair, Marina, says her experience was like.
“When I am done working and we're just sitting there talking, sometimes we'll have a wine and talk so late! It's like the perfect fit, ever.” - Marina, China
Plus, Host Families must abide by very specific program regulations. Unlike a regular job, which may ask you to work additional hours that cut into your personal time, Au Pairs are not supposed to work more than 45 hours in a given week, or 10 hours in a single day.
Why are work exchange programs better than backpacking across Europe?
It really depends on your motivation. If seeing all of Europe is your lifelong dream, backpacking cross-country for a year might be the better option for you.
However, becoming an Au Pair in the USA gives young adults a unique opportunity they can’t find anywhere else. This is one of the best working abroad programs for gaining cultural exposure and experiencing life as a member of an American household.
Plus, all Au Pairs get free housing, free food, $500 in tuition money (or $1,000 if you sign up for EduCare), and a weekly stipend. Many families also cover their Au Pair’s phone, transportation, or vacation expenses.
In return, Au Pairs watch the family’s children for up to 45 hours per week (or 30 for EduCare). Tending children is a lot of work, and certainly isn’t for everyone. But if you love kids and want to be part of an American family, you’ll love this program.
What are the requirements for becoming an Au Pair?
To qualify as a U.S. exchange visitor under the J-1 visa, Au Pairs must:
- Speak English
- Be between the ages of 18-26
- Have a high school diploma or equivalent
- Have previous childcare experience (references required)
For more details, click here.
Is Au Pairing harder than other working abroad opportunities?
Yes and no. If you don’t enjoy playing with kids all day, or if getting kids to listen to you sounds like a headache, it might not be the right fit.
However, if you know you’ll thrive under the demands of childcare, and if children are the joy of your life, then Au Pairing is a work abroad opportunity you don’t want to pass up.
Not only can it be more fulfilling than your average job, but the relationship you build with your Host Family can be one of the most meaningful experiences of your life.
Ready to pursue your dream to live and work abroad?
If you’re interested in pursuing one of the most rewarding work abroad programs for adults, submit your application today!
These Au Pairs Love Their Host Families…!
Here’s a video from Colombian Au Pair, Giselle, about how her Host Family cultivated the experience of a lifetime for 16 different Au Pairs!
Plus, check out our #LoveMyHostFamily Playlist on YouTube for more stories like this one.