Today we are featuring a blog from Sarah Freeman on living abroad as an Au Pair.
Becoming a Local in a Foreign Land
At the end of January last year when my money started to dwindle I had to make a decision. Do I go back to America, signifying the end to my backpacking adventure? This option would mean moving back in with the parents and going back to my internship in order to save up to go out and explore again. Or do I find a job abroad in one of the many cities across Europe I fell in love with. For me, the decision was an easy one. Absolutely not one fiber in my body thought about going home, I was determined to stay abroad. I wanted to experience a city from more than just a backpackers view. I wanted to take the time to stay put for a little, get to know one place, and enjoy a bed and closet that I wouldn’t have to pack and unpack within a week.
So around the holiday time I started searching for any job that was available in a city near me. I started looking for jobs around Prague, Amsterdam, London and Madrid. These were my favorite places I had traveled to and was anxious to get back and see more. And I was surprisingly shocked at how many options there were for travelers to get work abroad. Bar tending, waitressing, teaching English, being an Au Pair, working in a hostel, working in a hotel. The list is endless for travelers looking to settle for a little to find seasonal or temporary jobs.
With much deliberation, applications, e-mails and planning I landed on a program for Au Pairs in Madrid, Spain. SmallerEarth.com is a travelers website that hosts tons of jobs and excursions for a wide range of ages to all over the world. They were still accepting applications for the coming school semester starting in January. So without hesitation I filled out the application, sent in all my paperwork and found myself matching with a family a few weeks later. Once matched, the family and I talked via Skype and set a date for me to start and come back out to Madrid. My work description was easy enough. I had the duties of picking up the kids from school, helping them with their homework, babysitting one night a weekend, and most importantly practicing English with them. Plus I had free time during the day as I wasn’t needed until 4pm when the kids where out of school. In return I was given a room in the family’s house with my own bathroom, free meals, and 70 Euro pocket money a week. It was a pretty sweet deal.
As I look back on that chapter of my life I never fully realized the other priceless things I gained during my time there until now. I made a new family that I miss every day and hope to see again soon. I made a new pool of friends from different countries all over the world that I hope to visit in and share laughs and memories with again. I found the hidden treasures and secret gems of a city I once knew nothing about. I learned well, more improved my almost non-existent Spanish. I truly lived the local life in Madrid, Spain. Not to mention all the incredible memories made between the weekend excursions and the day-to-day activities I came across with new friends.
The job was more than what I imagined it would be. Along with being a complete blessing in disguise, on the side note that I rediscovered how much I love kids and thankfully, am still a kid at heart. But also, it’s the magic of having the ability to stay in a place for a few months and not running out your budget. The hidden gems you don’t have time to seek out when moving from place to place become accessible as you have the opportunity to roam and find them. It really allowed me to step out of my comfort zone as a traveler, to get to know a city on a personal level. With the passing of weeks I figured out my favorite parks and scenery, the best restaurants to eat at, the coffee shops with the most delicious flavors. And when I became confident with the language, I became a local in an unfamiliar land and the city became my home, and not just a place I was passing through. I left apart of me in Madrid.
I loved my time as an Au Pair and would encourage people, who are thinking of going abroad to give it a try. For whatever reason you want to get away from home, being an Au Pair is a perfect introduction to living abroad, on your own (almost) and away from family and friends and exploring another part of the world.
So again, if you are contemplating living abroad or deciding what to do abroad, let me lay out the perks of being an Au Pair