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SFU Student

Lonely Planet

In 2016, I worked as an “au pair” in London, England. My experience was amazing, and during my time abroad, I realized that being an au pair is one of the most economical ways to see the world. I wasn't paying for accommodation or food, I was meeting other young people, and receiving a weekly paycheque that guaranteed I never ran out of money! Most importantly, I was seeing the world. However, when I told people about my experience, I noticed that not many young people know about this travel option available to them. It’s easy to do, and so affordable. This article will outline why being an au pair is an amazing travel choice for students, and how to achieve it.

“My time as an au pair was the most rewarding experience I’ve had to date. I got to experience Italian culture, meet people from all over the globe, and even learn a new language! It’s definitely one of the best ways to see the world on a budget.”

Nicole, from Vancouver, worked in Genoa, Italy

What is it?

Being an au pair is a childcare job, like a nanny. Typically, you live with a family in their home, and help them with their children, as well as other chores. Generally, you will be provided your own bedroom and space. Every family will have different needs, but for me, I was working 5 days a week with fair hours. The duties are usually things you would expect from a regular childcare job, such as school pick ups, meal prep, and general care. Normally, you'll have at least two days off a week, with free time available even on your working days (I had lots of free time while the kids were at school!).

“I’ve been an au pair for a year and a half now, and I now consider my host family as my second family. I’ve shared so many amazing memories with them - we’ve gone on holiday together, shared birthdays and more! They’ve always treated me with respect. But the most amazing feeling of all is seeing the children grow and learn. Cheers to being an au pair!”

Sydney, from Ontario, works in London, England

Why it's Great

This program is hands down the best way to travel as a student. If you're somebody who has previous experience with childcare, you're essentially set! I spent months agonizing over not being able to travel for financial reasons; it seemed like every plan I made cost thousands of dollars. As students, saving money is already hard enough, with most of us working whilst also paying tuition, rent, etc. Then, a friend told me about her au pair experience, and a whole new world of possibilities opened up. I did some research, and found out I only needed to save enough money for my flights (plus some emergency funds). I organized the plan myself, found a family, and was off! Having an au pair is common in Europe, and so I met many friends while there, and we were able to discover the city together. It was amazing to experience living in another city, not just sightseeing for a few days. By the time I left, my host family felt like a second family, and the kids felt like younger siblings. Generally, people tell me they're worried about not having enough free-time. Most of my friends and I have found that we had ample time to do our own things, especially if you stay for a longer period of time. If you manage to have fun at home while carrying a job, you'll be able to do it abroad!

“I had an amazing time as an au pair, it was an incredible experience, discovering a new country, a new family and a new culture. I think it is the best way to travel and meet people, I would do it again if I could.”

Céline, from France, worked in London, England

 How to do it

The website my friends and I have used, is "AuPairWorld". It's easy to register and make a profile. You can then tailor your profile to suit you, choose what countries you'd like to travel to, how many kids you'd prefer to look after, etc. Then, you'll be matched with host families that fit your criteria. One piece of advice I'd give would be to take your time finding the family that is right for you. You wouldn't want to travel across the world only to be in a miserable situation. So register early and talk to lots of families! To sum it all up, becoming an au pair is in my opinion one of the cheapest and most rewarding ways to see the world. You'll be able to live in places you’ve always dreamed of and make memories that don't leave you feeling guilty about the amount of money you’ve spent, all the while doing a job that makes you feel like you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.

SFU Student
Teghan McDonald is a fourth year student at SFU studying in the faculties of English Literature and Liberal Arts. She enjoys cold weather, baking, and volunteering as a literacy mentor. 

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