Au pair 2 be...your best guide to au pairing!
I was born in Kenya where I spent my childhood and my early adult years. At 23, while nearing the end of my undergraduate studies, I was too conscious of the high unemployment rates in Kenya. I knew a
postgraduate degree was going to be absolutely necessary, if I was to be competitive in the Kenyan labour market. I had a passion for French and had majored in it. I had heard about au pair arrangements during my first year at college and at the time had thought it a great idea to be able to spend a year in France living-working as an au pair. My family is pretty modest and would definitely not have been able to support me financially throughout my au pair stay. I thought it through and au pairing seemed like the ideal solution: I generally liked children and had child care experience, since I had lived with and taken care of my nephew as a young adult. I was also open and pretty curious about other people, countries, cultures and lifestyles and as I said before, I also had a passion for the French language and was keen to improve my spoken French.
I talked it out with my parents who accepted to raise money for my air ticket and a bit of pocket money for my first month of living-working as an au pair, with the hope that once my au pair contract was over, I would be able to study and get some part-time work to support myself. I found a list of au pair agencies at the French language school where I normally enrolled for extra French courses during college vacations. I selected one among the dozen or so au pair agencies and wrote to them (internet was not yet very popular at the time and so we did it the good old way ). The au pair agency sent me au pair application forms that I filled out. I then sent in my au pair application forms, my "Dear family letter" and supporting documents (certified and translated copies of my high school certificate, first aid certificate, medical certificate and letters of recommendation. Of course the au pair application called for a lot of financial sacrifices on my part: I had to cut down on my semester expenses in order to be able save up money required for medical tests and the agency's application fee of about Kshs 9000 (90 euros), which believe me was not a small amount in those days! (In contrast today's on line au pair applications seem so hassle free!).
Four months after sending in my au pair application, a French family got in touch with me. We exchanged two or three e-mails and a phone call. We hit it off and the rest was smooth sailing...
I spent a positively memorable year with my host family in the southern part of France. I looked after three children: Joel (4 ), Anaïs (2), and Fabien 9 months. Their mother was a civil servant and their father ran his own printing business. We had a good relationship and they were keen on introducing me to French food and places. But they also gave me a lot of time and space to myself. I visited different parts of France and a number of European countries, and met a lot of people. I made some good friends and some very good friends, some with whom I have stayed in touch.
The following year I joined a university in France, and later spent some years studying in other EU countries. Today, my network of friends here, is comprised among others of former au pairs as well as au pair host families. Aside from my own lived experiences, these friendships have enabled me get "both sides of the story".
I sincerely wish you all the best in your family search and hope you'll have a very memorable au pair experience!
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