Skype meeting/email exchange questions:

So once you’ve established contact with a potential host family, it’s for the questions! 

I strongly recommend The Au Pair Handbook’s Tumblr to clarify any doubts you come up with. She has several posts about the sort of questions you should ask your potential host family, under her Skype tag.

Some of the topics you should cover are:

  • How many children are there? What’s their age? How’s their temperament, do they get along? In case there’s over two children the mom will probably be home more, or there will be a grandma around, etc. Keep this in mind when you ask the parent schedules and yours. If they require you to be with over two children on your own for extended periods of time, then I personally wouldn’t agree to the job.
  • Payment (is it at least the minimum for the country? This you can check on Aupair-world)
  • How will your schedule be like? Remember there are different rules for different countries, for example in Germany you work a maximum of 30 hours per week -you can check the requirements of the country of your choosing on aupair-world.
  • Do both of the parents work, how many hours a day will you be expected to take care of the children? Do they go to daycare/kindergarten/school? Do you have to take them there and pick them up? Is there a reasonable amount of free hours for you to go to language school?
  • Will they contribute to language school payment? They don’t have to, but once you’re serious with this family, you should ask anyway. I repeat, only when you’ve already Skyped a few times. It could be a bit intimidating if you come up with this question right away.
  • Will you dispose of a reasonable amount of time to travel? Some families need you on weekends, some others don’t mind you being away during these periods. Are you expected to work during holidays? Also, ask how holidays are usually like. Whether they travel or stay, do they like to spend them with the family, etc.
  • Is there any public transport nearby? Will you have a bike at your disposition? How far are you from the center of the town/city? How far away is the nearest big city? This is important because you don’t want to be stuck in a little town in the middle of nowhere (unless you actually want to haha, but it’s good to have more options). 
  • Ask about other Au Pairs in the area and see if they’ve had Au Pairs before! If so, it is very important that you ask to talk to them. It happened to me that I had been talking to a family for over a week, many hours a day, and we got along perfectly! They sounded amazing, offered a lot of benefits and I had agreed to go to them. Then I got to talk to their current Au Pair and it turned out they weren’t that good of a fit for me. They were nice and supportive parents but had communication issues between them (which is of course not a good sign), often had loud arguments, they were lazy with the cleaning, etc. When you talk to their current Au Pair you should ask about the night life of the town/city, of there’s any attractions nearby, how does she like the town/city,  the temperament of the kids, the way the parents behave (are they very professional, or caring or lazy, or always doing something, do they like going out a lot, etc). Ask how the Au Pair spends her free time!
  • You should also ask about their expectations. Some parents expect you to be more flexible with your schedule, jump in in case of emergencies, etc. Some others expect you to cook (so ask about your duties), and others look for au pairs who are really into sports since their kids love sports and are constantly running around. Some families even ask if you are able to play any instruments, if you enjoy doing crafts, etc. Remember this is all about their kid.
  • Which brings me to asking about the children’s preferences. In case you have to cook, ask about their favourite meals (if would be nice if you practised them at home!). Ask about their favourite activities, at what time do they go to bed, what do they like to do in their free time and so on.
  • When you’re already serious with the family, ask about your room! Do you have a bathroom of your own? Do you have wifi, will they lend you a laptop or do you have to bring your own?
  • And something that’s very important! Ask to Skype at least once with the WHOLE family. In the story I mentioned above, I would always talk with the dad, and even the videocalls would be with him only. I insisted and insisted until the mom and the kid came as well, but I could tell there was something off, they didn’t have the chemistry my other potential host family had. They seemed annoyed by each other. So this is why it is really important! It is a great sign if the current Au Pair is around while you’re Skyping. You can have a glimpse into their relationship and the whole environment in the house!

Some of these are questions listed on The Au Pair Handbook's blog, and some of these are from the list I made when I had to choose between two very nice families. 

I hope it helps you in your search and if you have any doubts don’t hesitate to contact me! I’d be glad to be of any assistance. xx

Once upon a time, there was a girl who flew.
— 

This is a quote (slightly adapted - the original quote is boy who flew) from one of my favourite people - Chris Colfer. It makes more sense in context: throughout the book, you have excerpts of this little kid trying to write a story, and it starts out as this little kid who wants to fly, but doesn’t know how. And the kid tries to figure out how to fly, until he realises it’s not about wanting it - you have to be an active agent in your own life and do it: do it and trust that it’ll work out.

I’ve spent my whole life looking at things that I want to do, but giving myself a thousand reasons why for me, that’s not possible - why I can’t do it. 

This year, that changes.

This year, I fly.

I read the ‘au pair’ tag everyday and let me just say I truly enjoy reading about each of your experiences and even though we don’t know each other, being in the same adventure (in the making for me still) makes me care and wonder about you all, like there’s some sort of link between us. My au pair adventure will start by the end of July and I cannot express how excited I am. I hope you’re all enjoying your time abroad. Much love and a big hug to all of you. X

I was waiting for a tram and these two guys came up to me and said (in English) “Do you speak English?” and I was kind of confused so I said “Oui”, then he repeated the question and I said “Oui, parce que je suis britannique”, then after a kind of awkward confused silence the other guy said “Etes-vous hollandais?” and I realised they had seen the huge badge on my coat that says ‘Spreek Nederlands met mij’ and so that’s the story of why I had to explain to two French teenagers why I, an English guy in France, have a badge asking people to speak to me in Dutch

Finding cheap tickets/travel planning.

I decided to assemble a little list of useful websites I’ve found/been referred to so far. I’m doing this for future reference, really. I don’t want any of it to get lost in between an infinite set of bookmarks, nowhere to be found when I find myself actually needing it

  • Germanwings Another au pair friend (she doesn’t have a blog) recommended me this site last night for booking cheap plane tickets. What caught my attention was an interesting feature called 'blind booking'. You pick a day and and book the cheapest flight, and you find out your destination afterwards. She got a round trip from Germany to Switzerland for 66 euros!
  • Fluege.de Kahni told me about this one yesterday, it is also for booking cheap flights. She did mention to only look at the fares and then proceed to buy them at the respective airline’s site.
  • Itur ~I read about this one on a Frankfurt’s au pair Facebook group. They were talking about how cheap it is. Well… we’ll see.
  • Voyages-sncf This one is for booking trips in/for France. I don’t remember how I came across it.
  • Studentuniverse
  • Carpooling in Germany 
  • Let’s go ~ The premise is ‘Let’s Go has created the world’s favorite student travel content series, written entirely for students by students (…) we spend months roaming the globe in search of travel bargains for savvy travelers just like you.’ You can search virtually any destination. I think Grace showed me this one.
  • Tripomati~ Lovely Erin submitted this to my blog a couple of weeks ago with this comment ‘Create an itinerary and build an interactive map in whichever city you want to visit. The website brings up sights to see, activities to do, restaurants, transportation, accomodations, etc., and you select what you want on your itinerary. Plan it out day by day, and print it out or download the app for your journey. This helped me organize my trip to Berlin and it helped SO much.’
  • airbnb
  • neweuropetours ~ This one offers free tours in some of the main European cities. I don’t remember if I saw this one on theaupairhandbook or if I found it on a travel blog.
  • worldtravelguide
  • rome2rio ~ Discover how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile. I believe this was also referred to me by Grace.
  • hostel world
  • couchsurfing ~ I found it long ago, but Erin found much better words to explain it ‘A large organization of travellers all over the world. You can either find places to stay while you visit other cities or towns, usually for free, or in exchange for a skill or story you have (i.e. cooking dinner, sharing songs, bringing some beer, etc). I haven’t had to ever pay for a hotel because of this. Another plus is that in most cities, there is usually a group of couchsurfers who organize events you can attend to meet new people and experience different things. ‘

That’s it for now, I think. If you know any more of these, please share!

youtube

A Year in Japan (30th Aug - 2nd Sept)

Here is my first video (of many) of my year abroad in Japan!

I went with my uni friends - Issie, Chantelle, Nicole and Tom.
These are the first 4 days! (I’ll upload the next soon, soo keep an eye out)

Year Abroad blogs in Russia

Updated 15/12/13

Very few people have submitted their YA blogs so far, but if you feel like submitting, I’ll update this post with your URL


frussia
(St. Petersburg/Strasbourg, France)
julianochkajourneys
 (Belgorod)
lily-goes-to-russia (Yaroslavl/St. Petersburg)
texasgirlinrussia (St. Petersburg)
tgrstravels (Novosibirsk/Poland)

Year abroad blogs

If anybody on their year abroad in Russia would like to share their blog, I’d be happy to compile a list and post it up, especially for the benefit of those looking to travel in the coming years. Just message me your blog URL and the name of the town/city you’re living in in Russia and I’ll write it up!

9

Machu Picchu 

I distinctly remember the first time I ever saw a photo of Machu Picchu. I was 17, flicking through the pictures of a friend that had visited Peru as part of their World Challenge, when I suddenly stumbled on an image of a place so stunning, so utterly different from anywhere I had ever seen before, that I could hardly believe it was real. Since then, I always knew that I would go there one day, and when it came to picking a destination for my year abroad, the possibility of fulfilling the dream was a very big part of choosing Peru.

Although a lack of funds and bad timing prevented me from doing the 4 day Inca Trail trek, my journey to Machu Picchu still felt like a pilgrimage, involving an 11 hour coach from Arequipa to Cusco, a 4 hour bus to Ollyantambo, a 2 hour train to Aguas Calientes and a 4am start for the first bus up to the ruins. 

I knew it was going to be spectacular - Machu Picchu is, after all, the most photographed attraction in South America - but I wasn’t prepared for the breathtaking beauty of the surrounding forest and mountains, nor the haunting quality of the rainy-season mists. An incredible experience, a fantastic day. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.  

Paella and finally Friday 🎉

On Thursday, Kristin and I were invited to eat paella at Miriam’s. After school, we went to her grandmother and ate there. It was so delicious! Afterwards, we just chilled in a room and helped Miriam a little doing her homework. I was extremely tired from the day before in the bar 😁 in the evening I just ate and fell into bed 🙈
School on Friday was just as usual. In the afternoon, Miriam asked me to go with her to buy the entry for a Halloween party so I went with her. Later, I met some friends and we went to the corte ingles and McDonald’s 😁 it was very funny and we met a Thai girl from our school who thought I was Spanish 😂 this means my Spanish is really good and I’m so happy about it!

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