Wednesday, August 23, 2017

In the summer of 2012, I traveled to America to work as an Au Pair for a full year. Here are all the details about my au pair year before, during and after.

Keep in mind all of this happened 5 years ago, so I’m probably not going to remember everything in extreme detail. On top of that, this post is going to be very long, sharing my personal experience, from a lot of words and a lot of photos. 

About 10 months before leaving for the states, I signed up for at meet-up with Cultural Care, in my area. This was a group meet-up, I guess we were about 7-8 girls, our parents and the Cultural Care representatives. 

Throughout the meeting, we had a PowerPoint presentation about the whole process and the upcoming year in America. We heard about the Cultural Care representatives au pair year, when she was an au pair, got a look into her scrapbook, with a bunch of photos and memories from her trip. 
Next up, we had to leave the room, to go have a one-on-one conversation in English with the representative, it was definitely weird to sit there and be asked to speak in English, but hey, I passed. 
Lastly we got a bunch of information, on what we had to do at home after the meeting and then the meet-up was over. 

9 months before leaving for America, I went on the Cultural Care website at home, to fill out a long, long list of questions and facts about myself, to be able to match with families from the states. 
From what I remember, I used a few days to fill this out and it was questions like, why do you want to become an au pair, do you have any tattoos and piercings, do you follow a specific diet, do you like animals and so many other questions. On top of that they recommended us to make an au pair video, showing a little bit about yourself and where you're from.

Next up was the matching process. I honestly don’t really remember how it worked, but somehow I could see my matches on the website and chat with them, to plan a Skype call. In total I think I Skyped with 3 families, the third being the perfect match. 
First family: A military family, with baby triplets, living on a military base in Seattle (I think). 
Second family: A single dad, one girl about 8-10 years old, living in Arizona. 
Third family: A working family, with two twin boys, 7 years old, living in Texas. 

In the Skype calls I met the family, some families showed me around the house, we talked about some of the things from the application and of course about the kids. After matching with the perfect family, we agreed on what date, I was going to be at their airport and later planned with Cultural Care, when I had to leave Denmark. 

Now for the nerve-racking part, getting my visa approved. About 1 month before leaving Denmark I had to apply for a visa. I have completely forgotten how this went about, with applying for the visa, but I think it was online, through the American embassy. I then got a date, where I had to go to Copenhagen to visit the embassy, get “interviewed” and hopefully approved. 
My parents and I drove to Copenhagen very early in the morning, to be there when the embassy opened, my mom waited outside the embassy and my and dad went with me inside. We had to leave all electronics outside, show our passports, get a pat down by security and then we were allowed to enter the embassy. Inside I pulled a number and had to sit and wait for about 30 minutes. 
I was freaking nervous, I had heard so many things about this process and was scared to answer something wrong, so I wouldn’t get approved. My number was yelled out, I went up to the row of American interviewers, sitting in each of their security boxes. The lady asked for my passport, my name, what I was going to do in the states, if I had a place to live there and where that was. That was it. 
I left the embassy and had to wait for my papers to be processed and then I would receive them in the post. 
A week later I received the visa by post and I was now almost completely ready for my au pair year. 

Now I just had to get an international driver's license (never ended up using it, even though I was pulled over by police once in the states). Then I also had to buy a big enough suitcase, to pack my life down for the next year. I also had to graduate from high school and about a week before leaving, I received my flight information, I was now all ready!

I met up with another Danish au pair, Laura, at Copenhagen airport and we ended up travelling to New York together, which was our first stop. 

On the plane, before landing we had to fill out some sort of U.S Customs paper.

We then landed and had to stand in line for quite some time, to be let into the country. After being let in, we all went towards the exit to meet the other au pairs, who had just come in from other countries, plus the guides.
We were guided into a bus and drove towards the au pair school, a little outside of New York. 

At the au pair school we had to stay for about 3-4 days, learn about basic American safety childcare. We also played games, made art and got to know all the other au pairs. 

We lived on the school, like in all the American movies, where you have a roommate and you share the bathrooms and showers, with everyone else on the floor. My roommate was, Natascha, a german girl. 

During our stay we were spoiled with a care package from our host families, with sweets and tickets for experiences in New York City, where we were going the second to last day! I was overly excited, New York City, my dreams were coming true right before my eyes!

That day in New York City was amazing, we were the definition of tourists. We went to Times Square, Top of The Rock, the M&M store and just walked all around the city, taking a bunch of photos. The evening came around, and it was time to head back to the school. In the bus we were all tired, I put my headset on and turned on my music, the song that was playing, was New York, New York by Frank Sinatra, a true classic. I looked at the New York skyline, while we drove away and knew my dream had just come true.

Early in the morning the last day, we packed up our things and left the school, to go to the airport. It was now time to travel to the different states, we were going to work and live in. Me and a group of au pairs flights were leaving at about the same time, so we stayed together at the airport. 
Then it was time to leave and I started to get nervous again, I was soon going to meet my host family.

I arrived at Dallas airport and my host mom, was standing at the exit waiting for me. She gave me a hug and I immediately felt a little less alien. Now my au pair year had really begun.

The year started pretty rough, I was surprisingly extremely homesick, I never really thought that was something I would experience, but I guess this was the extreme reality of it, because I was all the way on the other side of the world. 
Besides that, only about one month in, I was admitted to the hospital, because I passed out, due to dehydration. Texas was freaking HOT and I had to get used to drinking a lot more water, than I was used too.

As time went on, I got less and less homesick, I got used to the routine and got to know the kids and the family a lot better.
As an au pair, I think I might have had the easiest routine. 
On school days, my host parents, prepared the kids breakfast, packed their lunches and brought them to school. That meant I could sleep in, if I wanted too. Some days my host mom, had a list with some errands I needed to run, or if I had to put laundry away. At around 3pm I picked the boys up either at the bus stop, or at school. They then, had a snack, I helped them do their homework, practiced violin with them, took them to lacrosse/taekwondo practice or just played around with them. We then ate dinner with the whole family and after that my work day was basically over and I was free to do what I wanted.
Sometimes I worked a few hours on the weekends, if my host parents were going golfing. During the kids summer break, I worked from around 7-8am to 5-6pm where my host parents got home from work. So that was basically my schedule the whole year.

Besides working and spending time with my host family, I had some au pair friends that lived in the same area as me. We went to the movies, out for dinner or coffee, to the pool, Six Flags, to the lake, shopping, to concerts, partying and so much more.

Halfway through the year, I had planned my 2 weeks of vacation from work. About 10 days were spent in New York, where I met up with my family from Denmark, it was an amazing experience being reunited after 6 months, there was a lot of happy tears and laughter. After New York, we all flew back to Dallas, so my family could meet my host family and see where I had been living for the past 6 month. My host dad's mom, was sooo sweet and offered my family to stay at her house, for the four days they were going to be there. They met the family and I took my family sightseeing throughout Dallas and showed them all the places I would visit on the daily.

All in all, this was an amazing experience, I'm so happy, I had the curiosity to travel to a different country and work/live there for a year! When I think back on it, I both get that same nervous feeling I had in the beginning when everything was new, but I also get an extremely happy feeling, thinking about all the things I experienced and all the people I met while being there. The American culture and people are truly something special.

My year was up and it was time to travel back home to Denmark. I was both sad to leave my American life and family, but at the same time, extremely excited to hug all my friends and family again! 
My host mom, drove me to the airport, I hugged her goodbye and went all alone into the airport. After getting through security, I found a place to sit down and eat some lunch. Sitting there, knowing it was the end of something amazing, I started crying. But I pulled myself together and went to the gate. Here I randomly saw a dad and his kid, standing next to me with Danish passports and I thought: "Wow the world is small, to stand here in Dallas airport, next to some Danes!" Keep in mind, this flight was landing in London, so the destination for the plane wasn't even Denmark. I started a conversation with them and I think the girl thought, that was nice. On the plane the dad and the girl, was sitting right behind, I had an empty seat beside me, so I don't know what the girl thought, but she decided to leave her dad, to sit next to me. I was watching a movie, she started watching one too and shortly after that, she decided to go back to her original seat. 
On the plane I was trying to get some sleep, but it was difficult, because I was so excited to be home soon. I landed in London and changed over to a flight to Copenhagen.

When I landed at the airport, my heart was almost beating out of my chest. I picked up all off my luggage and went through the swing doors where my family was waiting.
The doors opened and I first spotted my granddad, filming with his phone, with tears in his eyes, my grandma smiling soo big and then I saw my mom, dad, brother and my best friend. I was only halfway out and my mom and best friend ran towards me and gave me the biggest hug. We all started bawling our eyes out, I hugged everyone and a lot of photos were taken.

We then headed out of the airport to drive the 3 hour drive back to my home city. When I arrived home, I saw a welcome home sign at the front door and flags outside. My first thought, was I have to hug my little bunny. I noticed my mom was trying to hurry me, to put my bunny back down, I didn't really think much of it and we all walked inside the house, me walking in front. I entered the kitchen and noticed a lot of food, I even said out loud "Wow, that's a lot of food!". I walked further into the living room and "SURPRISEEEEE!!!!" My whole family and all of my friends were yelling "SURPRISE" with flags in their hands. I got so surprised I kinda walked back into the kitchen and started crying yet again. 
I hugged everyone, we talked a bunch, ate a lot of food and just had a great evening together.

The following days were weird, I felt like everything was back to normal, except for when people commented and laughed at the way I spoke, because my Danish was all messed up. The way I placed my words in a sentence was completely English and I even said random English words in my sentences. It was quite funny, how that one year could do all that.