Adjusting to a new environment.
When you arrive in your new host family everything will be new for you: The house, the roads, the shops, the people − everything. This can be overwhelming and challenging, and at first it might seem like "too much". But the upside is: When you handle this (and you will), you will grow in confidence. Once you get past the “everything is new” stage, you will probably think: “Well, that wasn't so hard after all. I've made this place my home in no time.”
And that experience will make you feel stronger, like you can do anything from here on.
A new language?!
Learning a new language can be intimidating and rewarding at the same time. What if you don´t understand what your host parents or children say to you?! With a new language, you will be forced out of your comfort zone and into a new zone of discomfort (and learning). At least in the beginning. If you don't understand, you will need to let people know and say: “Can you please repeat that?” And you might need to say it again and again. But not many weeks into your stay, you will move past this stage.
How do I know? Because I've been in exactly this situation and I know you will move past this stage quicker than you first expect. The less you understand, the more you will push yourself to learn. Why? Because you have to. Unlike at home where you could procrastinate because there was no urgency, you won´t have this option. But later on, you will be so proud of yourself and so pleased to be able to speak another language fluently.
Making new friends
Depending on your personality - are you outgoing or shy?! - this one may be easy or hard, but either way you will benefit in the long run. Social skills will always be useful wherever you go. Whether it's a new country, a new university, a future job - it doesn't matter. When you improve your ability to make contact with new people and handle yourself in new situations, you have an advantage that you can use again and again.
Even though it might sound daunting to go to another country completely by yourself, you will be amazed how quickly you can make friends. There are plenty of Facebook, Meet up and Whatsapp groups that you can join and easily make contact with people. So this doesn't need to be a challenge for long. I encourage you to meet people straight away after your arrival. Don't lock yourself in your room, because the longer you wait, the harder it gets. And there are great people out there to meet and to enjoy!
Homesickness/ Losing friends?!
A common concern is homesickness, missing out on spending time with family and friends back home and even the worry of losing friends. The truth is - your au pair journey will bring you closer to the people who are meant to be in your life and it may well bring you away from those who shouldn't be in your life in the first place. You will see who is happy to make an effort to keep your friendship alive and who can't be bothered. Even though you may have moments of sadness in this process, you will benefit in the long run.
As for the homesickness - everyone goes through this to some degree. What will make you grow is how you deal with it. Do you find ways to move past the situation or do you let homesickness take away your opportunity to have an amazing time abroad? Remind yourself why you wanted to be an au pair and focus on that when you find yourself missing home too much.
Looking after children
Unless you look after the sweetest children who always listen to whatever you say - which will probably not happen - it is very likely that this job will try your patience on some days and also make you grow in many ways. Most girls that I have talked to say: “Now I know how I want to raise my children.” Or “Now I know what works and what doesn't with kids.”
This role, your role as an au pair will give you incredible insight into another family's life and also how they raise their kids. Which usually leads to knowing much more clearly what you do and don´t want for your future children and family life. It will also open your eyes to the responsibility that you have as a parent as well as the love that you get back. You will probably respect your own mum and dad a whole lot more for raising you. You may even have some flashbacks to your own childhood and/ or moments like this: “Now I understand why my mum reacted like…”.
What you learn from your time as an au pair with the children is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
Melanie Josephine was born in a small German town near the Danish border. After her A-levels she went to the US to be an au pair for a year. Other stays abroad followed. She lived in Australia, New Zealand and different places in Europe. After she successfully finished her Bachelors degree in International Business, she moved to the UK where she worked as a Nanny. Over the course of the last two years she gained a life coaching certification by Robbins-Madanes Training, wrote and published her first book "Rock Your Au Pair Year" and is currently writing her second book about relationships and dating.