1. I discovered the child inside myself
Spending time with children, I realized how fun it can be to sing out loud on the way home, to play together with them in the playground, to run in the middle of a public space and to tell crazy stories to entertain them (and myself) during a car or train trip. You will feel like you a child yourself again. And you will like it!
2. I learned about foreign languages in a way I never could in school
When I went to Germany, I barely could speak German – Hallo, Brot and Nein was about all my vocabulary back then. But being in constant contact with the language – from the morning when I turned on the radio, through the day talking with the kids, in the evening, when I was going out with my friends in town – made me learn fast. Also going to a language school and having colleagues from all around the world (many of whom won't speak a common language with you) compels you to speak and learn faster, so that you can have new friends. In one year in Germany I got to the B2 level of the language, progress that would never be possible in my home country in the same amount of time.
3. I found out how truly great it is to travel
It is a known fact that the more you travel, the more you want to travel. And once living in a foreign country, this feeling gets much stronger, as you want to enjoy every second of the opportunity of being there. When I was living as an au pair in Germany I got to go to its bigger cities, including Berlin and Munich (my favourites!) and I also was able to backpack around Europe. And I was always looking to the maps and the offers of airlines and train companies, wondering where could I go for a quick and cheap weekend trip.
4. I came to appreciate what it means to be a parent (and what my parents did for me)
It is not that easy to keep up with the same energy kids have or to be making them do certain things like taking a shower or doing their homework. On several occasions, I could also see myself and my brother in those small and annoying sibling arguments that the kids were having about the seats at the table or about who was getting a bigger piece of cake. So yep, thank you to my mom and dad for their patience and love! I understand what they gave me better now.
5. I got a completely new perspective on my own country
After an intense period away, you come back home and everything still looks the same, but seems very different. That's because YOU have changed! When I came back to Brazil after one year in Germany, here is what happened: everyone was asking me to say something in German, I missed having my host kids around, I learned to be a better tourist in my own city. And I found myself enjoying the time with my family and friends more than ever and in a new way.
6. Being an au pair is by far the best way to experience other countries as a young person
To live everyday with a host family gives you a direct and deeper connection with the country's culture. It gives you enough time to appreciate and understand the country's traditions and differences, to make friends, to try new things and to learn to mix the best of two worlds – your home country and your host country. Being an au pair gives you more experience and personal growth than you can imagine before you go ahead and do it!
That's why I believe the au pair programme is one of the best inventions ever, and it can certainly make this world a better place!
About the author:
Ana Paula is Brazilian and have been au pair for 3 times: in Germany, Luxembourg and Italy, where she currently lives and works as a digital marketing strategist. She also has published the Au Pair's Diary in Portuguese, a book in which she tells about her experiences as au pair and shares many tips about cultural exchange and travelling in Europe. To find out more about her book and buy a copy, you can go to her website.