When is the best time for an au pair gap year - after secondary school, after college, in between?

When is actually the best time to become an au pair - directly after finishing secondary school or after finishing university or some other time? We take a look at this question and offer some help for making your decision.

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Let's start with the most important question first: What do you get from an au pair stay? There's no better way to learn the customs and traditions and language of another country than by living with a local family. In addition to the challenges and adventures and unforgettable experiences this brings, you also are doing something good for your future career: good second language skills and experience living in a foreign country are a great addition to any CV. And the self-confidence that you gain also is a major life skill.

So when is the best time for an au pair stay?

These are typical times for planning an au pair stay:

1. An au pair stay directly after finishing secondary school

After completing secondary school, lots of young people decide to do an au pair stay as part of a gap year. This is an especially good plan when you're not sure exactly what you want to do after finishing school. An au pair gap year then provides a great opportunity to use this time to orient yourself for the future. You improve your foreign language skills, you get to know a new culture and you also have the chance to travel through a foreign country. Taking on an important childcare role in your host family helps you to become more responsible and independent. And the skills and experience that you gain look great on you CV and help with future steps finding a job or a place at university. 

2. An au pair stay after finishing college

Going abroad for an au pair stay after completing college offers the last opportunity for many young people to have an extended stay in a foreign country before starting their career. Second language skills and experience living abroad continue to be a plus for your CV and are valued skills for getting your first job. Au pairs who have studied foreign languages or majored in a subject having to do with child education are also very attractive to host families, while the experience you gain in a foreign language or dealing daily with children can be highly relevant for getting your first job after returning from an au pair gap year. 

3. An au pair stay in between times

For some young people, taking some time off for an au pair stay during their time at university or between jobs can be a great way to get more clarity about what their next steps should be. A semester abroad as an au pair can give you lots of new ideas and also help to increase your motivation if you're feeling uncertain about what you're doing at the moment. And an au pair stay when you're trying out different jobs and planning your next steps can give you valuable new ideas. Plus, the experience that you get and the skills you develop as an au pair will be useful and relevant for gaining your next opportunity.

A whole year is too long for you?

It's also very possible to plan a shorter au pair stay. A single semester also offers a great opportunity for an au pair stay. Or you can plan to be a summer au pair for 1-3 months with a host family in a foreign country.

Video: Going abroad after finishing secondary school

German au pair Sharia tells how for her doing an au pair stay right after finishing secondary school worked out perfectly.

Nach dem Abi ins Ausland: Mein Au-pair-Jahr

When should I start my search for a host family?

Most au pair stays begin begin between July and September (although other starting times are also available through the year). Starting your search for a host family 3-6 months before your intended start date works best. Another factor to consider is whether you will need a visa for your tie abroad or not. If that is the case, you should schedule somewhat more time for arranging the stay.