It was the best opportunity to learn Spanish, the culture and the country

At the age of 13, Leonie from Germany heard for the first time of the possibility of travelling abroad to become an au pair. In 2008, her dream finally became true: She decided to work as an au pair in Spain and found a host family with four children in Girona. This is the first part of her story as an au pair in Spain. 

Leonie in Spain and New Zealand

I love learning a new language in an international environment

I’ve always been interested in other countries, languages and cultures, but did not only want to travel around since you do not get to know a country that well as a tourist. I was 10 years old when I travelled to another country on my own for the first time in my life, attending a two-week English course in England. Learning the language in an international environment made me even more curious about the world, since I also met people from far away.

First, I stayed in Italy

I was best friends with an Italian girl with whom I exchanged letters for about two years before I went to see her. That was my first stay in another family and it was really great because I got to know the Italian habits, the wonderful food, nice places, such as Venice, and was even able to learn a little Italian. The following year, I returned to Italy to see her again. Back then, I was 13 years old. This was actually the first time I heard about the opportunity of working as an au pair in a foreign country. That was basically the start of my plan to go abroad to work as an au pair after graduating from high school.

Spain ― my very first au pair experience

My wish to work as an au pair came true one year earlier than originally intended. I was attending a Spanish intensive course at school and was therefore looking for a way to improve my Spanish the year before graduation. Besides considering going to Spain for a language course, I had the idea to work as an au pair. This was the first time I joined AuPairWorld in 2008. I thought it was such a great website because you could search for the perfect family by your own initiative and, what was even better, families were looking for summer au pairs!

In the beginning, it didn’t work out that well for me because I received some negative replies. Today I understand why that was. At that time, I didn’t have that much experience apart from a two-week internship in a kindergarten and as a baby-sitter. However, just before the summer was about to start, I was in contact with about three Spanish families and finally I decided to join a family with four children in Girona. I have three siblings myself so it didn’t scare me off to be an au pair for four kids. It turned out that it was the perfect family for me and I felt comfortable with them the first moment they picked me up from the airport in Girona.

In Girona, people speak Catalan

There were three boys aged 1, 5 and 10 and a girl aged 11. Since the 1-year-old went to kindergarten and the other boys to a summer school, my only task in the mornings was to look after the 11-year-old and speak English to her. It seemed like an easy task and maybe I underestimated it, but it was really difficult in the beginning to get her to talk in English to me. In the first one or two weeks, she even refused to talk in “regular” Spanish (Castellano) to me, because it was already too much effort for her. Girona is located in Cataluña where people speak “Catalan”. This language is not easy to understand, even if you have a basic knowledge of both languages.

Apart from this, the girl started to become jealous because she had the impression that her parents were paying her less attention because of me. However, that all changed after the family holiday on a camping ground about an hour North of Girona. It was a highlight for me during the time I spent with this family, because the seven of us shared a little camper van and were therefore very close together throughout these four days. I got to know them very well – not just the kids, but also the parents, since they were with me all day – and I fell in love with this family.

If you wish to get to know all family members, you need to spend time with them

After that, I often went on trips in the mornings with the 11-year-old and after a while we even had easy conversations in English. Despite the difficulties I had with the girl in the beginning, it was her with whom I got along best in the end. Of course, the little one who used to call me “Nina” was incredibly cute, as well. It was certainly also fun to spend time with the 5-year-old and do sports with the 10-year- old. Since I spend about 90% of my time with my family, I got to know most of the family members well.

We visited family members in nearby places

I particularly liked the childrens' grandmother – she is probably the coolest grandma in the world. She invited me to live with her at her place in Barcelona for 4 days and showed me around the city. We also went to see family members in nearby places. Thus, I got to know many other places in Cataluña apart from Girona, which was really great. Besides having an amazing time there, I also learned a lot: I improved my Spanish and learned much about myself. Therefore, I can really recommend going abroad to become an au pair, even if you only have little time: you should definitely take the opportunity!!!