On a happy note I have found a new family through this site and even though I have only been with them for a week I definitely do not regret the decision to try again. I would also like to compliment AuPairWorld on all the information and advice they provide, I wish I had seen it before August.
Ever since I was a kid I knew that I wanted to live in the UK. I prepared by going to a bilingual middle school and came in contact with the English language as much as possible. My plan for next year is to go to university in Edinburgh. I had never been there so I decided that I would take a gap year and become an au pair in Scotland. I have been babysitting since I was twelve and I love to work with children, so it was an easy decision.
I was super excited when I found a host family in Edinburgh. The first few weeks I stayed with them were amazing. The girl was lovely and the mother showed me around and helped me out. I never thought of getting a contract or reference, I trusted the parents since they trusted me with their child. This was a big mistake. Over time the mother started breaking all the agreements that we had made before my arrival. My working hours, hourly rate and eventually term of stay were all changed. I was notified by this through mails, not even in person, and since I did not have a contract there was nothing I could do about it.
I did not feel at home, not only because trust was broken but also because there were a lot of sneering comments made towards me. My parents and friends asked me why I had stayed there for almost 5 months but I just did not want to go home. I had been looking forward for so long to become an au pair and to live abroad that I did not want to. I had booked a trip back home for Christmas but I also gotten a return ticket. I would fly back from London since I would spend a week there with a friend and I could not afford to book another flight, especially not since I was not paid for all of December.
The mother and I made agreements through mail but also through Skype and not everything was written down. I had nothing but their word and that is not much in an argument. There are so many amazing au pair stories out there and people often forget that things can go wrong. But it is a position that can be easily abused. A family can seem really nice but you will only know how they are once you start living with them. Many au pairs do not want to go back home because they have been looking forward to it like I did. Others might not be able to afford a ticket back or might be afraid of the reaction of family and friends.
I did not like to tell people that my experience was not very good. I felt stupid for not getting a contract and sad because I would have to leave the UK. And this is why I want to tell my story. Even though the mother did not treat me nice I still loved being an au pair. The girl I worked with was amazing, we had lots of fun together. It also gave me the opportunity to live in another country and meet a lot of new people. I certainly do not want to put anyone off becoming an au pair!
I just want to say: get a contract and ask for references from the host family. Without a contract there is nothing you can do when things turn sour, you will not have proof of anything. And it is always good to know how other au pairs have experienced the host family. If you are the first au pair, just ask for a babysitter or other employees like cleaners or gardeners.
I am surely not put off by my first experience. I found a new family in London and they are amazing. And yes, this time I asked for a reference and set up a contract. I am extremely glad to continue with this experience and will recommend anyone who hopes to go abroad and likes to work with children to grasp such and awesome opportunity!