Being an au pair is the best thing I've ever done in my life

At first, it was only a dream, but it quickly turned into reality. Josefin from Sweden went to Spain, Valencia, to work as a summer au pair. She is quite certain: "Being an au pair is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life."

Josefin with her host children in Spain

The whole project started in March 2010. I had just spent two wonderful weeks in Malaga at a language course, where I had made a lot of new friends and had the time of my life. Coming back to Sweden and the coldness was really hard and both my friend and I had a tough time for a couple of weeks. Just for fun I started to search for au pair families in Spain, just to be able to dream about that wonderful time back then.

From my dream to its realization

Out of nothing I found a family searching for an au pair during a month that summer and suddenly it hit me – why not go right then? Why wait a whole year before going to the country I love? Why not spend the summer there, and then go back to Sweden and study the last year? I started to search for families, and I don’t know how many emails I sent but it was a lot. Many of them without success but some of them I kept in touch with. Finally there was this one family that I really liked. A three year old girl and a five year old boy, living outside Valencia. The mother seemed really nice and after some skype conversations we came to a decision – I was going!

In the middle of July my mum drove me to the airport and from there I flew to Alicante, Spain. I was more nervous to get all the way to Valencia from there by bus all alone, than I was to meet the family. I had been at the airport twice before and had a week idea of how to get to the city centre, but not further. With a very bad Spanish (one year’s studies and two weeks language course) I succeeded to get help from a very nice girl to buy the bus ticket. Then I spent two hours of waiting and more than two hours at the bus.

It seemed we knew each other for a very long time

Once in Valencia my host mum picked me up and we drove to their - and what was also going to be my - house. Meeting her wasn’t scary at all; it was like we’ve known each other for a very long time. Neither the first meeting with the children was difficult, though we had some problems communicating, and the girl was pretty shy at first. Our conversations consisted more or less of simple words those first days.

During my au pair time I traveled a lot with the family, since they were off school and work. We went across the country to La Coruña in the north of Spain for two weeks, living at the mother’s sister’s and later on parent’s house. Afterwards we went to Santander, closer to the French boarder but still along the coastline of the Atlantic and spent a week there at the father’s parents. Thanks to all this traveling I got to see many places, but worse it was difficult to get a “real life” with friends and so on, both because I didn’t spend more than a week at the same place but also because most of the time we lived outside town.

My best memory

Of course it was a bit boring sometimes not being able to have somebody in my age to talk to, but after working I was mostly tired and wanted to be alone by the swimming-pool, walking, on the beach or in the shops. My absolutely best memory from this time was one night at the father’s friend’s house when we had a barbecue. The children and I was inside watching TV, and the boy fell asleep. Since it was pretty late I tried to get the girl to sleep, or at least calm down a bit too, and finally she laid down, closing her eyes. Just a couple of minutes later she started to move and I said “What are you doing now? Lay down and sleep”, but she just kept on moving, coming closer to me, still with her eyes shut. Then she kissed me on the cheek, giggled a little and laid back down. It wasn’t really a big thing, but it made me warm all the way to the heart.

Now I can talk pretty good Spanish

I don’t regret going as an au pair. Maybe it didn’t turn out like I was thinking, but it was great anyway and I learnt so much. Now I can talk pretty good Spanish, I know I can handle a month away from my family and friends, adjust to another culture and family, learning to find my way in a new town and above all – standing on my own and taking care of myself, even in a country where I from the beginning didn’t speak the language. This month gave me so much and being an au pair is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.