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My Experience as a Fille Au Pair
Like any good, hardworking student, I wanted to practice my language skills over the summer holidays. I decided to apply for an Au Pair job after I was recommended it by a fellow Warwick student. An Au Pair is essentially a glorified babysitter; however, you will have the additional responsibility of teaching the children your mother tongue. Although a French word and perhaps most popular in France, an Au Pair can work in any country and can teach any language that is desired by the host family.
I applied through AuPairWorld, which is a website dedicated to matching prospective Au Pairs to host families. You begin by selecting your location of preference, and then narrowing down your choices depending on the type of experience you are looking for. Personally, I wasn’t particular about the location, as long as it was in mainland France, and specified that I didn’t want to be looking after children under the age of 3, as I had no prior experience with this. After finding some suitable host families, it was my job to reach out to them, sending over an application in French explaining why I wanted the role and why I would be a good fit. Only one family actually responded to my application, and so this ended up being the family I paired up with. We had a few video calls to discuss responsibilities and expectations before I arrived, and then it was just a waiting game until I was able to meet them in person.
The family was based in Le Mans, not too far from Paris, but otherwise in the middle of nowhere. I was to look after two girls, aged 9 and 11, and with very little knowledge of English. Overall, I only spent a month working there, even though most host families tend to want longer placements.
Personally, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay for much longer. This isn’t to say that I hated it, but rather that being an Au Pair was a very different experience to what I had imagined. It very much relies on your ability to accustom yourself to the family’s routine during all parts of the day, meaning that even when the parents have returned from work and the children are – as stated in your contract – no longer your responsibility, you will still be expected to spend time playing games or watching TV with the family. Perhaps, because I only stayed for a month, it made it more difficult to settle into their family life. However, the aspect of the role whereby your workday never truly ends quickly became exhausting.
Regarding my improvement in French – the main reason I applied for the role to begin with – I can’t say I learnt a lot. Naturally, you spend the majority of your time with young children, who don’t have much more of an extensive vocabulary as you do. The opportunities I did get to speak to the parents, I got so flustered with my words that I began dreading our conversations together. I can’t even say that the pay was worth the effort, as it didn’t even cover the money I spent on my flight tickets there and back.
However, this is obviously one example and will not be the case for everyone! All of this aside, the opportunity as a whole was still really beneficial for me in many ways. I was able to pick up a lot of conversational French that I could use during my year abroad, and it afforded me experience with children that I could use to apply for similar part-time roles when in Paris for some pocket money on the weekends.
Ultimately, it is worth considering an Au Pair role if you are looking for some language practice, but make sure to do sufficient research in order to determine whether this job is a good fit for YOU. Clearly, the friend who recommended it to me loved her time as a Fille Au Pair, but personally, I think I would have been better suited to a different profession.