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Skandinaviska Institutet

Alexandra, New Jersey

Ålder på värdbarnen: 14 & 17 (one goes to boarding school so we only meet on breaks and some weekends.

Har varit i USA i: 5 månader

What were your reasons for applying as an au pair?
I had been visiting the United States when I was 13 and 14 years old and I loved it! But whenever I got back home I read articles and people asked me “did you see this?” and “did you see that?” And I just thought that I missed out on so many good things.

A few years later I came back again and thought “this time I did everything there is to do in this area” but once I came back it was the same thing all over again. I decided that I had to go to the United States for a longer period and live with locals to be sure not to miss out on anything again. I started by researching schools and thought about doing a high school year but because of family problems I couldn’t go and had to cancel.

That’s when I started looking at colleges instead and found the au pair program. At the time I was already working as a babysitter and I realized this was the perfect opportunity for me with great conditions. I was sixteen at the time and I started my application right away. I wanted to take a gap year and leave but of course I had to finish high school and get my drivers license first haha, I just couldn’t wait.

Tell us about your host family:
My host family is amazing and I really love them! My host mom is a professor and my host dad is a doctor. We all get along really well and they are an extra part of my family now. They are so supportive and nice and I know I will always have a part in their hearts. Sometimes it feels like they believe in me and support me more than my biological family, even my silly ideas and projects haha. Me and my host kids have the funniest conversations about the craziest things and the older host kid and I are sharing a genuine interest in fashion and gossip girl. We all have the same humor and interests and dinner is always filled with nice conversations and lots of laughs. This family really was the perfect match for me.

Describe the area you live in:
I live in a pretty small town in central New Jersey, about one hour south from New York City. The town is built around the campus of Princeton university and most building are very old and absolutely beautiful. The town itself is not very big, there is one street with restaurants and some pretty expensive stores, however there are malls and a lot of restaurants, movie theatres, bowling, laser tag and everything you can think of within 30 minutes by car. Other than that Philadelphia, PA is one hour away and of course Manhattan, NYC is 1-1,5 hours away by car, train or bus. There is always something to do.

What does a typical day look like?
Every morning at 8.30 I have a meeting with my host mom about the day and the week. We talk about pick up time at school, what we are having for dinner, things happening during the week, if we are running low on something I need to buy more of and other things that I need to know or let her know.

After that I am free unless I have class or need to run errands like grocery shopping, drop food or things the kid forgot at home at her school, send packages etc.

Depending on when my host kid gets off I start preparing dinner before or after picking her up. When we get home she does her homework while I set the table and make dinner. After that we all eat together and I clean up the kitchen and then I am off again around 7pm.

What do/did or are you planning to study and why did or will you choose that course?
During the fall I studied entrepreneurship and geo science at a school nearby, now I am studying design sketching at parsons school of design and environmental science and policy at Princeton university. Before coming here I studied fashion design in Sweden I feel like that is what I want to do but I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for me to try something else and develop my skills in other subjects. This is my time to try new things to find my path in life.

Tell us about the traveling you have done or are planning to do:
Since I live in between Philadelphia and New York I have done a lot of weekend trips and one day trips In both cities. For thanksgiving my host family brought me to Washington DC to meet their relatives. During the break after Christmas I drove down to Florida for two weeks and flew back up, I really love Florida! On the way down we stopped in Washington DC, North Carolina, South Carolina and Jacksonville on our way to Tampa, forth Meyers, Naples and Orlando.

In April I am going to California to attend Coachella which has always been a dream of mine.

Other trips I am currently planning are to take a road trip from New Orleans to a few cities in Texas during spring break, one weekend road trip to the Niagara Falls and finger lakes in spring, one road trip to Minnesota, Mount Rushmore and the yellow stone national park, and a trip to Hawaii.

How have you been spending your pocket money?
Most of my money goes to food at restaurants, bus and train tickets and activities like cinemas, shooting range, hotels, aquariums, museums and so on. But I have spent a lot of money on clothes, hair products and things for my room. When I came here my room was basically empty and I had no shampoo or facial wash or shaving tools hahah I had to buy all of that plus a full size mirror and a makeup mirror just to get started here.

What have you gained during the year?
A new family! And A lot of knowledge about many different things, friends, memories, lots and lots of clothes and insight to other cultures and lifestyles.

What has been the best experience so far?
Just the everyday life and conversations with my host family.

What do you find most challenging about being an au pair?
Communication. There are so many misunderstandings between au pairs, me and Americans, me and the host family just because of the language differences. Whenever they talk about school or politics during the dinner I just smile and nod because I don’t understand any of the terms and words and after asking them to explain hundreds of times without understanding I just gave up haha.

Write a short message to people thinking about joining Skandinaviska Institutet/ Au Pair in America:
Do it!!!!! Whatever you are scared of, there is a solution and you will always regret not going. This has been the best time and experience of my life so far (probably ever) you meet so many people and see so many things you will have a much clearer picture of who you are, who you want to be and where you want to go from here. There is something magical about breaking out of your pattern if only once and only for one year.