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Skandinaviska Institutet

Julia, Denver

Har varit i USA i: 10 månader

What were your reasons for applying as an au pair?
I couldn’t find a reason why I shouldn’t! I had just graduated from high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do right after that – except not going to college. I needed a break from studying to do something that I found fun and instructive. I love traveling and explore new things, and then I also get to work with kids. When I heard about the au pair-program through a friend it matched with all the things I just listed above and I decided that this was something for me.

Tell us about your host family:
My host family consists of my host mum, host dad, their five boys, a dog and a cat. Yes, I know what you guys are all thinking: ”Is that all?”. Joking aside, I can reasure it is actually not as hard as it seems. Two of them are in High School so it is more like 3,5 kids. Or 4. It feels better to say an integer figuratively speaking. However, they are a very caring, funny and active family, and I am more than grateful that I got to be a part of them.

Describe the area you live in:
I live in a beautiful suburb only 20 minutes from Denver, Colorado. The houses are big, backyards are green with large areas made for fun activities and if you just walk for 5 minutes you get to miles-long trail networks where you always can see glimpses of the Rocky Mountains in the horizon. That’s the place everyone goes for either a run, bike ride or a dog walk. We also have a neighborhood-pool where we spend a lot of time fooling around during the summer.

What does a typical day look like?
7:00 AM I start the morning preparing the youngest one’s lunches for school whereas my host parents usually make them some breakfast. Before I walk the twins to school (which is a five minutes walk from our house) I make sure that they have brushed their teeth, cleaned their rooms and have everything they need packed in their backpacks. After that I drive my youngest to Pre-K meanwhile the two oldest boys take their bikes to their school.

Around 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM I am officially ”off the hook” and depending on the weather I visit our gym nearby or go for a run/bikeride. I also like to hang out with some of my friends I’ve got here to grab a lunch before I head back to work. I pick up twins and my little one from school and I help them start their homework if they have any. We play until we eat dinner together and I end work around 7:00 PM after I’ve read a few books for my smallest one and have put him to bed.

One night a week I usually help the family driving some of the boys to soccer practice. During weekends my host parents ordinarily make sure that I am off so that I can do fun stuff with my friends, but during the winter season I have had the opportunity to follow them to Vail and ski where they have their mountain house. It was unreal!

What do/did or are you planning to study and why did or will you choose the course?
I chose to take one history class at an university a short drive from the house with one of my German au pair-friends and then I did a weekend class in San Fransisco, California. I picked the history class because I wanted to learn more about American history in order to get a better understanding of their culture, traditions and why today’s USA look the way it does. The weekend course I chose because I wanted to travel and discover another city on the same time as I got to learn more about the country and meet a lot of new friends.

Tell us about the traveling you have done or are planning to do:
As I said, I went to San Fransisco to gain half of my credits for studying. This spring I traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, with another Swedish au pair where we rented a car to go see Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon. I have also been to Washington DC and Virginia to visit my host kids’ grandparents, but I am also planning to go on a RV-trip with my host family to Whitefish, Montana (where their other grandparents live) and camp at the national park ”Yellowstone” in Wyoming. In the end of July, two of my friends from Sweden are planning to come over here in Colorado for a few days to then fly over for one week in Los Angeles together. Last but not least, I will do an ”Au Pair Adventures”-trip to Hawaii with two other friends I met at the weekend course before I head home.

What have you gained during the year?
More than an extra family and an experience of a lifetime, you mean? I have met people from all over the world, improved my English skills considerably, increased my self-confidence and self-independence, but most of all I have got to know myself so much better.

What has been the best experience so far?
To be a part of a kind, loving family who I never would have met if I didn’t choose to do this cultural exchange. They have taken care of me as I was their own and I have got five more brothers that I love with my whole heart, and who I hopefully will have a lifelong relationship with in the future.

How have you been spending your pocket money?
I have used them mostly for shopping, traveling and food. What else can you possibly need?

What do/did you find most challenging about being an au pair?
I think it was the first couple of weeks here in the US. You are all new, you whether know where you can find the closest grocery store or the smoothie-mixer in the kitchen. You don’t really know anyone and you get lost in your own house. It’s truly a fresh start, in other words!

I’m not gonna lie – some days will be tough and more challenging for you than others, but then you also will get these days when you didn’t think you were able to receive more love from the people around you. But it is not until you experience those hard days that you will learn the most about you and realize how strong you actually are. Even if homesickness surprisingly wasn’t the biggest struggle of mine, I obviously missed closure to my family and friends back in Sweden from time to time. Hence, my gratitude towards having a understanding host family who did everything to make the transition as smooth and easy for me as possible.

Write a short message to people thinking about joining Skandinaviska Institutet/ Au Pair in America:
If you are a person that loves traveling, meet new friends and work with kids – Great! Being an au pair is the perfect opportunity to make that happen. But this is also for you that are feeling a bit frightened, who doesn’t exactly know what kind of person you are yet and who maybe never had taking risks in your life before.

Because I was one of them. Before I went to USA as an au pair I never thought I was brave enough to leave everything I ever found safe and sound in my life to instead be greeting something that seems so unfamiliar and so far away from me – both physically and mentally. I had never lived more than two weeks away from my family and I had definitely not been the best student in my English class back in school. And yes – it was scary the first time I let it go. But how about the next time you bump into something uncomfortable, and the time after that? Everything gets so much easier and the last thing I wanted was to be prevented by meaningless ”But I am not..”’s, because I know better than listen to that nonsense.

Au Pair in America has changed everything for me and if I get the chance to give other people the same experience my year here in Colorado brought me, I will take it.