Travel is the plan. But where?
You spend weeks agonizing over which country to choose for your year or months abroad: imagining yourself in San Francisco – enjoying trams, beautiful waves and second hand shopping. Or you’re picturing how spending a year in Boston, Virginia or New Jersey – making new friends and exploring a new city – would be, but you can’t decide which. Perhaps, you’re daydreaming about your potential life in Italy – strolling through the city with gelato at sundown, or exploring Spain’s magnificent beaches and food.
Ultimately, yes, you do need to choose, but keep in mind that where you choose may not be the most important factor in your experience. Attitude can be just as important as location.
Attitude. It’s everything.
Some of our participants come to us with a clear idea of where they’d like to travel. Others are more undecided and open to various programs. Both candidates are a pleasure to work with in different ways, but our favourite candidate is the one who knows why they want to travel, but maybe not where. They tell us they’re ready for an adventure, interested in learning new things, looking to meet new people, discover a new culture and get to know themselves. In short, they’re looking for something new and exciting. It will come as no surprise that it is these participants who enjoy every minute of their experience abroad.
Family Fit: How do I choose the right family?
It can feel like a big decision. But don’t get stressed just yet; as your agency, we are here with you before, during and after you select a family. Our great partners are there for you on the ground once you arrive. When I was about to be an au pair, choosing a family seemed like the most daunting part of the process, but in retrospect, I made the process overly complicated.
Sometimes, we are attached to certain criteria that we believe our ideal family must have – maybe they have 1 child, children under 10, or live in the centre of New York. Having an idea of what you need is important, however selecting a family is about much, much more than set criteria like numbers and location. Pay attention to feel: How was your interaction? Do they do activities you enjoy or would like to learn? Do they seem flexible and open to adapting? These criteria will be much more important than other things.
Take my personal experience on this one, when I was looking at families in Spain, I thought I would like Barcelona. I ended up choosing a family in Madrid. What changed my mind? They were really sweet, had hosted lots of other Canadians before, and the job description entailed basic childcare, lots of park time, reading stories and painting. I didn’t think I would end up in a family with two girls under 6 in Madrid, but I did and I am so thankful! (Madrid is actually way to live in cooler than Barcelona, just a heads up). What all tutors and au pairs should remember is this: remain open to different options. You may discover something even better.
Before Skyping with your potential host family, give some thought to what you’d like to know. You will be able communicate and email them later, but it is important to consider some of the things you’d like to chat about. During the Skype call, you might be nervous – that’s okay! Remember: they probably are too! Take time to get to know them, try to be open and understanding, and speak a bit more slowly. All host families speak English, but they also speak other languages more proficiently, so it’s nice to be considerate.
Consider each program’s benefits
Finally, don’t forget to consider the extras offered by different programs. Some programs pay for your airfare or educational classes. If these things are important to you, it may be interesting to consider these programs for your time abroad.
Anything worth doing is scary.
At the end of the day, this is your experience. Know why you’re travelling, and what you want to get out of it. Be open to different possibilities, take the time to get to know your family on Skype, and stay positive. Making decisions is hard, but when we make them we allow ourselves to begin a new experience. You’re about to start an amazing adventure, and you should be really proud of deciding to travel. It’s likely one of the best things you will ever do for yourself.
We hope this article was helpful, and remember: we’re always here to help you with any questions, concerns or troubles you have with the process or while abroad. Please take advantage of us as a support system.