“So out of all states… Why did you go to Wisconsin?”
That is a question 9 out of 10 people ask me when I tell them I am an Au Pair in Milwaukee. Another question I here quite often, is “What is an Au Pair?”, which is why I decided to share my experience today and inspire some of you who might think about going abroad – it is such a great experience. Whether it turns out to be the best time of your life or the worst and you end up going home before the program is supposed to end. It will change you in a positive way and you grow a lot. No matter what.
America is Hollywood
Let’s start from the beginning. When I was 15 years old I heard about an USA high school exchange program for 10 months. That sounded so cool! Naive how I was I pictured America as a big Hollywood. I had no idea how it would really look like. How big are the streets? Are the people nice? Can really everyone become famous? It sounded like a dream world. Although the reasonable me knew it had to be different than that. When I told my parents, it did not go over well. My dad was hesitant but supportive but my mom was against it. My dad and I tried to convince my mom and by the time we almost had her to say yes, the time was up and I was too old to apply.
I accepted it but kept thinking about it quite often and continued researching other options. In 2008 and 2010 my parents and I did a three week vacation where we visited the West Coast and Hawaii and New York and Florida. I loved it! America was more than Hollywood to me now. It was so different from what I thought it would be and fascinating.
Becoming an Au Pair
Learning more and more about America and choosing English as one of my majors next to Geography in my two final years of high school, I was still thinking about going to America. One day I found out about being an “Au Pair”. A live in nanny in the states. I applied and soon after went to a nearby interview. I got accepted and started to get all my documents and filmed a three minute application video about myself. That video was send out with all the other information (am I allergic to cats, am I a vegetarian etc.) to families that were looking for qualities I could provide. After a few weeks a family from Alexandria, Virginia contacted me but I realized it wouldn’t be a good match. Three more families contacted me. One from Massachusetts, another one from Virginia and one from Wisconsin, Milwaukee. Since I wanted dogs really bad and everything else worked out just perfectly I decided to move to this family.
Knowing that Wisconsin was not the most beautiful and exciting state, I had concerns at first. Will I find friends? Are cities nearby? Although some of my concerns turned out about right, I fell in love with the area. I am lucky to live close enough to Milwaukee, so I don’t live isolated but since I am underage and work all day it still is very hard to find friends, especially American ones. Au Pair friends are great, but after a while you would like to talk about something else than how often your toddler asked “Whyyyyy?” on that certain day.
Falling in love with America
The program is meant to be 12 months but everyone has the opportunity to extend for 6, 9 or 12 more months. I decided to stay for 12 more months and I don’t regret one day of it. Of course there are days I feel bad or just want to go home but luckily I have not been very homesick, which helped out a lot.
I have done many things I probably would have never tried or done in Germany. I went skydiving, kayaking, did road trips and I visited 19 states to this point. (New York, Connecticut, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, California, Hawaii, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana)
Life after being an Au Pair
When I went home in May 2013 to visit my family even my mom had to admit that I not only had grown up but also grown as a person and got more independent.
So whether bad or good experiences, I don’t know anyone who regrets their choice to step out of his or her comfort zone and live in a different city/country/continent. Even if you end up moving back home because it just didn’t work out – you will never forget that time and grow with your experiences.
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