My Au Pair Experience in Italy

Over the summer of 2015, I decided to become an Au Pair in Italy for close to three months inspired by my constant wanderlust. I wanted to see the world but still have the comforts of my own home since I knew I would be gone for a while. I was planning on doing something adventurous for my four-month long school summer break so I started some online research. Opportunities such as working in hospitality in California, or working again at Disney World came up but I wanted something new.

In late 2014 my family and I were planning a trip to Italy since my youngest brother adored the country. On his bucket list was to visit The Leaning Tower of Pisa and marvel at the Colosseum. We started to plan this but soon dismissed the idea after discovering the hefty price tag that came along with that dream.

I think this is what influenced me to ultimately choose Italy in my Au Pair quest. I had made a list of acceptable places I could travel to across the globe that my mother would approve of. Haha! I found that most families on the website, Au Pair World, were either from Italy or Spain.

I excluded mostly Australia and New Zealand because of the far distance and price. As for English-speaking countries like England or Ireland, I wanted to travel and live somewhere I could learn and teach a new language. Another reason I wanted to Au Pair was so that I could practice teaching. It is one of my passions and I look for any avenue to pursue it.

After countless Au Pair interviews, I landed myself a charming family who wanted an English-speaking Au Pair to teach their girls and also be a part-time day care provider while they were working. I’ve had tons of experience in child care as well as in teaching English as a second language. We were a perfect match!

I knew no Italian at all. Like I said I just kinda choose Italy because of past influences. Nonetheless, I started my crazy adventure. Before I left I practiced my Italian “basics” before departing on my flight to Rome and I taught myself by using a few iPhone apps and eventually knew how to introduce myself, ask for the bathroom, how to begin a conversation with others and much more. Online I heard that lots of people spoke English in the big cities and I found this to be true.

The first two weeks I traveled with my family to Rome, Sorrento, and Pompeii where most people spoke English. It wasn’t until we reached my small and quiet town of Recanati where I was going to reside for two months that the language barrier hit me. I was hoping that living with my Au Pair family for two months would leave me fluent in Italian.

But in reality, unless you utterly practice every day you won’t be fluent. I’ve picked up quite the amount of words living here and I can, at least, pull-out phrases here and there when listening to others speak. I’m definitely proud of myself for adapting so quickly and being strong when at times I felt weak. I wish I practiced more but I was constantly busy working, traveling and soaking up the Italian sun.

So you’re probably wondering about the job part. Was the whole experience difficult? Yes, definitely but I don’t want this to discourage someone from going. For example, at times my Au Pair family would have their friends over for dinner and I wouldn’t hear a word of English at the table for half an hour. But no matter what I made the effort to smile and practice my Italian. The friends of the family were very sweet and would translate for me but it was exhausting.

My Au Pair family’s kids sometimes didn’t listen to me or talked back, but I kept my cool and acted like a “proper” adult. I would get bored at home all day because the girls didn’t want to leave the house because it was too hot, so I felt like I was going crazy being inside all the time. But these things were minor, I overlooked them by remembering what an amazing opportunity this was and I wanted to use it to my full advantage.

I felt like I performed my role well over the course of two months as the children at the beginning could hardly speak English with me. I remember thinking “oh no this is going to be difficult” as I believed it would be very hard to communicate. But to my surprise, the kids learned English quickly and I felt comfortable enough to just start talking more and more in English to them. Oh, course the help of a translator at the beginning was necessary and even sometimes near the end when we couldn’t translate that one odd word.

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I eventually met another Au Pair girl from USA in July! A I was hoping to meet someone and tried searching online for other people in the area who spoke English but had no luck. Oh I was thrilled to speak with her as we both were able to vent about the same foreign exchange issues. It made me feel a bit better knowing I could message someone within arms reach. We hung out at the local park during the evenings with our kids and met up a few times at the beach and in the town square. Having that extra person really made a difference, so if you’re in this situation I recommend to reach out to others and contact them.
 
This whole experience changed me. I found more of my interests and pushed my own boundaries. While living in Italy on the weekends and other requested days off, I traveled to Venice and Milan. It was a big step for me to travel solo and I was extremely nervous. My first train ride alone was non- direct which meant I had to get off at a random station and find where I would get on the reconnecting train. I remember feeling terrified, in the end, it all worked out and I succeeded. It was one of my most stressful moments. Ha! During my weekend trip, I even took a tour to Lake Como and Switzerland which was worth every penny. I was so glad I was able to do this myself and since then have never been prouder. Breaking down my protective walls let me be a stronger and more independent person. I encourage everyone if going overseas to definitely travel solo to really explore and get to know yourself better. You never know what you’re capable of until you push yourself.
 
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So my Au Pair experience overall was amazing. The people, food, views, hospitality all made it worth it. Italy is such a fascinating country with lots to do and see. The history and traditions here so lively you feel like you took a step back in time. Italy is so different from North America, it really made me appreciate all aspects of my life, but it also opened my eyes up to new incredible things. Sitting back looking at photos and videos makes me miss it every day. I feel like I was a totally different person there. Though, I didn’t need to worry about work, school, money or anything. I just enjoyed myself, and of course the wine!

PROS: Traveling, Learning a new language, Relaxed work environment, Meeting new people.

CONS: Typically you won’t earn much money, there are exceptions in certain countries and depends on your family and duties.

TIPS:

• Try new things, don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. Traveling to a new country is hard and scary but very worth it.

Use a reputable Au Pair website that you can trust/ have heard of before.

Interview the host family as many times as needed to get to know them better. Do not just converse over email since you can’t really tell who they are or what they are like.

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