General Question

shrubbery's avatar

Has anyone had experience being or hosting an au pair in the United States?

Asked by shrubbery (10212points) August 16th, 2009

I finish year 12 in Tasmania, Australia in November of this year and my aunt and uncle have mentioned some people they know who live in Albany, New York who could potentially find me a family for whom I could be an au pair next year. I have applied for university in Australia but could defer for the year.

But being an au pair for a year in the US, does that mean through the school year? Like September to June or whatever it is? Because the university semester in Australia starts in February which I would have to be back for the following year, so am I able to go from the start of next year to the end of next year?

Does it matter that I won’t be studying in the US?
If I don’t turn 18 until April next year does that mean I can’t be an au pair until then? And If I started then would I have to go through until April the next year or could I cut it short to be back for start of semester in February?

If I get there and decide to apply for university in the states, how long could I stay with the family?

Any other information and personal stories would be greatly appreciated.

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10 Answers

Anonymoususer's avatar

I don’t know if you have to be 18 years old? I thought it was 16 but maybe I’m wrong or it differs between countries.

marinelife's avatar

I don’t directly have au pair experience, although I did work for one of my teachers once caring for their children for the summer. It was a very mixed experience.

I think it is much like working in a family business. Are the family dynamics healthy? Are the people good people or people who would take advantage?

Is the actual work appealing to you?

For me, I would not put off university for au pair work.

Judi's avatar

In employment everything is negotiable. You would tell the family when you were available and they would decide if your availability fit their needs.
As for the age thing, you can work in the US at 17 althugh many states have rules about how many hours you can work as a minor, but I don’t know if imigration would issue a green card for a 17 year old to work.

zina's avatar

If you Google “Au pair”, you’ll find many useful sites, such as http://www.aupair.com/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Au_pair, http://www.aupair-world.net/ – or even better, “Au pair US” http://www.aupairinamerica.com/, http://www.aupairusa.org/, http://www.usaupair.com/. I think this will answer all of your logistical questions, or at least definitely give you numbers/emails to contact for reliable info.

As far as personal experience and advice, I had au pairs (from France, in the US) when I was a child and it was wonderful, for me. I don’t know what it was like for them. They learned English, we learned French, my parents had a helper, and they had built-in work and housing. Likewise, my Hungarian friend (in her 20s) was an au pair in English speaking countries, and it was great experience for her, for language skills and also because she is an elementary school teacher and wants to run a childcare center some day. That’s post-university relevant work experience, and the bonus of getting to live in a foreign country. On the other hand, an American friend did it in Paris and it was a nightmare, and she had to move out after a couple months. So as above, it can be mixed.

But as @Marina said, it depends if it’s something you want to do, experience you specifically want (say, for future work with children), and if it’s worth deferring university (as she said, I personally wouldn’t). If you’re especially excited about spending time in the US, hoping work there might lead to other work, or might lead to getting into university in the US, I would think about it and research it carefully. Applying to US colleges/universities is done fairly far in advance (as in, you’d need to do everything really fast right NOW to apply for academic year 2010–11), and would be mostly based on your grades, test scores, recommendation letters, and any extra-curricular interests/activities – and I don’t know how much it would be helped by physically being in the US, or being an au pair. Residency could shift international/domestic status, which could affect scholarship eligibility, or give you in-state tuition (lower than out-of-state) for some public schools—but you’d really have to check on these things to see how it works with citizenship, etc. All in all without knowing any more about you or your situation I’d lean strongly toward going directly to university over the au pairing situation as you’ve presented it. I’m strongly in favor of living (and working, and traveling) abroad, and you can find ways to do that in summers, semesters off, and after college (I did all three of those!).

jho1188's avatar

I’m actually going to college at the University of Florida and my father, mother, and younger sister host an au pair in my hometown about 20 minutes away. Her name is Francesca and she’s absolutely amazing! She’s beautiful and is teaching my sister to speak Spanish (originally from Puerto Rico) and she’s just been a pleasure. She really likes living with us, she says. So, if it’s something you really want to do, you have the opportunity to touch a family’s life. :)

Anonymoususer's avatar

“An au pair should be treated as an equal part of the family and not as a servant, and shall not be required to wear a uniform.”

Sadly, there are people who don’t respect that.

jho1188's avatar

Well, most au pairs agree on the uniform. A host family can’t MAKE an au pair wear a uniform, however if they agree upon, that’s their dealings.

Anonymoususer's avatar

Most au pair girls don’t wear a uniform at all, they’re no maid/nanny girls. Among those who require au pair girls to wear uniform they can say they don’t want the girl if she doesn’t wear a uniform.

jho1188's avatar

Of course they can say they don’t want her if she won’t wear it, but then it’s not legally binding or anything. I think we’ve detracted from the subject though. If everything measures up and you want to go, go! :)

Anonymoususer's avatar

The thing is that many of the girls hate the uniform, like being required to wear let’s say a blouse and a skirt all the time. They probably accept it because they see it as the only choice to get there.

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