My Au Pair Gap Year

by Rachel Frost

“So where are you going next year?”

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked that same question, over and over again. I always give them an answer that shocks and surprises them.

“I’ll be moving to Paris for a year to be an au pair.”

That statement is usually followed by either asking what an au pair is, why au pairing, how I’ve landed it, or talks about how brave I am. In reality, I’m just a girl who has no clue what she wants to do but knows she loves travelling, language, and french culture (so far). I will explain why and answer some of those questions once and for all though.

I decided to take an au pair gap year after hearing about my camp counselor’s experience in Germany. I had always babysat and gotten along very well with kids, and she seemed to have enjoyed her time and learned so much that it seemed like a viable option before college. I had always succeeded in my French class in school and loved it very much, so I made the decision my senior year of high school to apply for college with everyone else and defer for a year to become an au pair in France while engulfing myself in the French culture.

I did all the essays and the tests and everything and like many people, I didn’t get enough money and didn’t get in where I’d hoped to have gotten in. So instead of racking up over $100,000 in debt at a school where I was unsure if my major was the right choice, I have decided to wait a bit but still become an au pair and see where the wind takes me. Don’t get me wrong, I still think deferring for a year is a great option, especially if you get into the school of your dreams and want to take a breather before the long road ahead of you, it just didn’t work out for me. Thus came the hours and hours of research (a.k.a. hours I should have spent studying for AP Exams).

I found blogs from girls in small cities in France and blogs from girls who hated their families and everything in between. I realized that, being a very social 17 year old who loves exploring, a major city would be the very best option. Location is key when you’re looking to be an au pair, it determines if you drive, what types of people you’ll encounter and your experience as a whole. All of the girls who ended up in the countryside spoke of quiet weekends inside or the loneliness of not finding friends. I’m energetic, love meeting new people and need the hustle and bustle lifestyle after the casual bustle of Northern California, so anywhere other than Paris didn’t seem very good for me. As for living, I knew that some girls were able to get a separate apartment near their host family, I thought that was awesome of course, but being that I was going to be moving very far away from home for the first time, staying with the family in a separate bedroom was definitely smarter.

I made a mental list of everything I wanted and the most important things to prioritize and then searched for a way to find a family. It’s not like Craig’s List where they just look for people to hire or a storefront with a sign on it. Since my parents were already going to pay a lot for my classes there, as well as my visa, my passport and any other au pair expenses, I decided on finding a family myself instead of relying on a website that finds me a family for a fee. I spend too much time on the internet and can vet out the sketchy from the non-sketchy pretty well and I have family and friends in nearby countries that I can go off to if anything happens.

If you’re unsure about this whole process and would like to have a helping hand the whole year you’re there as well, then a private company like Au Pair Paris would be the best. The easiest choice for me was Au pair World which was personally a positive resource in the whole process of becoming an au pair. There are other free websites that work similarly, however I find that Au Pair World is simple and straightforward, thus making it easier for not only me to sign up, but a loving family as well.


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