“I never knew the charm of spring, I never met it face to face, I never knew my heart could sing, I never missed a warm embrace, Till April in Paris” – Ella Fitzgerald
Deciding what to do as a career has been a mind boggling frustration for me since before I can remember. There is so much pressure from those around us, trying to force us at the meer age of 17 or 18 to make life changing decisions. In our final year of high school, we are told to choose a university, choose a degree, and head off to study the following year. However for me, I was unsure, and still am, as to what i’d like to pursue. The only thing I knew is that I wanted to gain some life experience to help me figure out what path I wanted to take.
It has now been 4 years since I finished high school – and I still have yet to have attended a university. Some people may think that i’m avoiding it. Others might see it as an escape from reality.
But you know what? It’s not made for everyone.
Why should I have to choose something, pay a lot of money to study it, then come out of my degree in debt and unhappy, just because humanity has made me feel like I must follow that certain path? I don’t.
It was only last week when I had a thought – why does it matter if I don’t attend a university. I’m young. I’m only 21 years old and I have my whole life ahead of me. This doesn’t mean that I will indefinitely cross out university as an option for the future, but for now, I want to live my life how I want. I shouldn’t be worrying about the future, I should be focusing on the now and enjoying every day as it comes.
It has taken a while for me to get to this point, because I used to think it was immoral to not attend university, but i’m here.
Travel has given me so much more than expected. What people don’t realise, is that you will gain so much experience and learn so much more than you could ever have imagined by travelling the world, instead of sitting in a classroom for hours a day. Yes, you do learn a lot by achieving a degree, but all you’re doing is learning. You’re not experiencing it first hand. You’re not getting out there and exploring the vast opportunities that the world has to offer.
For those of you whose decision is unclear, I advise you to educate yourself and travel the world! Stop worrying about what others will think, live your life for you, to make yourself happy, not others.
Don’t say it’s not possible, anything is possible. There are plenty of ways to be able to afford to travel overseas. At the top of my list is to work abroad – loads of countries offer working holiday visas for people aged under 30!
So get out there, see the world, gain life experience, grow, and enjoy every minute!
After my most recent post on 10 Reasons to Become an Au Pair, I have had a number of people contact me asking how I became an au pair. Becoming an au pair may seem like a long lengthly process, but if you do enough research and prepare yourself, it can be easy.
1. Is this the right decision?
To start with, you need to think about when you want to do it and if you really want to do it. Do you want to begin as soon as you find a family? Wait 6 months to save money? Are you prepared to drop everything and move?
The decision is yours, but it needs to be made before going any further.
2. Where do I want to be an Au Pair?
Next you need to think about where you’d like to be an au pair. Almost every country in the world has families searching for au pairs!
3. Agency or not?
Now its time to decide if you’d like to go through an agency or not. I myself did not go through an agency, I went through the website aupair-world, which I highly recommend. It is a great website, and I have met plenty of other au pairs who have gone through this website also.
4. What family to choose?
Finally, it is time to find your host family. When you go through an agency, they will organise a few potential family choices for you. If you go through a website, such as au pair world, you have the chance to choose your family yourself. No matter what path you choose to find a family, make sure you are comfortable with your choice of family. Skype them, email them, get to know them on a better level before saying yes.
5. Do I need a visa and how do I get it?
Now that you have a host family, you need to apply for a visa. Depending on your choice of destination, most countries require au pairs to have a valid visa. However, if you are from the EU, wanting to be an au pair in the EU, then you are in luck and do not need to obtain a visa.
To get a visa, there are usually a number of requirements needed. To check your requirements for your chosen destination, you need to look at the website for their Embassy in your country.
For Example: If you’re from America and want to be an au pair in France, you need to visit the site of the ‘French Embassy in America’. In most cases, all countries require a ‘work contract’ filled out by your host family, signed by them and you, and then stamped by the immigration office of your chosen destination. The process of getting a visa can range from 1 month to 3 months.
6. I now have my visa, what’s next?
Get excited! Pack, prepare, and say goodbye! It’s now time to head off overseas on your life changing adventure! Becoming an au pair has given me so many amazing opportunities and I hope it can do the same for you!
Most people tend to passover the idea of becoming an au pair when wanting to work or travel abroad, as most think it’s just being a nanny. Well yes, you are looking after someones children, but you’re also a student. Most au pairs are required to take classes to learn the native language of their country while working.
The idea of being an “au pair” is to travel to a foreign country, where a host family welcomes you as a temporary family member. Here you will be required to look after the family’s children and do some light housework, in exchange for free board, food, and some pocket money. The term au pair means ‘on equal footing’.
Now moving to a foreign country by yourself, where everything is completely opposite to what you’re used to, can sound terrifying – learning a new language, figuring out your way around a new city, moving into the home of a family you don’t know, not knowing anyone. But I assure you it can be the best life changing experience, and you will grow in so many ways. I am now halfway though my second year with my host family, in Paris, and I’m loving every second of it.
I would like to share with you 10 reasons why I think you should step outside your comfort zone, find a family, book an plane ticket and become an au pair:
1. You get to make friends from all over the world! Taking language classes in your chosen destination is the best way to meet people, who like you, are au pairs/students living abroad. Facebook is also another great way to meet people. Loads of ‘groups’ have been formed online specially for au pairs in different locations, looking for new friends and fun people to do things with.
2. You get to watch the kids grow up. To me this is such a precious part of being an au pair. Becoming part of the family and being able to watch them learn and grow up is quite special. Even after your time living with them, you keep in contact and get to see them change into wonderful human beings.
3. You get to learn a new language. Learning a new language is one of the best parts of becoming an au pair. Even if you learnt it previously at school, you learn so much more about the language and the mannerisms from being immersed in it daily.
4. You get the opportunity to travel often. Depending on the location of your chosen family, it is generally very easy to travel often during your time as an au pair. As a New Zealander living in Europe, I love having the chance to explore new cities and/or countries, as they are so close to each other. Where as back home, the nearest country is still a 3-4 hour plane ride away. Also, host families often invite their au pair to join them on their vacations.
5. You get free accommodation and food. As part of the contract of being an au pair, the host is to provide them with the means of living – food, a bedroom/apartment, living costs. In most cases, the au pair has their own room in the house. I myself don’t actually live in the house with my host family, but in a small cottage on their property.
6. You get to improve your CV/Resume. What employee wouldn’t love the fact that you were brave enough to move to a foreign country, by yourself, for a year or two ?
7. You learn to love yourself. Traveling while you’re young, in my opinion, is the best way to learn to love yourself and others. You become more confident, more sure of yourself, you form more respect for yourself, you become more understanding, and more appreciative. These are just a few of the many attributes to living overseas solo.
8. You get childcare experience. Working as an au pair is a great way of learning what “parent life” is like. Before I became an au pair I didn’t even know how to put on a nappy(diaper), but now I have so many skills and experiences that will be extremely helpful when I decide to settle down and have children of my own. You also learn to appreciate everything that your own parents have done for you throughout your life. Mum and Dad if you’re reading this – thank you!!
9. You become part of the family. It is a humbling experience, and you grow to love your host family as you would your own.
10. You get to experience a new culture – not as a tourist but as a local. When visiting a city or a country as a tourist, you don’t usually get the chance to see it from the locals point of view. Short visits mean quick trips around the city to all of its most famous touristic spots. For example; in Paris, you would go and visit places like the Eiffel Tower and the Champs Elysees. But as an au pair, when you are actually living in the city/country for a long period of time, you have the chance to explore the real side of it and choose your own favourite spots – without the tourists.
Since the weather has been cold and rainy these past few months, it has become the perfect time to perch yourself up in a nice, warm, cosy cafe. Whether you’re wanting to sit in a corner and read a book, or meet up with a group of friends, Merci Used Book Cafe has plenty to offer. With over 5.000 books to offer, you’ll never get bored. The atmosphere of this cafe is just wonderful and the staff make you feel right at home. If you have time to spare before or after your “rendez-vous”, don’t forget to check out their store. It is located to the left of the cafe, and you will find yourself greeted by a cute little red car, which the Merci Shop has become known for.
- Galeries Lafayette
An upscale shopping centre on boulevard Haussmann, in which every year, they put on wonderful Christmas display. The most popular being their Christmas tree. This year they have put up an upside down Christmas tree under the 100 year old dome. They also have themed window displays on the outside of the building, which become very popular with passer by’s.
- Parisian Christmas Markets
These are a must do in my opinion. Paris is surrounded with Christmas Markets throughout the months of November and December. The market on the Avenue des Champs Elysees would have to be the largest and the busiest, selling arts and crafts, delicious specialties from different regions of France, and much more. You can grab yourself a glass of mulled wine (hot wine), frois gras, cheese, truffels, fresh waffles/churros and so on.
Click here to find a list of all Christmas markets in Paris
- Ice Skating
Having come from New Zealand where we usually spend Christmas during Summer, the idea of ice skating during a winter Christmas in Paris sounds like a blast! There are many ice rinks situated in different locations around Paris, such as the Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, Hotel de Ville, and the Champs Elysees.
- Disneyland Paris
Disneyland during Christmas is magical. Both parks are decked with spectacular decorations from the 9th November to the 7th January 2015. Disney has a Christmas parade, a giant Christmas tree, and have themed their famous light’s display to the loved movie Frozen. What a better way to celebrate this festive season!
- Avante-Garde Trees
Visit the fun annual exhibition of Christmas trees at the Centre Pompidou. The creations are funny, seductive, political, lovely and weird! Your entrance fee also gets donated to a French charity that helps orphaned children.
Hidden down the quaint cobblestoned streets of Montmatre, lies La Maison Rose.
A perfect spot to sit, have a coffee and people watch before or after visiting the Basilica Sacre Coeur.
Believe it or not, Picasso used to frequent this “pink house”. It was owned by Germaine Gargallo (also known as Germaine Pichot) for around 40 years. Germaine was the woman whom Picasso’s best friend, Carlos Casagemas, killed himself over. Germaine was also a model for a few of Picasso’s paintings.
Metro Line 12: Lamarck – Caulaincourt
2 Rue de l’Abreuvoir, 75018 Paris, France
+33 1 42 57 66 75
I don’t know if its just me, but when I travel somewhere, I want to make the most of my time there and see as much as I can in the short period of time. But sometimes that travel book you spend €15 on can take up your time flicking through trying to find that one page you saw a few days ago.
After recently moving back to Paris for another year abroad, I have come to realise there is so much more to this city than what is on these pages. The best way to see Paris is to get lost in it’s magical streets (but always have your map with you of course!), explore new areas and find the hidden gem’s that Paris has to offer.
However, spending the afternoon under the Eiffel Tower with a book, baguette, cheese, wine, and lovely company will never become old to me.
I am feeling so content with my life and the choices I have made. I cannot see myself living anywhere else in the world right now, than where I am currently.
Paris has this “charm”. It used to be a love/hate relationship between Paris and I. But I have officially fallen head over heals for the city of lights, love, hope, and dreams, and can’t wait to find out more about myself that I never knew.
At present, I am drawn towards the quote:
“Take every chance, Drop every fear”
I feel like if I try incorporate this into my daily life, I’ll have not a care in the world. I’d take each day as it comes and not look back and say ‘what if’ (even if its ‘what if i’d have had that croissant).
A lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon in Paris has brought me to reminisce through my old photos from my trip to California this past July. If there’s something I learned in my month living in California, it’s that every evening, my breath was taken away by an exquisite sunset. Sadly one month was most definitely not enough time in this wonderful place. California is known for its dreamy weather and beaches, and definitely exceeded my expectations when I was lucky enough to go there. Who knows, maybe my future will bring me back? Only time will tell.
I feel lucky being able to say it has been a wonderful sunny September in Paris. It is unusual – the amount of sunshine and warmth we have received. I can say I have most definitely made the most of it.
I think anyone would agree with me that being in Paris in the sun will make one content. Happy levels rise and lots of ice cream gets purchased!
Although I have already lived in Paris previously for a year, for some reason I had not tried the famous Berthillon ice cream. I was introduced to this by a dear friend, and I will surely return.