My experience as an Au Pair in Chicago

Work abroad - Au pair chicago

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Our friend Marcelle worked as an Au Pair in Chicago. In this post she explains us everything we need to know if we want to be an Au Pair through AuPairCare. We will know which are the main features of this work, such as eligibility and funding, which are the steps of the application process, and how was Marcelle's experience, conclusions and recommendations.

If you want to know more about being and Au Pair as well other projects abroad in which Marcelle has participated I recommend you to go to her blog Why I post, and follow her on:


If you love to travel and do it with a purpose I recommend you to check in the blog the following sections where you can find more experiences in which you can participate!

Also, you can find applications for scholarships, internships, job positions, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support and virtual courses in the Scholarship Finder!

Work abroad Au pair
Exploring Chicago’s suburbs by train while visiting an Au Pair friend

1. Au Pair characteristics

  • Type of program: Au Pair
  • Location: Chicago, USA
  • Website: Au Pair agency Au Pair Care https://www.aupaircare.com
  • Eligibility Requirements: you must be 18 to 26 years old, must have previous childcare experience, have a driver’s license, good English skills, and be a high school graduate or equivalent.
  • Duration: my abroad experience: lasted 1.5 years but it could last from 1 year to a maximum of  2 years.
  • Application Fee: between $225 - $2,550 USD (the au pair program fees varies by country). I paid around $450 USD at the time. It covers application processing, English testing and interviews as well as Visa preparation.
  • Finance:
    • Weekly stipend of $195.75 USD.
    • Free flight to and from the United States.
    • Accommodation is included, since the program requires you to be a live-in Au Pair.
    • The Au Pair receives $500 in tuition money to attend college or English classes.
Work abroad - Au pair
At a Chicago Bull’s game

2. Application Process 

  • Enter the website of any US Department of State designated Au Pair agency - I went with Au Pair Care https://www.aupaircare.com
  • Create a profile and upload all the necessary information 
  • Match with a host family
Work abroad-Au pair
Downtown Chicago in the Summer

3. My Experience

a. Background

I was 21 years old and I was at college, living on my own and had a full-time job in South America when I decided to gain international experience and improve my English skills. So I decided to apply to a work and study program in the U.S.

b. Location

I matched with a host family from Chicago, IL - USA. I love it because the city is just phenomenal. It still is one of my favorite places on Earth to this day. It’s a big American city with charming neighborhoods. It’s not on the cost, but I had the best Summer time going to the North Shore Beach on the Lake. The Winter does last a bit too long but the city offer activities year round.

So there’s always something to do, despite the weather. I met great people - that’s when I met my best friends. I took awesome classes such as English classes, language exam preparation classes, non-English classes, and even some bartenting classes.

I traveled to 6 different American States. I lived the American day-to-day life. It definitely helped me grow and I achieved my goal of improving my languages skills. I had the time of my life, really. No other experience could compare to it, it’s really unique.

Work abroad - Au pair
My room – I loved it. I was so lucky to have such a big bedroom
The gorgeous Chicago skyline from The Field Museum

c. General Opinion

Pros

  • It is very affordable: you get roundtrip flight tickets when you sign up for the program. As an Au Pair the host family usually gives you a cell phone and all meals are included as well. And they have to pay for your transportation to school, or pay for the gas – if they let you drive their car. You get $500 in tuition that you can use for college or language school. So you basically don’t have to worry about paying bills, which is awesome!
  • The Au Pair training is held in New Jersey and the agency got us a shuttle to NYC, it was only for a couple hours but I loved that in my very first days in America I was able to visit New York!
  • The Au Pair program is a great way to know more about the American culture since you live with Americans. And you can also make American friends and enjoy American Holidays.
  • The Au Pair agency have monthly meetings to gather all Au Pairs that live in the area. So you go to many attractions and do lots of activities, which can be a great start to meeting new people.
  • Learn or improve English: it’s an excellent opportunity to learn English or to improve your existing English skills.

To sum up, I really like the Au Pair program. I think it’s great for young people who want to spend a considerable time abroad without having to spend a lot of money in an international program. So if you meet the requirements and are looking for an American experience on a budget, look no further.

At the Au Pair Academy –in this photo Au Pairs from Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Cons

  • Live and work at the same place: one thing that many Au Pairs can find hard to deal with is the fact that you live and work at the same place. This could be fine if you were working from home, as in a home-office, but the thing is, you are working from someone else’s home and you are working for them, the homeowners. If you haven’t done this type of work, it can be quite confusing and overwhelming. At first, you find it awkward and you’re not so sure of how to behave at times. Like, they are my host “parents” so I’m kind of family, but I work here and this is not my house. Lol. But give it some time and you’ll get used to it.
  • Share the bathroom: despite having your own room you might have to share the bathroom with the family. Some people might think this is silly, but personal hygiene habits can be different from person to person.
  • Free time issues: at the beginning you’re not so confident to say no. The agency keeps asking you to be flexible and you’re a little vulnerable because you feel like you’re staying at someone’s house and you’ve got to be nice to them. At the end what happens is this: they change your schedule and forget to ASK you if it’s ok. They simply call you when you’re supposed to be off, saying “Oh, I’m in the middle of something and I can’t come home right now. I’ll need you to stay with kids for a couple more hours.” As if the Au Pair couldn’t have plans herself or a social life. So have in mind that host families not always respect the schedule they make.
Work abroad - Au pair
Being a kid again at American Girl

4. Recommendations

  • Only join the Program if you truly like kids.
  • Being nice to the Host Family doesn’t mean saying “yes” to everything all the time. If you are not happy about something, have an honest conversation with the host parents and your area Coordinator.
  • If things aren’t working out for both the Au Pair and the Host Family, it is ok to ask for a rematch and change host families.
  • During the training in New Jersey and in the city where you’ll live don’t be friends only with Au Pairs of the same nationality as you. Hang out with Au Pairs from other countries too. It’s nice of you to do this but also it helps you improve your language skills as well as learn about other cultures.
  • Travel! Even if it’s just a day trip or for the weekend. I took advantage that I was in the United States to travel to other American cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Vegas. But another great thing to do is to fully explore the city you are living and make every day off a staycation.
  • Lastly, if you haven’t been to Chicago, please do it. It is unbelievable in the Summertime. It is a beautiful city and is still one of my favorite places on Earth.
North Avenue Beach in Chicago.

Are you interested in finding opportunities to go abroad? In the Scholarships Finder you can find a wide list of scholarships, work opportunities, volunteer projects, contests, entrepreneurial support, and virtual courses!

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