My German friend Reggy worked as an Au Pair in Minnesota in the United States for 1 year with Cultural Care Au Pair, and according to her, it was an awesome experience!
She enjoyed her job, traveled around the United States, improved her English, and earned a good salary that let her cover the application costs, airplane ticket, food and extras such as clothes, trips and more!
It’s completely possible for anyone to become an Au Pair! Basically, you need previous experience working with kids and an application fee of around 960 – 2,000 USD (varies by country) … BUT the application fee includes a round airplane ticket to the United States and you will earn around 195 USD per week (10,140 USD per year), have free accommodation and meals with your host family and 500 USD per year to take classes at a local university.
Now, Reggy will share with us the main features of her experience with Cultural Care Au Pair, such as eligibility and funding, the application process, and pros as well as cons.
If you have more specific questions, follow Reggie on:
- Instagram: @reginaschndr
Now, let’s go into the details:
- Cultural Care Au Pair characteristics
- Application fee, expenses, and salary
- Application Process
- General Opinion (pros and cons)
1 Cultural Care Au Pair Characteristics
- Type of program: Au Pair for 1 year (or more)
- Location: Minnesota, United States
- Websites: Cultural Care Au Pair has different websites depending on the country where you live. But simply type “Cultural Care Au Pair” on Google and the first result should be the one for you or type the international site. These are some examples:
- Eligibility Requirements:
- Be 18 to 26 years old
- Have previous childcare experience (at least 200 hours)
- Driver’s license
- Good English skills
- Have completed high school (or about to complete)
- Duration: my abroad experience lasted 1 year but it could last from 1 year to a maximum of 2 years.
2. Application fee, expenses, and salary
Keep in mind that you won’t have to pay anything until you find your host family!
a. Application Fee
The application fee costs between 960 to 2,000 USD (the au pair program fees vary by country).
Making my application in Germany in 2012 I paid around 1,500 EUR (1,700 USD), which remains the same today. You can check the current program costs in Germany HERE.
Note: If you have previous experience as an Au Pair, you can check the listed requirements on the website and get a discount of up to 300-500 EUR (340 to 564 USD).
b. Other expenses
- J-1 Visa: around 160 USD
- Police Certificate: varies by country but in Germany, it costs 30 EUR (34 USD).
- Health certificate: cost varies by country and doctor.
- International Driving License: I paid around 30 EUR (34 USD). You can check HERE how to apply for an International Driver’s License.
- Flight: free flight to and from the United States.
- Salary: weekly stipend of 196 USD.
- College Tuition: 500 USD in tuition money to attend college or English classes.
- Accommodation and food: are included (since the program requires you to be a live-in Au Pair).
- Support: Cultural Care Au Pair 24/7 support.
3 Application Process
The application process consists of 4 main steps:
a. Free information meeting
Attend a free information meeting in a city near you (meetings typically last about two hours).
Typically an ex-Au Pair will be there to tell her/his experience.
Here Cultural Care Au Pair Representatives will answer all your questions.
b. Complete your online application
Create your online profile with
- Experience and interests: Your childcare experience, previous work experience, school background, hobbies, and talents.
- References: 3 non-family references
- Letter of motivation: a letter of motivation to the host family
- Pictures: upload pictures that describe your personality and show who you are.
- Video: upload a short video giving a sense of who you are
- Health certificate
- Secondary school certificate
- Driving license
- Police clearance
c. Find your host family
- With the help of a Matching Specialist, you’ll find several host families.
- Host families will review your online application to learn more about you.
- If a host family likes you, you’ll receive a request to connect.
- Once you find the perfect family and both of you agree on the exchange, Cultural Care will help you plan your trip to the United States.
- Complete 2 online courses: “Get Ready Workshop” on life in the United States and “MyAuPairCourses” on childcare in the United States.
d. Finalize your visa & travel arrangements
- Visa: obtain the J-1 visa (this visa allows you to spend a year in the United States as an au pair followed by a 30-day period to travel.
- Flight to New York: you’ll get to travel with other Au Pairs from your city. You’ll be welcomed by the program representative.
- Au Pair Training School: you’ll spend a week in New York preparing for your year as an Au Pair.
- Meet your host family: Cultural Care will provide transportation.
4. My Experience
I was 19 years old when I graduated from High School and decided to take a year off by going abroad.
It had been my dream to live in the United States since I watched all those American movies (especially Project X).
It took me around 6 months in prior to apply for the program and set up everything with the Visa (I’m sure it can be done in even less time, but I like to have things sorted out in advance).
I matched with a host family from Minnesota, St. Paul. I was living in the Capital of the State and it has around 3 million inhabitants.
I’m not going to bore you with some facts you could look up on Google, but what I can say about this City is that it has a beautiful landscape and it’s not called the state of the 10,000 Lakes for no reason.
Summer was amazing! Winter was a disaster. Basically, the year is split in 6 months summertime and 6 months wintertime. If you are not familiar with driving in the snow or how to handle -20 C degree, then you should stay away from states like Minnesota. But summertime rewards you with hot days at any lake of your choice.
c. My host family
My Host family was a family of 4. A married couple in their mid-40s with 2 kids: a boy who was 5 years old and a girl who was 3 years old at that time.
Both parents were working full-time, my host-mom was an International Manager in the pharmacy industry and my host-dad was a director at a High School.
The kids were both already in Preschool and Kindergarten and had after school lots of activities to attend, such as karate, swimming lessons, gymnastics or play dates.
My normal day looked like that:
Breakfast: I woke up at around 7:00 am and had breakfast with the family (usually the kids only because the host-parents were busy getting ready and left the house early).
School dropoff: I was getting the kids ready for school and drove them to their classes. After dropping the kids off I was off for about 3 hours until I had to pick up the girl. During the time I was going to the Gym or got coffee or Skyped with the family.
School pickup: when it was time to pick up the girl, we usually drove back to the house to get a snack and get ready for activities or play dates.
Activities: every day was planned and the kids had to be at a certain time at a certain place. Most of the time I was spending driving around since destinations are very far away from each other.
Free time: my day ended at around 5:00 pm when the Host-parents got back from work.
College classes: after work, I had 2 days a week college classes which I had to attend physically and take tests to pass it successfully.
Dinner: we had dinner all together and talked about the day and what was the schedule like for the upcoming days.
Summary: in total, I was working from Monday to Friday from around 7:00 am to 5:00 pm with a break of 3 hours and over the weekend I was off. I got paid weekly an amount of 195 USD.
e. My room
I was living in the basement which had a huge room with a private bathroom. My room consisted of a king-size bed, a closet and a desk with a mirror. My room was connected to a private bathroom and gave me a lot of privacy.
Although there was not a lot of light in the room, I felt very comfortable and like home.
f. My friends
During my time I met a lot of other Au Pairs from different countries. Through Au Pair meetings which took place once a month I met the new Au Pairs who just arrived as well as the ones who were there already.
Each Au Pair group has an LCC (responsible Person who takes care of you when you have questions and leads the group and makes those meetings happen).
My LCC was an amazing American lady who always had an open mind and organized the greatest meetings (one time we went over a weekend to her cabin and did jet skiing, BBQ, and bonfires with movies).
It might seem hard to meet local people at the beginning, but as soon as you get to know people while going out it becomes very easy to be introduced to more people.
g. My travels
I was able to travel over the weekends to different states with my friends. We just packed our stuff and drove hours to the destination. Trips like that were easy to plan because we stayed usually at motels for little money.
After the Au pair year, you get a whole month to travel in the states and I saved up with the money I was earning and I traveled to the west coast. I had the luck to meet so many great people on the way.
To make your travels as easy and cheap as possible I have used platforms like couchsurfing.com (although I support platforms like that, I want you to be aware of creeps and if you feel uncomfortable to do it alone ask your friend to travel with you). My experience was amazing and I am still today in touch with the people I met.
In total, during the 13 months, I traveled to 25 different states. I would always, always, always recommend traveling the United States. It is a beautiful country (besides the politics) with wonderful people and great food (I gained 10 kg during the year- just a short disclaimer for you to organize your diet).
As I mentioned before I was 19 when I was going to be an Au Pair and in the States and as you all know you have to be 21 to be legally drinking. That didn’t mean we were not partying. You still have the chance to go to night clubs and dance but you will get a big X with a marker on your hand for the bartenders to know that you cannot buy drinks.
If you still want to drink and make unforgettable nights to days I can promise you there is always a way. I had a lot of friends over 21 who were able to buy us alcohol and we were partying at somebody’s place and played a lot of games like Beer pong, King’s Cup or Flip the Cup. If you don’t know all of these games yet, I can tell you the Americans will show you.
5. General Opinion
- It is very affordable: You get roundtrip flight tickets when you sign up for the program. Basically, you only need to save 960 – 2,000 USD (depending on your country) for the application fee and after you finish the program, you’ll have recovered your investment (in the scenario you don’t buy anything you’ll have saved around 10,140 USD in your year abroad).
- You get to visit New York: The Au Pair training is held in New York for a whole week, which is so cool!
- You get to know American culture: living with an American family, you’ll have the real experience.
- There’s always support: You can talk with a representative if you’re uncomfortable or have specific questions.
- You can improve your English skills: with classes at college.
- It lasts for a minimum of 1 year: according to the U.S. Department of State, the J-1 visa lasts for a minimum of 1 year. So if you want to work for a shorter period of time you won’t be able to do so (you’ll have to pay a cancellation fee if you decide to cancel the program).
- Homesick: You might face cultural differences and get homesick.
- It’s difficult to say no: at the beginning, you’re not so confident to say no.
- My advice for a successful application is to start early enough and get your documents all in order.
- Just join the Program if you truly like kids.
- 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.
- Always be honest about your opinion towards the Host family with your LCC (she can help you to get a new host family or figure out the problem you might face).
- If you feel homesick, tell it to your host parents, so they know what is going on with you. In my experience, once I told my host mom, she took me shopping and we had a great day.
- Make the most of your travels around the United States!
- You can make a career out of this. A friend of mine was amazing and after she finished working with her hosting family she was recommended to a very rich family so now she’s living the dream traveling the world with while taking care of 2 nice kids.
- If you like the United States, maybe you can stay permanently. A friend of mine extended her visa for 5 years and then got married to an American.
In the Work Abroad section, you can find more experiences earning internships and full-time job positions abroad! If you had a similar experience and want to inspire others to apply please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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