We caught up with Irish au pair Carrie to see what she’s been up to in her first month as an Au Pair in America!
This blog post comes to you a bit later than I had anticipated and the reason for this is that the past month since arriving in America has been so busy and jam packed. The things I did only two weeks ago, feel like they happened two months ago! So, grab a cup of tea, get comfortable and I hope you enjoy my post- this is probably going to be a long one!
I arrived in America on the 21st of May and met my host family on the 24th of May. I have been in the States for more than a month now and I can’t believe that a month has flown by already. I have done so much in this time that honestly, I could probably write three separate blog posts but I am going to fit it in all in this one post so bear with me.
I landed in New York and managed to finally get through the long immigration line, collected my cases and went to meet the Au Pair in America representative waiting for me at JFK. Whilst waiting for the final girl to arrive I was waiting with three other au pairs- two of these I came to spend a lot of time with and built great relationships with them, over the next few days at Orientation. It was a very long day, I think I had been awake for 24 hours straight at this point and was so excited for getting to my bed at the hotel. When I arrived at the hotel they gave us our information bags, room keys, some fruit and a bottle of water. I was the last girl to arrive in my hotel room and the other two girls who were already there were also moving to New Jersey… in towns right next to mine which was really cool!
Orientation was really fantastic! It is intense with long days spent in a room with a lot of information for you to take in, but my Orientation leader, Sandee made it so very enjoyable. She made the information fun and the time flew by with her witty humour, interesting personal stories and experiences of other au pairs she had trained. On the second day of Orientation, I went on the NYC tour, it was so much fun and you get to see a lot (the Top of the Rock being my favourite part), it is definitely something I would recommend doing but I would also suggest that if you really want to enjoy the New York sights, plan to make another journey there as the bus tour fits a lot of sights into a short amount of time.
MEETING MY HOST FAMILY
Oh boy, this was an incredibly exciting part… probably the best part of the last month! When we all arrived at the airport and we were waiting to meet our new host families, it was very nerve racking because nobody wanted to be the first girl to go… everyone wanted to hang about and see how other girls met their families. It was so much fun and so heartwarming seeing the girls meet their families for the first time!
My host dad and oldest host kid arrived to pick me up. I had it in my head that I would most likely be shy and quiet when I first saw them… well, I was wrong haha. When I saw them I jumped with excitement, ran over to them, hugged my host dad and scared my host kid in the process… (some tall Irish girl running at you probably isn’t the most calming of introductions!) It was incredibly cute too because they were wearing matching outfits and sunglasses. They told me they had ordered in some pizza for dinner… it was at this point I knew I was going to be ok!
When we arrived at their house and I met my host mum, the babies and the old au pair (she stayed for a week after I arrived) I instantly felt as ease. Their personalities are perfect and similar to mine. Before meeting them, I was scared that maybe we wouldn’t be a good match in person, what if it’s not like it was online? These are genuine and common fears for any au pair to have, we are moving in with strangers so to be worried about how compatible you are, is totally normal. However, I was reassured almost instantly that I had made the right choice and still to this very minute I feel so lucky to have matched with this family. They are everything I could have hoped for and more. Like I said in my previous post, this family are the first ones I skyped with and there’s always that thought of ‘should I go with the first family? What about others?’…. I am SO happy that I stuck with my gut instinct because they are really supportive and we already have a good, open relationship which is so important to have between au pairs and host families.
MY FIRST MONTH
Well, I feel like I have done SO much in the short amount of time I have been here. So far, I have travelled with my host family to Florida for one week, to sum it up in a few words: hot, hot and hot. I’ve been to a Yankee game at the Yankee Stadium, I’ve been to Central park, walked the high line, visited Times Square (every time I go to New York ha!), visited the Empire State Building and I’ve been back to the Top of the Rock at the Rockefeller Centre. I attempted to go to the Brooklyn bridge but got really lost and ended up underneath it… quite the achievement I know! I had a pizza slice in New York, went on the subway by myself (and survived), visited the 9/11 memorial, went to Grand Central Station and met some really great girls. I have one particular friend who is over 21, so we have a lot of fun at the weekends where we go out in a nearby town and we’ve also been out in NYC once which was so much fun!
Ah, culture shock, it’s a natural part of the transition process as an au pair but it is certainly not a fun one. Getting up and moving thousands of miles is not something to be taken lightly and you need to be prepared to experience some degree of culture shock. So far, I have had one ‘freak out’… I was overthinking every tiny little thing, I was letting it all build up, I was getting frustrated with the time difference and not being able to speak with my family when I needed too. I was frustrated with missing out on things at home and then most of all I was missing my family. So, I decided that I would message my local Community Counselor and talk about it with her. She reassured me that I’m doing fine, she told me I was experiencing culture shock and reassured me that I will get through it. I am really glad that I’ve had that freak out and cry already because I feel like it’s healthy and normal… not everyone may feel like this but for me it was and I instantly felt 100 times better. The following day I also spoke to my host dad about how I was feeling, this also made me feel much better because I was reminded of how lucky I am with my host family and the support I’m receiving from them. This event really helped me to recognize the amazing support I have here in America, I was reminded that I am not alone, there’s a whole community out there willing to help when you feel a bit overwhelmed or if you need a little help.
So, if you are also experiencing some culture shock and have had a little ‘freak out’ like I did, my advice to you would be:
- If you need to cry… cry! Get it allllll out and I promise you’ll feel like you’re a new person after, like you’ve shed most of your stress and negative energy through those tears!
- Talk to someone – whether it’s your host parents, your family back home, your Community Counselor or some of your other au pair friends. I am lucky to have a friend from university who is an au pair here in New Jersey, she has been au pairing for over a year now and she gave me some really great advice.
- You are doing a great job. This is something I struggled with…. was I doing a good enough job? Am I doing everything right? Is there anything I can improve on? Do the kids like me? If you’re like me thinking all of this during your FIRST MONTH…. breath. This is your first month, you’re brand new, you’re adjusting to life in a new country and to living with a new family, doing all of that at the same time is pretty intense! I expected absolute perfection from myself and put a lot of pressure on myself. I shouldn’t have and now I’m trying to relax and embrace this experience, because every single day is a new day of learning. You won’t pick everything up the first, second or even third time of doing it… & guess what? that’s ok! Take your time, ask for help and breath. You’re doing a great job, no doubt!
Much love, Carrie.