If you’re a social media stalker, you probably already have an idea of what seems to happen at orientation. You would have looked at the all the au pair hashtags out there to get a glimpse into what life is like at orientation. All play and no work right? Touring New York, swimming in the pool and endless group selfies.
Well, sorry to burst your bubble it’s not all giggles and selfies. While yes this does happen and I’ve got the pictures to show it, there is a lot of serious stuff that happens as well.
SO WHAT IS ORIENTATION?
Orientation is a three- (or four-)day mandatory course you attend when you first arrive to the United States. Even us returnee au pairs have to attend it each time you begin the program. If your host parents would like you to partake in the ‘AAA driving course’, you will arrive on the Sunday to be able to attend the course on the Monday of your orientation week. The rest on the other hand arrives on the Monday, and has their first proper day of orientation on the Tuesday. I myself did not attend the AAA driving course, so I will be referring to orientation as a three-day-programme.
Having that said, they say its three days but the first day is your travel day/arrival. There is no classroom time, so I normally wouldn’t really count it. As Au Pair in America is a legal program, they are required by law to provide an orientation. And we are required to attend. They cover a vast array of topics from child safety, child development, first aid, adapting to new cultures and much, much more.
WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE LIKE?
Orientation is busy. Very busy. Early starts and late finishes. Throw in some jet lag and language translation – let’s just say you’re a little tired. However, it’s also super fun and you’ll make friends for life in these 3 days. There is lots of information to cover and a lot of it will be repeated from the pre-departure training you must complete. The days can be long at times, mainly because the staff talk slow for those who need to translate. So if you’re worries about your English not being good enough for orientation – believe me, you have nothing to worry about!
The content can seem a little tedious, however it is necessary information that is required to be covered. Below was the schedule for my orientation. Obviously, it may change when you arrive but just to give you an idea of what my days consisted of:
- You leave your home country.
- At New York, after you have collected your bags, you are greeted by a team member from APIA. Sometimes you may have to wait for more girls to arrive before you leave (I had to wait 1 ½ hours).
- You then catch the shuttle to the hotel where you are greeted by staff.
- The staff at the hotel take you to the conference room where you meet the orientation staff, receive your schedules and your travel information to host families.
- Depending on the time of day you arrive you may have the day to yourself or you may arrive late into the night.
- Breakfast is available from 7:00 am (wake-up call is usually around 6:30 am) because…
- … of the early start at 8 am!
- You get an official welcome to the USA, and meet lots of new au pairs
- They cover some pretty serious topics on this day and speak about cultural adaptation, infants, TV and social media, activities to do with each age group and more!
- Later that day, you’ll get to go an a NYC tour (which is optional though). If your host parents haven’t paid for it already, you’ll have the chance to buy a ticket at orientation (some host families gift this for you, but not always, so don’t expect them to).
- Departure is at 5 pm, return back to the hotel at about 10:30-11 pm. You get a tour of NYC – stop offs are at Top of the Rock, Times Square and down near the water to see the Statue of Liberty. There are many more fun things to see, but stay on the bus for these sights. It’s a great bonding experience and lots of fun!
- Another early wake-up call
- Start the day at 7:45 for American Red Cross Safety workshop – all about pediatric and infant first aid
- Then some more discussions on varied topics such as stranger danger, communicating with host families, discipline, expectations
- Then you leave to go to your host families around 2 pm. There will be lots of tears and hugs, I can promise you that. There are usually 3 travel options:
- Airport. You go to the airport to either catch a flight or be picked up by your host family
- Train station. You catch a train (usually for the local girls)
- Pick-Up at Hotel. You get picked up at the hotel or APIA office
- Then the time is FINALLY here where you get to meet your host families face-to-face! Yes you will be nervous, excited, scared, happy, all of the above. But it is the best moment to finally see them in person.
So as you can see, orientation is jam packed full of teaching, fun, city tours, jet lag, tiredness, American food and great friends. You will meet girls from all over the world, and some friends you will keep forever. If you want to know more here is the link for the orientation webpage.
See you again soon!