When you have been in the US for 6 months, you will receive an email from Cultural Care where they ask you about extension. You will be asked to take a quiz to figure out if the extension program is something for you or not. I want to share with you how I made my decision. It was not easy and I had so many mixed feelings about it.
I was on the train—on my way to New York for weekend classes—when I received the email from Cultural Care. I took the quiz and got the result. I was encouraged to consider the extension program. I really did not know what to do. On one hand, I did miss my family back home and it would be so nice to go home again. On the other hand, this was the best experience in my life so far and I felt that I had more to experience … that I wasn’t ready to leave quite yet.
I talked a lot with my friends and family both back home in Sweden but also here in America. And I remember a few words that my dad told me, which helped a lot to make the decision: “You are thinking about extension—that means that you are not ready to come home yet. This is your time, get as much as you can out of it. Enjoy it to the max and we will still be here when it is time for you to come back home.”
So, I decided to extend. But the decision-making did not end there.
The next question was if I wanted to extend with a new family or with my current host family. So, the thoughts began again. I really like the song from the first Descendants movie: “a million thoughts in my head, should I let my heart keep listening?” – Mal from Disney’s Descendants.
I really had a thousand thoughts in my head. I really liked my current host family, I had good friends and I was a part of a local dance group. I had my life there and I was really happy—but I also wanted to see more of the country … to experience something different. I made a list with all the positive things about extending with a new family vs. with my current family.
My current host mom encouraged me to choose a new family. She said: “if I were you, I would have wanted to gain more experiences and to see more of the country. The life here on the farm will continue and just be more of the same.” So, I finally made the decision to once again give up everything and move to a new family. It was scary but still so exciting. I got two different au pair experiences in one!
It was time to fill out the extension application. The second question is how long you want to extend for—6, 9, or 12 months. I thought that 6 months would be too little for me personally to get into the groove with a new family, their routines and everything. So I had 9 or 12 months left. I chose 12 months. I don’t really know why, but it just felt like the right decision.
I have talked about extension with different au pairs and everyone’s reasons to extend or not extend are different. We are all different people, of course, with our own lives and experiences. Someone might not extend because they miss their life back home—they may have work, an apartment or a boyfriend or girlfriend waiting for them.
I think that a lot of au pairs are afraid of not finding a new “perfect match.” I know that I was! I felt at home with my current family, and did not know if I would be able to find another one that would be just as good as the first one.
Whether you are thinking about extending or not, make lists with the positive things about your options. Do not focus on the negative things—keep your focus on the positive things. It’s always easier to go to a new place if it has a lot of positive things than if there is a lot of negative things.
Be a little wild. You have already moved from your home country once and you survived—so why would you not be able to do it again? Goodbyes are always hard, but remember that with social media the world is so much smaller. You will stay in touch with friends and family. Share your experience with them and they will still be there to support you.
It is hard to make the decision by yourself; after all, it is a huge decision to make. It might be just as life-changing as the decision to become an au pair in the first place! Listen to your heart and remember to do what will make you the happiest. Don’t feel bad if you choose to move on with a new family. Your current host family just wants you to be happy in the end.
This is your time, your chance, your experience. No one can take it from you, so listen to your heart and do what it tells you to do. Whatever will make you the happiest will be the right decision for you.
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