Becoming an au pair involves packing a suitcase, moving to a new country and living with people you’ve never met. For a whole year, you’re going to be away from everything you know—so you’re going to be pushed out of your comfort zone at least once or twice. And that’s ok! It’s good for you to step out of that place you feel most comfortable.
A comfort zone is a ‘psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person.’ It’s the place that you are most in control of your surroundings, when you’re around people you feel comfortable with or when you’re doing something you’ve done before.
Personally, my comfort zone involves staying in my own home, talking to the same 5 people on a daily basis, re-visiting the same stores and restaurants because I know what I like, and just keeping myself to myself.
Your personal comfort zone could be different to what mine is. It could be that you enjoy being in big groups of people or visiting 3 different restaurants in one week. Everyone’s level of comfort is different.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has given me the opportunity to learn more about myself and understand what type of person I want to be. I have experienced so much this past year—things that I never would have been able to do had I decided to stay in my little bubble in Wales.
When you make the decision to do something new or to try something different, you are not only gaining that experience or ticking it off your bucket list. There is so much more to it than that. Every time you step out of your comfort zone, you are growing as a person; you learn that you can do it and that you’re not going to fail.
This time last year I was so scared about moving to the US. That to me was a huge step out of my comfort bubble. ‘What if I failed?’ ‘Will I want to come home early?’ ‘What if they don’t like me?’ ‘Will I be ok?’. Those were the questions that were going through my head. But I was so determined to do this that I started to ask myself ‘why not?’
It’s so important to believe in yourself and to say ‘yes’ even if you’re uncertain about the outcome. I promise you that it makes a big difference in your life and the amazing experiences you’re going to have.
By this point you may be wondering, ‘how do I step out of my comfort zone?’ Well, I’m going to give you a little advice on how I’ve managed to do this.
First of all, it is hard. It didn’t come easy to me and for the first couple of weeks I found it hard to make friends because I’m not a very outgoing person who talks to everybody. I started telling myself that ‘I can do it’ and I reminded myself of one of the reasons why I decided to become an au pair; to meet new people and have friends from around the world.
I came up with 5 tips that I found useful when stepping out of my comfort zone:
If you struggle making friends while in a big group of people, that’s ok. Start by contacting one au pair from your area and meet them for coffee. Your LCC will provide you with a list of au pairs in your group and their contact details.
This is my favorite one. As someone who likes to plan and have some sort of structure to their day, a sudden change of plan used to be hard and uncomfortable for me. Working with kids, there can be a lot of unexpected changes that happen throughout the day. Learning to expect these changes has helped me step out of my comfort zone and not worry about what would happen if the unexpected does happen.
Growing up I was always told that I can do anything I put my mind to. I didn’t believe that was true—I just thought that I couldn’t do it, and that if I tried I would fail. But now I know that I can do more than what I thought I could a year ago. There are numerous different ways that something could turn out to be. You might worry that you can’t run a marathon because you’re not one of the fastest in the 100m—but in reality, if you trained and worked on it you could be a natural long distance runner, you never know until you try.
Probably one of the most important things in life is believing you can be whatever you want to be. You’re probably reading this because you’re already an au pair or want to become one. You already know or think that you can live in the US for a year. Remember that. Remind yourself why you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone; to grow as a person, learn new things, tick off things from your bucket list and to make the most of your year.
Be eager to grab every opportunity that is given to you while being an au pair. I had never kayaked before coming here, so I was nervous—but I decided to take advantage of the opportunity and I had so much fun. I can’t wait to do it again.
I’ve been in the US for almost a year now and I’ve been pushed out of my comfort zone more than a few times. And I am so grateful for that because it has given me the opportunity to experience 5 American holidays, travel to 10 different states, hike the Grand Canyon, kayak down the Colorado River in Arizona, attempt paddle boarding in San Diego, have a white Christmas in upstate New York, meet some amazing people from around the world and gain a second family.
Stepping out of my comfort zone has helped me to become a better, more well-rounded person who is about to start her second year in the US with more opportunities to step out of my bubble coming my way—and instead of running from them, I’m going to grab them because I know now how important it is.