Is it road-tripping across the USA with your best friends? Is it eating pancakes with your host family on a Sunday morning? Is it slowly growing into a more complete version of yourself—more confident and capable than you ever could have imagined?
The truth is: It’s all of these things and more. Being an au pair is an opportunity to travel, learn and grow in a new country. It’s a chance to push yourself outside your comfort zone and face new challenges, head on. It’s about forming connections, making memories and experiencing the moments—big and small—that add up to a year you’ll never forget.
Being an au pair is choosing to come to the USA to embrace a new chapter in your life. It’s deciding you’re ready for a change, and that you’re prepared to pack up and move to a new corner of the world to get it.
On paper, being an au pair means coming to America on a J-1 cultural exchange visa, living with an American host family, and caring for their children. As part of the U.S. Department of State-regulated au pair program, you are eligible to care for children no more than 45 hours per week with 1.5 consecutive days off per week, at least one full weekend off per month, and a full 2 weeks of paid, off-duty holiday per year. You’re also given a full travel month at the end of your visa period to explore with friends and see new parts of the USA!
In exchange for being a caregiver to your host children, you’re given a weekly stipend of at least $195.75 and free room and board. Your host family also will give you $500 towards fulfilling required educational credits at an American college or university.
Beyond being a caregiver, however, being an au pair means being able to travel as much as possible, immerse yourself in the English language, and meet new friends from around the world. It means trying new foods, learning new slang, and embracing a new culture.
You may be wondering, too, what the term “au pair” literally means. “Au pair” is French for “on pair”—which reflects the kind of relationship an au pair is meant to have with their host family: One that is mutually beneficial, respectful and enriching.
While there may be certain requirements for what it means to be an au pair in the literal sense—like being between 18 and 26 years old, being a non-smoker, and being unmarried with no children—being an au pair is about so much more than the traits necessary to qualify for the U.S. visa program.
It’s about being a leader, a friend, and a role model to your host children, host parents and community members. It’s about being fearless, and adventurous, and open to trying new things. It’s also about being receptive to becoming a more confident, independent, and fully-realized version of yourself.
At the end of the day, being an au pair means embarking on a journey of self discovery that can change your whole life for the better. Are you ready to begin yours?