Josiane Wilson – BSc (Hons) Psychology
After graduating in Summer 2019, I took a year abroad as part of the University’s Erasmus Traineeship+ scheme. I moved to France and lived in Paris for a year as an au pair.
During my third year of university, I decided I wanted to take some time abroad before starting full-time employment. I have always loved the French language but I was not very confident at all using it; I had studied French at school but stopped when I went to university. I wanted to develop my language skills as I knew this skill is an asset when working professionally. I chose Paris particularly because of its culture; it is full of art, beautiful architecture and history. I also did not want to be too far away from home; the Eurostar meant my friends and family could visit which was really nice!
"My au pair experience benefited me both personally and professionally; it improved my cross cultural communication skills, developed my confidence and improved my French language skills. Overall my year abroad encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, be independent and develop intercultural adaptability."
I researched ways I could move to France for a year but almost all my options seemed expensive and not very feasible. I then learnt about au pairing and it was a perfect fit. I used AuPairWorld which is a very popular and free service matching potential au pairs with host families.
The main purpose of working as an au pair is for the cultural exchange. Normally your accommodation, food and travel is provided and in return you are considered a member of the family where you help take care of your host’s children. You are given pocket money and work up to a legal limit of 30 hours a week. This allows you freedom to explore the area, meet new people and flexibility to take language classes in your free time.
I was incredibly lucky in my experience and found such a wonderful host family! I looked after three young children aged 3, 6 and 7 and taught them English. I was fortunate enough to live in the 16th arrondissement - just a 20 minute walk away from the Eiffel Tower. I lived in a chambre-de-bonne above my host family’s apartment which meant I had privacy during my free time.
I had such a positive experience working as an au pair that I decided to do it again! Due to Covid-19, I extended my time in France and moved to Haute Savoie with a new host family who, this time, didn’t speak English. This meant I had the opportunity use and learn French 24/7 which was so rewarding and exciting!
"Au pairing complimented my psychology degree well - it was interesting seeing a new way of life from a cultural differences and individual differences perspective."
Au pairing complimented my psychology degree well - it was interesting seeing a new way of life from a cultural differences and individual differences perspective. Furthermore, it was interesting interacting with my host children and trying different methods to engage them, particularly when teaching them a new language (English). My youngest host child was three years old when I started, it was really interesting seeing how she used language, body language and watching her overall language acquisition journey. Being an au pair and having an interest in psychology goes hand in hand as there are lots of interesting things you will notice from a cognitive and behavioural perspective.
My au pair experience benefited me both personally and professionally; it improved my cross-cultural communication skills, developed my confidence and improved my French language skills. Overall my year abroad encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone, be independent and develop intercultural adaptability.
Au pairing is for everyone, whether you want to speak your native language or if you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and work in a different language - the choice is yours!