Living with a host family and working as an au pair can be a rewarding experience. Picture: Pexels
Living with a host family and working as an au pair can be a rewarding experience. Picture: Pexels

Consider au pair, a chance to travel and work abroad

By MaryAnne Isaac Time of article published Feb 26, 2021

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Durban - Does a change in scenery, meeting new people and experiencing a new culture seem tempting? While you think about your answer, why not consider becoming an au pair?

An au pair travels to a foreign country, for six months to a year, to live with a host family. Your core role is to help your host family with childcare and light chores. You receive free accommodation, meals, a monthly stipend and opportunities to travel and study within the country.

Selina du Toit, the manager of OVC Durban, says: “Living with a host family and working as an au pair is an unique and rewarding experience.”

“Your responsibilities, as an au pair, are limited to childcare and related duties. You will not be expected to perform tasks that are not related to children or include heavy manual labour. However, as a family member, you may be asked to help participate in duties that a typical family member would help with.”

The responsibilities will differ according to the age of the child under your care. You can care for babies, toddlers or school-going children.

Au pairs are responsible for providing quality childcare for 30 to 45 hours a week. These include:

  • Playing with the children and keeping them safe.
  • Preparing meals and snacks for the children.
  • Helping to keep the children’s rooms tidy.
  • Bathing and dressing the children.
  • Helping school-age children by packing their lunches, taking them to school and helping with their homework.
  • Entertaining the children and teaching them about your culture.
  • Taking the children on outings to parks, playgroups and other activities.
  • Travelling with your host family on holidays and providing care for the children.

However, due to Covid-19, mandatory tests must be conducted before entering most participating countries. The US is a popular choice among au pair candidates. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that it would be mandatory for people travelling to the US, by air, to show a negative Covid-19 test. The new rule includes all au pairs.

It is highly recommended that you book an appointment for a Polymerase Chain Reaction test 72 hours (about 3 days) before departure, so that you get your result in time to make your flight. A PRC test is considered reliable and can detect the virus within days of infection, even if you’re showing no immediate symptoms. Travel restrictions and requirements are always changing, so it is important to keep informed with airline and travel updates of the country you wish to stay in.

Du Toit encourages those aspiring to become au pairs to research the agency they wish to apply through and to do credibility checks on social media.

“It's always disheartening when we hear of au pairs who get less than they bargain for. This merely reiterates the need to deal with reliable agencies such as OVC. It's vital that au pairs evaluate the legitimacy of the international partners involved before signing up with a local agent.

“After all, this is the company who is ultimately responsible for the calibre of international families signed up on the programme, the facilities available to au pairs and the overall quality of the au pair’s experience abroad.”

Why you should consider being an au pair:

1. Personal development and growth

Living abroad will help you become independent and confident. You will emerge as a stronger version of yourself, and will be able to gain a broader insight of the world. The folks back home will be amazed at the new you.

2. Cultural exploration

You will get to experience a new culture and way of life, while also sharing your own. It’s an amazing feeling when you get to learn something new.

3. Work experience

While enjoying your international experience, you will find that being an au pair will help shape your future. You will obtain work experience for your CV, develop soft skills and buy time to think about your future career.

4. You get to explore international travel

You will have the opportunity to visit several popular landmarks, amusement parks and places you get to see on TV only. How cool is that! Remember, you do get days off.

5. Short-term learning courses

You will get an opportunity to do short-term learning courses at an American university. And the best part is that it’s all paid for and you will gain an international educational experience.

6. A lifetime of memories

You will get to meet new people, improve your life, experience something new and make special memories together. I’m sold!

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