COUNTDOWN 13 DAYS: Flight information

So, guys, it’s only 13 days left until I leave for the USA! I can’t believe it and I most likely will not understand what this means until I’m on my way home again. To celebrate this and to sort everything out these last days I’m starting a new series that I’ll call “COUNTDOWN”. Every post will be about one of the many things that these days mean and what I have to do before I get on that plane. So let’s go!

Last Thursday I finally got my flight information! In the Travel Kit it says you’ll get it at least 6 weeks before, and on your profile it says four weeks before. I got mine, as you could imagine, only 2,5 weeks before my departure date. This means I can’t return my carry on which exceeds the baggage limit American Airlines has set. It is within the 115 cm but a bit shorter, and instead a bit too wide.  So yey for that… But I’ll call AA tomorrow and ask what this means for my lovely suitcase.

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So these are my flights. On my way to New York and the training school, I make a stop at Heathrow in London for 2,5h. Then I have a 7h flight in front of me to enjoy with in flight movie entertainment. At last that’s what British Airways’ website says. I’m a bit bummed though that I won’t arrive at the training school until after midnight. I was looking forward to meeting my fellow au pairs and get to know everyone better. But I’ll manage. The girls, and boys, seem wonderful and I’ll tell you in another post about how I got in contact with them.

After my days on Long Island I board a plane that will take me to Denver, CO and to my host family! Luckily I’ll land later during the day, which means that I’ll hopefully be picked up by the whole family. At least it would be awesome!

Better late than never…

My trip to Stockholm was quite the unexpected journey. I took the night train the day before my meeting and spent 8h half sleeping and half awake until I arrived at the station 4h before I was to have my meeting at the embassy. Even though I come from the third largest city in Sweden I still felt out of place in the morning pulse of Stockholm central station, but I took my time, had breakfast at Starbucks and figured everything out. The embassy advise you to only bring the important papers and documents for the meeting and that was why I decided to lock everything else in a locker at the station and only bring the absolute necessary like bus tickets and documents to the meeting. I took the bus so that I would be there 40 minutes before my meeting and I’m glad for it. The embassy was fenced in so me and the rest of the visitors waited in a line 10m away from the guard building by the fence for about 30 minutes while we one by one was allowed to go through the security check. It contains showing them your passport, belongings and the soles of your shoes. Then you remove your jacket and are allowed inside to go through the airport-like checkpoint. Guess if I was pleased when the guard, very pleased, said: “Well, that’s perfect.” when I showed him my nearly empty bag through the window… 616924

When inside of the main building I waited for my turn to give them my papers and just 5min later I had my interview through a glass window with a woman that asked me about five questions about my year to come. An example is: What are the names of your host children? They also took my fingerprints, signed my DS-2019 and took my passport for the visa.

The whole spectacle took about 75min and was a very simple process when I was prepared and I got my passport back only 5 days later! Unfortunately the weather in Stockholm was horrible with a lot of rain so I spent most of my time in a few shops and at the station meeting quite a few of interesting people. My travel companion, that’s what I call him at least, I met at the station before my departure in Malmö and his Swedish was unfortunately really bad. I helped the man to find his place on the train and later, after my meeting I ran into him again in Stockholm and helped him again. Those of you who are Swedish know my problem when I say: personal space disturbance. He did not get the message when I had my headphones in and read my Game of Thrones-book. For the others out there, us Swedes are quite cut off from each other and rarely speak to strangers. We like our own space to be stranger free. Sad but true.

I had one favourite individual though. I sat, reading the information about my job I was supposed to start the next week, when a guy not much older than me asked in English if the other seat was free. For a few minutes we were quiet and he played some game on his phone, until he suddenly started talking to me. He had been in Lithuania for two years and was now on a journey with his family through Europe. He said he was on his way to Copenhagen and later I learnt that the guy speaking perfect English was in fact from the USA. From Ohio to be exact, the state next to Colorado. Me, the girl who is so curious about anything American, was so stunned and unfortunately our encounter ended just a few moments later and we said goodbye without introducing each other. But that little meeting made the rest of my 8h on the station sweep by, because i had just experienced my first taste on the American friendliness!

If you have any questions about my embassy visit or about the visa application, just leave a comment!

On my way to the EMBASSY!

In one hour I will take the bus into Malmö and from there, I will take the train at 10pm to Stockholm. At 10am tomorrow I have my interview at the American Embassy. All I can really think of is that there will be real Americans there! Now it sounds like I’m going to the zoo, but it feels so much closer when I think of that! It will be my first contact with the USA, even if it’s in Sweden. So, wish me luck and I’ll return on Thursday with news about my visa and everything that happened in Stockholm!

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY

I just wanted to say that I hope everyone has a great 4th of July!

I cant believe I will be spending the next one in the USA and actually celebrating it! Such a weird feeling that I just want to embrace, but that’s so hard… I’m leaving for the Promised Land in just 6 weeks and I have so much to do until I’m ready for takeoff! In just 2 days I will be on my way to Stockholm for my visa interview.

Wish me luck!

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My host family

I thought I’d tell you a bit about my host family and my schedule! When I arrive the 17th of August I will spend 5 days at the Cultural Care Training School on Long Island in New York. The 21st of August, I will board a plane that will take me to Denver, Colorado, where I will spend a year taking care of 4 kids. Now you might be thinking that that seems really tough, but I have a big perk! I will only work 26h per week, when most au pairs work 35h to 45h per week. The parents work from home, which means that they will take the kids to school most days and my day will not start until 12pm when I pick up the youngest from pre-school. The day will usually end at 5pm and I’ll most likely be free during the weekends. So I will have short days with a lot of action!

So, I’ll live in the Denver area and I didn’t really think about where I wanted to live. A dream would be where it doesn’t snow during the winter, but when Denver came up, it seemed like a good place to spend my year. I’ve read a bit about it, like that the city has over 300 days of sunlight, more sunlight than places on Hawaii! Crazy, right? It’s also got the second best drinking water in all of the USA, so no bottled water for me! Denver is at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, which means that it’s close to skiing resorts! Yey for that! Not that I’m big on skiing, but you can always improve!

But back to the family! They seem really great! I’ll have the choice to hang out with them as much as I want and the kids are just adorable. They have two boys and two girls, all between the ages of 5-9. So they will probably be a handful, but I know I’ll learn a lot!

I would love to tell you more, but right now, I don’t know much more… I made the final match about 3-4 weeks ago and it feels great, because they seem so normal! But I still have a lot left to find out about them. So, until then, this is all I’ve got.denver-co-cityscape

The application process 2/4

So you’ve chosen an agency to sign up with? Awesome! I chose Cultural Care, which meant I didn’t have to pay anything until I actually chose my host family. You can read more about how I chose here. The application process can be quite drag if you’re not like me, really excited about boarding a plane to whatever country you want to be an au pair in. Since I signed with Cultural Care, it’s only their application process that I’m familiar with, but some or a majority of this information will be useful for other ways of applying for an au pair job.

First things first, you will have to go to an information meeting set up by Cultural Care. At this meeting they will tell you all about the program and it’s perks and you will most likely get the opportunity to do your interview. In this interview you get to talk with a Cultural Care contact person (the one holding the meeting) and you will be asked questions in both English and your native language. This is a way for Cultural Care to find out if you are able to communicate in English and get a feel of what type of person you are.

After the meeting you will get login information if you haven’tSkärmavbild 2015-07-01 kl. 16.38.26 already and you can begin filling out your application. Cultural Care advise it’s au pairs to start the process 6 months before they’d like to leave for the USA, since it can take from a month to a whole year to find the right family. I started writing my application in October of 2014, and submitted it to be evaluated the 11th of May 2015. The first week I wrote like crazy and got to a point where I was about 72% finished. I had answered all the questions and had only the pictures, my references and the letter to the host family left. Then I had a long pause and continued the 8th of May until the 11th, which was a period of four intense days of writing and contacting people I wanted as my references. The only reason I as stressed in the end, was because Cultural Care offered a discount on 50% if you submitted your application when I did.

But what will you need in your application? Here are the important stuff:

  • Professional references, personal references and childcare references.
  • Between 5 and 20 pictures of you, your life and the children you care for, if possible.
  • A profile photo.
  • A letter to the host family where you get to show them who you are.
  • Other random information like the answers to why you want to work as an au pair, if you would be willing to live with a single parent and what view you have on the upbringing of children.

While working on your application you will be able to see your progress on the top of your home page. The photo above is from my application before I submitted it.

Tips and tricks:

  • Remember to choose your profile photo wisely. It will be the first thing a host family sees when looking at your application so make sure you are smiling!
  • Me honest in your application! You will live with this family and they’ll find out if you are different.
  • Don’t use google translate. It WILL show and writing yourself will help you improve your English.
  • Try not to repeat yourself and write down the important things, which means do not talk about anything else other than the subject at hand.
  • Since you only get to upload a maximum of 20 photos, a tip is to create collages to fit in all of your photos. Making them is easy and there are many free websites that gives you plenty of options.

And then, when you’re done with the application, you get to submit it! The website will tell you to compare your personal information with you passport and this is VERY important. If there is anything spelled out wrong you have to change it or it will cause trouble for you in the future!

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The research process 1/4

I decided that I wanted to go through the steps of becoming an au pair, since it can be a lengthy process.  Let’s call it “The process of becoming an au pair”! This will be a series in four parts where I will discuss all the stages, tell you how I did it and give you some tips and tricks.

THE RESEARCH PROCESS

So, first and foremost, what is the research process? Well, before you can start filing an application, you need to know a few tings.

  1. In what country do you want to be an au pair?
  2. Are there any agencies traveling to your dream country? If yes, which agency do you want to help you along the way?
  3. Do you have the qualifications needed for getting a job as an au pair? Skärmavbild 2015-07-01 kl. 13.44.20

Of course there is a lot more to think about, but let’s start with no 1, shall we? There are many countries in which you can work as an au pair. The most common choice is the USA, where I’ll be going. To work as an au pair in the U.S. you will have to go through an agency, since the American authorities regulates the program. This means that working as an au pair in the USA without being a member of an organisation is illegal. But the au pair program being regulated is a positive thing, it means that the organisations and agencies have to follow rules that the government agreed on, which protects both the au pair, the host family and the agency from any misunderstandings.

So, going to no 2, which agencies are available from your country and which one do you feel most comfortable with? Remember that this is the organisation that will help you through the application process and hopefully after being accepted as well. When I made my choice, I found about 4-5 different agencies working from Sweden. Some seemed a bit unprofessional, while others didn’t offer me the things I needed to feel comfortable. In the end, I chose between two agencies: Cultural Care Au Pair and STS-Education. I had never heard of Cultural Care before, while STS was a common organisation since they arrange exchange trips during the summer break in Sweden. I read through each organisations websites thoroughly and found that Cultural Care had two big upsides: They only worked with the au pair-program and you didn’t sign up for anything until you accepted a family. I feel, personally, that a smaller agency working with just one thing helps with the focus on the applicants. A big organisation like STS, have so many people to take care about, that I somehow didn’t feel comfortable with signing up with them.

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So I started to research what I needed to qualify as an au pair. Cultural Care demanded that you had at least 200 h of childcare experience, either caring for a sibling or working at a childcare facility. I never got the chance to work with children professionally, except for a few times that I left out of my application. I have over 4000 hours of childcare experience since I help out a lot when it comes to my younger siblings, so that wouldn’t be a problem. The only things I needed to do was getting my driver’s license and finish high school. And wait 2 years for me to actually be ready.

Tips and tricks:

  • Figure out what you need and find the agency that can give you just that.
  • Make sure to do your research, some programs demand that you study at a university, while some doesn’t.
  • Ask neighbors and family friends if you can help them out with their kids. It doesn’t have to be a paid job to count.
  • Try to get your driver’s license as soon as possible, since the more driving experience you have, the more comfortable you will be in front of the wheel in another country.

Did this help? Do you have any more questions or things I should add, then just leave a comment!

Did this help? Do you have any more questions or things I should add, then just leave a comment!

Welcome to the Au Pair Dream!

I’m Hanna and in August I will begin my year as an au pair in the USA. To keep family and friends updated, I created this blog so that they can follow me on my journey. But I also created it to help current and future au pairs with the time before and after their departure to the U.S. The blog will mainly be in English to be accessible to au pairs all over our planet, but in some posts I will add the Swedish translation!

So if you just want to know more about the job au pairs do, what my life will look like in my host family or need tips and tricks when it comes to packing before you leave your home country, I bet you’ll find something that interests you. As soon as I get to the daily stuff, these posts will be packed with photos of my new life across the globe!

Until next time, have a great day!

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