Ways to make new friends as an Au Pair

Ways to make new friends as an Au Pair

Moving to a new country where you do not necessarily speak the language and know no one can be incredibly daunting. Having experienced that just this year, it can be difficult at first, but there are lots of ways of meeting and making new friends. It’s only after a year of living away in another country has the amazing amount of possibilities of doing just this become apparent to me, and I wish I had known sooner! Hence why I am writing this blog post – to help all those becoming Au Pairs to meet new people when moving to a new country. Just because this blog post is aimed primarily at Au Pairs, does not mean that International Students or anyone in general cannot follow these tips – they’re made for everyone!

Language Classes

One of the best places to meet other Au Pairs is at you language classes. Most Au Pairs will attend a language school of some kind, and depending on the school most of the other students will be Au Pairs. In fact, my school was primarily filled with Au Pairs, and my weekly classes were just Au Pairs! This makes it a really easy way to meet others. The good thing about being in an environment like this is that you’re all in the same boat – you are all looking after kids, probably living with a family and in a different country to where you call home. I met some of my best friends in my class, and am so glad that I did!

I would suggest inviting people for coffee or a walk around the city after class. That way you can talk to the other students without interrupting the class!

Language Exchange

This is one of the ways to meet people that I completely regret not doing sooner. Language Exchange is just that – you meet with someone to exchange your language for theirs. Typically, once you’ve exchanged a few emails or messages online, you’ll meet somewhere in public like a nice cafe and just talk! I met a great friend doing just this – She helped with my French and vice versa.    The great thing about Language Exchange is that both parties benefit. It’s also a great way to meet those living in the city, whether they be newbies like yourself or natives. A better way for learning the cultures of the country your in and their language is to be become friends with a native, which is exactly what language exchange offers.

Whilst I’ve only used Conversation Exchange, there are other websites out there to check out for Language Exchanges, for example: My Language Exchange and Italki.

Facebook – Au Pair Groups

There are a wealth of Facebook groups out there devoted to Au Pairs or International students. To find them all you need to do is search ‘Au Pair [and the country you are in]’. There should be plenty of groups to join. Once joining, you can read other people’s posts and post yourself.

In fact, one of the Au Pair groups that I joined hosted an international picnic for all the Au Pairs interested to come and meet others. It was at one of these picnics that I met some of my bestest friends – and I’m so glad that I did! I had nearly decided not to attend, but realised that even though I didn’t know anybody, it’s a great way to meet new people.

Many Au Pair Facebook groups host other events and I recommend checking them out. You never know, like me you might find some people who will become your closest friends whilst living abroad.

Meet Up.com

If you don’t know what Meet Up is, then where have you been!? Meet Up is an online social platform ‘that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world.’ Basically, there are loads of ‘clubs’ or ‘societies’ if you will on Meet Up, where you can join any group depending on your interests and hobbies. For example, there are loads of fitness groups you can join. Whilst in Paris, some friends and I joined one where you got to partake in boot camps at a discounted price. If fitness isn’t your thing then do not fret, because there is literally a group for everything! There are lots of language exchange groups, groups for those interested in Photography and much more.

With Meet Up, you’re likely to meet a whole host of people from all over the city. Whilst there might not be as many Au Pairs, there will be lots of native people or expats, making it a great way to make new friends.

Join a Sports Club

Depending on what level and your passion, joining a sports club can be a great way to meet local people. Whilst here in Paris, I joined a local tennis club. Thankfully I was able to get a slight discount on the yearly fee due to being an Au Pair and wanting to play for the team, otherwise I doubt I would have been able to afford it. Joining the tennis club meant that not only did I meet new people, but as part of a team I was able to join in competitions and play for the Ladies team. I made lots of new friends through that, and even managed to get an English Tutoring Job for a family of one of the women I played with! So if you’re an avid sports fan and will devote the time to play in order to get your moneys worth, then I definitely recommend it.

Just speak to people! 

Whilst we’ve all been brought up with the motto ‘Never speak to Strangers’, sometimes it is a good thing to do just that. Normally you can suss out pretty quickly who looks ‘normal’ or not (though defining ‘normal’ is a whole other topic). I have had a few Au Pair friends make lots of new friends by doing that – talking to people! Whether on the metro, in a  park or in a bar, talking to people will open a new world of making friends. Just remember to be careful!

Have you been an Au Pair or perhaps an expat living in another country? If so, I’d love to hear your tips for those moving to a new place on how to make friends and meet others.

Weekend in Berlin

Weekend in Berlin

What a weekend! I have a surprise for many of you (for those who follow my instagram account, the surprise is unfortunately ruined…). Last weekend in France was a holiday, which meant that we had a four-day weekend. With so much time off, I decided it was the perfect time to go and visit one of my best friends, Sally. So, I headed of to Berlin! Yes, I spent the four-day weekend exploring the city and hanging out with one of my dearest pals.

Berlin is an awesome city. It was my first time there, and to Germany! Having studied German for five years with the expectation of going to visit the country with my family, you can probably imagine how excited I was to finally go. There is something really interesting about Berlin. As we wandered the city, I felt as if there was not ‘one’ Berlin. The capital is incredibly diverse, and as you progress around the city, it almost feels as if you yourself are traveling through different cultures and countries. Berlin is super cool and edgy, owning a fantastically active art and music scene. Although I could never see myself living there (Paris has stolen my heart), I would love to go and visit again.

My friend Sally is also an Au Pair, and her German ‘family’ owns a beautiful apartment right in the centre of the city. Being in such a central location meant that we saw and did lots of different things – of which I am currently writing in an upcoming blog photo diary post.

Overall I had an awesome weekend, and got to finally tick one of the cities that I have been desperate to visit! If you have been there, I would love to know what you thought of the city.

Geneva: Photo Diary

Geneva: Photo Diary

This is a very belated account of my mini-adventure to Geneva in February. So with out delay, here it is:

The day after my return from the Alps to Paris, an early 4am start took me onto my next adventure: less than two days in the city of Geneva with one of my best friends, Kate (don’t forget to check out her blog! https://wherekateresides.wordpress.com) Unfortunately for us, Geneva welcomed us with grey skies and light rain. Despite this, we were determined to make the most of the hours that we had in this fascinating city.

Our first day consisted of wandering around the streets, taking in all the different architecture. Whilst also looking in the windows in a few of the designer shops. Our first ‘tourist attraction’ was Saint Pierre Cathedral, situated in the old part of the city. I was surprised that the Cathedral was begun in the 12th century, and was therefore immediately captivated. In addition, we decided to head on down into the Archaeological site directly underneath the cathedral, wherein we explored the vast history of this beautiful building. Originally there had been a 6th century basilica, to which over the centuries had been developed and built upon. I’m really glad that we decided to go to the cathedral and down into the archaeological site. It was incredibly fascinating to learn all about the cathedral’s rich history, and it has definitely sparked some ideas and further questions that could possibly be explored in the future. After being taken back in time, as well as seeing one or two skeletons down below the cathedral, we decided to venture upwards and began are ascent up to the cathedral towers. From here we had great views of the city. Unfortunately, the sky was still gray, so we couldn’t see as far as we had hoped – it would have been amazing to have had clear blue skies to see the beautiful mountains in the distance. But alas.

After all of this, we continued to wander around the city. Geneva is quite small, so you can easily walk from one end to the other, which I’m sure we did! During our walking, we stopped of at the Grand Théâtre de Geneva, which is the home of the Opera. The building is stunning, although it must be noted that we went inside as one of the main reasons was to attempt to get some warmth! Whilst there we noted that there was a production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, performed by a company from New York, and spontaneously decided to go! After a slight mix-up with our seats (it turns out that we had been sold tickets for the following night – which was when we’d be back in Paris!), we enjoyed a much better view of the performance. It was Kate’s first time seeing an Opera and so I hope she enjoyed it, I just thank my stars it was in English.

With limited time on our second day, we started the morning with a trip to CERN, aka, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. Although I know little about Physics, I do recall the splitting of the atom taking place here in 2010. Unfortunately we were unable to take a tour of the full facilities, but we had the chance to explore the visitor section of the organisation. Entering into a dark and mysterious space, titled: ‘Universe of Particles’, we floated around absorbing all the information that we could, and then headed back to the city centre.

Luckily, our second day provided us with somewhat nicer weather, and so we took this opportunity to venture to the Conservatoire et Jardin botanics de la Ville de Geneve. Although still in the middle of winter, it was lovely to be able to wander around the various parts of the park. Although a highlight for us was probably watching all the people running and commentating on their weird running techniques! Sorry to any runners out there, and now I am afraid to run, knowing what we thought of others haha!

So there you have it. This pretty much sums up our mini-adventure to Geneva. Although we had two days to absorb all that the city has to offer, both Kate and I later agreed that you do not need any more additional days to see all the sites and things in the city. Due to the dull and miserable weather, I think a visit to Geneva in the Summer months would be much better, if anyone is thinking of going. If you’ve been to Geneva, I would love to hear about your travels and the things that you got up to!

You can see the rest of the photos that I took on my Flickr account here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/roisingrace/sets/72157650759707678/

 

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Skiing in the Alps, 2015

Skiing in the Alps, 2015

Recently I was lucky enough to go away on holiday with my Au Pair family for the week to their house in the Alps. Getting there required an 8 hour car journey from Paris, with an overnight stay near Lyon. After spending the majority of the journey sleeping or reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, one can only imagine the sheer excitement that I experienced once we turned a corner and the beautiful snow-covered mountains welcomed us. My Au Pair family’s house is located in a small city in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, called Barcelonnette. Here, you are surrounded by mountains, of which the peak of the highest is around 3412m – very high indeed!

Once we arrived at the house, it was clear that it had snowed for a long time before our arrival. Therefore, we had to make the most of it! After loading everything into the house, the kids and I put on our snow gear, grabbed a sledge each, and headed to the nearest hill for some sledging! (Which in French is: faire de la luge) That evening, the eldest son of the family arrived with his friends. This meant that tomorrow (Monday) would be the first day of skiing!

Now, the last time I went skiing must have been when I was 13 years old (feel free to correct me Mum!), and so, now being 21 you might think I was a little bit rusty. I must admit that my very first attempt to get on the ski lift failed, with me dragging along behind for a while… But nevertheless, I seemed to remember more than I thought! After having an hour-long private lesson, the ski instructor informed me that he had never seen someone progress as quickly as I had! Queue ego boost… So after another successful lesson the following day, this time with a group for two hours; my family decided to take me on one of their ski runs. This doesn’t sound too bad, or out of the ordinary, but wait. You see, my Au Pair family are amazing at skiing – they have all been doing it since they came straight out of the womb, and as for me, I’m not quite at their level (that’s putting it mildly) So this particular run that we did turned out to be the hardest one of the resort. After managing to ski off-piste, falling over several times, and attempting to ski down one slope with a gradient that felt somewhat like a straight vertical line down, I eventually finished. Despite sweating my entire body-weight, wanting to cry and praying to God to make sure that I survived, it was a very good feeling knowing that I had managed to make it to the bottom. However, I quickly declined the invite to go again, and decided to take a more leisurely blue run for my second day.

The next few days involved around 6 hours worth of time spent on the mountains, with lovely nights in by the fire. Although one evening, I joined the youngest child in my Au Pair family for a spot of Go-Karting. As everyone had turned down the invite to go with him, I thought why not? I was, however, quite apprehensive that it was going to be full of tiny kids, but boy was I surprised. Racing along us were grown men! They were indeed the fathers of some of the children racing. So whilst the youngsters were leisurely taking their time around the course, the men were absolutely going for it! I remained semi-relaxed, whilst not wanting to be overtaken by a child, and ended up coming fifth. Sadly, I think my career as a Go-Karter has come to an end, and I will bid adieu to this.

Ah yes, back to the skiing. One of the Ski resorts that we spent a lot of time at is called Pra-Loup. There are a couple of snow parks that I went to with my Au Pair kids, and it was such fun to be able to see them do jumps. Alas, I did not have a go. At the time I felt too scared, but now looking back, I wish just done it. Next time eh?

On the Saturday, the day before we were due to leave, we decided to have a day off from skiing. In the afternoon we just about to set off to take the kids sledging one last time, when all of a sudden the clouds burst open and it absolutely poured down with snow! It was amazing. I have never seen snow so thick. We spent that afternoon playing in the snow and sledging. I have so many funny videos of the children sledging, and falling off their sledges. I will wait till their 18th birthdays to embarrass them! That evening, we went for a lovely walk. There is something magical about the freshly fallen snow, especially as the sunlight glistens off the surface making it look almost like glitter or a precious diamond. It was what I imagine a winter wonderland to be like.

The next day we were supposed to leave apres-midi, in the afternoon in order to get back to Paris at a semi-resonable time. I had decided a few days earlier that I wasn’t going to ski that morning. The whole inconvenience of being all sweaty and smelling on the 8/9 hour car journey did not appeal to me. However, when I awoke that Sunday morning and saw the beautiful scenery, it was hard not to be tempted. So, indeed I went skiing for the last time this holiday. The snow was in perfect condition as well – where there was once ice, it was now fresh thick snow. Whilst the family went off-piste, I decided to venture on my own and went down a few of my favourite runs. By now, the hardest red runs were actually not too bad! So after a quite a few goes down the mountain, and without any falls (yay!), we bid farewell to the slopes and began our journey back home.

Overall, I had the most amazing experience. As you can tell by the photos, the landscape was stunning. I am extremely thankful to have had the opportunity to go with my Au Pair. I just hope that the next time I go skiing will be sooner rather than later!

Be sure to check out all the photos that I took during my time in the Alps on my flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/roisingrace/sets/72157648721661464/

 

The end of an old chapter, the start of a new one

I often start the beginning of a blog post saying something on the lines of ‘wow, I can’t believe I’m writing this’ etc. But when writing this blog post, I have to repeat myself. I cannot believe that the time has come for me to pack and move to Paris. It seems so long ago that I had found the family and skyped them for an interview. Yet here I am.

It’s finally hit me. I’m moving to Paris for a year. Although the road has been smooth sailing so far, one thing that has had a slight effect on me is packing. Many people enjoy packing, and don’t get me wrong, I also do on the odd occasion. But when you’re trying to cram everything that you think you’ll need for the year in one luggage case it can get quite tough! But woe is me. How bad does that last sentence sound?! It feels a bit like getting ready for my first year at University again. Except for all the Supermarket value alcohol. That was a bad idea – any undergraduates or just people in general, Supermarket value alcohol is never the way to. Save your self the embarrassment and other things that come with drinking, and spend an extra couple of pounds to get some decent drinks. Luckily for me I don’t really drink anymore, so that is not an issue for me. But, yes. I have that weird mixture of nerves and excitement at the pit of my stomach. I guess the one thing I’m worried about is the first week or two. Once I get used to my new environment and scheduling of the week, it should hopefully all go pretty smoothly from there on.

I completed an online French test yesterday as part of my enrolment for Language school. Lets say confidently that I managed to answer around 10 out of 50… With that dismal attempt aside, I’m really looking forward to learning a new language the proper way – by immersing myself into the country and it’s culture. I cannot wait to meet other Au Pairs, and make new friends whilst in Paris. I hope that during my time there I will be able to join a Tennis club and continue playing, and maybe even join Yoga classes too.

This last year has had its ups and its downs. Not many people know, but I was unwell during Autumn and beginning of Spring term. Luckily, I had a support from a great network of family and friends, and also within the History of Art department. My tutors this year have been amazing. The support and help that I have received from them is next to none, and I honestly don’t know if I could have managed without their encouragement. Despite this ‘bump in the road’ so to speak, I had a great third year. Even though it was a testing time, in enabled me to truly see who was there for me, and sadly, those who were not. Which I guess has its blessings as you can really comprehend those who you can trust and rely on.

Academia wise, third year was definitely a year in which I felt myself flourish. I studied topics that I adore, and would love to study again. This year also confirmed my desire to continue further study from a Masters to PhD level. So keep watching this space! I’ll be sure to update everyone on my progress with applying to Masters etc. This may sound weird, but since finishing my Dissertation and finishing University, I do miss the research and reading. So, I guess that’s a good sign and indication that this is what I should be continuing to do in my life and future.

This summer has definitely been the best by far! I don’t think I have mentioned it on my blog, but I worked as a Court Attendant at this years Wimbledon Championships and has the most amazing time ever! It is safe to say that I had the best two weeks, and hopefully will return again next year to do the same. Not to boast, but, I not only got to meet some of the best players in the world (including Federer, Nadal and Lisicki) but got a half side hug from Djokovic! I was also blessed to be given the opportunity to work on centre court during the Women’s Semi-Finals.

After all the excitement and hard work of Wimbledon, Graduation followed. Graduation was definitely a significant moment in my life, as I am sure it was for others. It really felt like the perfect way to celebrate the fact that I had managed to persevere the ups and downs of the year and achieve the best that I could.

Basically, this has been an awesome year and summer, and even though it all hasn’t been smooth sailing I wouldn’t change any of it. I believe that things happen, not necessarily for a reason, but when they do, you really do learn from them whether good or bad. I feel as if this is the closing of that chapter, and tomorrow begins the beginning of a new one! Ahhhhhh!!