The Au Pair Series: Mandy in Geneva

The Au Pair Series: Mandy in Geneva

Becoming an Au Pair

Tell us about yourself.

I am a software developer and Digital Nomad. I’m currently in the Ukraine, but I’m house sitting and just generally wandering my way through Europe for the next few months.

Where and when were you an au pair?

From 2001-2 I was with a family just outside of Geneva, Switzerland.

Why did you choose to go au pairing in that particular country?

I was offered jobs in Germany and Barcelona, but I chose Geneva because it is so central so traveling to other places would be easy, and I really liked the family.

What was the ‘aim’ of your year as an au pair?

To travel internationally. I’d never been outside the US though I’d traveled extensively there. I wanted to get a chance to see more of the world before I settled down and did the whole family thing.

How did you find your au pair family, and what tips would you have for those beginning their own searches for potential families?

I found them through an Au Pair matching site. It was pretty unusual in those times to use an online service but now it’s definitely common. My suggestion is to really talk to the family about the expectations they have, your hours, living quarters, etc. The family in Barcelona asked me “How do you feel about giving up your freedom for a year?” That was a huge red flag for me because being an Au Pair was going to be my job and entry into Europe, not my 24/7 life.

How did you find the first few weeks moving in as an au pair with a new family? Are there any things you wish you’d have known before beginning?

I was amazingly lucky. I had a great family who was really helpful and supportive. They went out of their way to help me get settled, including getting the names and numbers of other au pairs/nannys in the park so I would have a social network to tap into when I arrived.

Life as an Au Pair

What was your daily routine like as an Au Pair? 

When I arrived the mom gave me a list of extra duties (besides caring for the kids) and I got to choose two that I wanted to do while I was there. I chose ironing and cooking because I don’t mind the first and I like the 2nd.

 I spent most of my time with their 8 month old though there was also 6 and 8 year old boys in the house that I would care for after school.

 On full days, I would take the kids to school then have the baby during the day and we’d shop/run errands/have play dates, etc. I’d pick the older kids up from school and we’d play at the park for a while then go have snack and homework time while I cooked dinner.

 On half days, I would just pick the kids up from school, play for a while, then do snack, homework, etc.

 The kids didn’t have school on wednesdays and when I worked those days we’d take the bus into geneva and walk around the lake or go to a museum or take the bus to the next town over and get a treat at the pastry shop. We also went to the local park a lot.

What was the deal with school holidays? (eg. Did you have the weeks off, or were you required to work during this time?)

I worked 30 hours/week from Monday at 3 (when I got the kids from school) until Friday at 9 (when I took the kids to school). I had weekends off unless something special was going on and they needed me. For longer holidays, if the family was going somewhere I had the option to join them and they would pay half of my costs. I did this for a trip to Egypt and Paris. If I didn’t want to join them, I just had the time off.

What were your best and worst experiences as an au pair?

Best was getting to live with a family and see how other people live. I was the only child to a single mom so our life was very different. It was a good education for me. The worst was living with a family. 🙂 I was 27 when I was an au pair and had been living independently with a career for years. It was a big change, but it was usually ok.

Mandy, Au Pair Geneva, Au Pair Series

Socializing and leisure

What advice do you have for making friends as an Au Pair?

Join local networks, meetups, facebook groups, talk to people in the park, etc. It’s easier now with everything being online. Back then it was harder.

How were you able to fit socializing with the commitment of your hours as an Au Pair?

My work day ended at dinner time or before every day and I had weekends off so it was easy for me to socialize. And if I wanted extra time off to travel with my friends I just had to ask in advance. I had a great social network of friends that I’m still seeing on a regular basis.

How easy was it to feel part of the community? Did you make friends outside of the ‘au pair’ world?

I was friends with some of the neighbors, but most of my friends were au pairs.

Learning the language and culture

How easy was it to find your language school, and did attending one help you personally?

I had a tutor come in and the family helped, but I’m useless at languages so after a while we kind of gave up 🙂

How did you find the language barrier (if there was one)? – How were the first few weeks of living in a new country?

There wasn’t much of a language barrier. It was a swiss/us family so they all spoke fluent english as did several neighbors. Geneva is a very international city so it was easy to be understood with english and what french I did know. and most of my friends spoke french so if I needed to they helped.

How did you improve your language skills?

Sadly, I didn’t improve them much.

Any tips for those learning a new language?

Practice, immerse yourself. Had I not been with a family of fluent english speakers, I’m sure my french would have been much better.

Do you feel as if you have progressed with your new language?

No, I moved to mexico so I kind of had to purge french from my brain so I could focus on Spanish. I still know key phrases and when I’m in french speaking countries it comes back, but it’s not great.

 Mandy, Au Pair Geneva, Au Pair Series
Life after being an Au Pair

How has being an au pair changed you?

I always had a travel bug, but this just sealed the deal. I returned to the US determined to settle down and do the american dream thing. It lasted for a few years then I realized it wasn’t for me. I’ve now been traveling since 2008 and don’t intend to stop.

Would you do au pairing again?

At my age, no. I’m too set in my ways to live with another family like that again and too tired to deal with kiddos that much. If i were young, I would consider it but I’d be wary of the family. I got really lucky but some of my other au pair friends had really bad experiences.

Would you recommend au pairing to others? And why? 

Definitely! I think everyone should live abroad for a year. It changes your whole perspective. Au pairing is a great way to do it and I’d recommend it to most people.

What advice would you give to those wanting to become an Au Pair?

Talk a lot to your family. Research the area you’d be living to make sure it’s a good fit for you. The job I was offered in Germany was really remote. I would not have enjoyed it.

VISA Preparation for Au Pairs

Was it a requirement for you to have a VISA?

Yes.

How did you go about getting your VISA?

The family sponsored me and I applied at the Swiss Embassy in Chicago.

What do you wish you had known about the VISA process before you had obtained it?

It was super easy, mostly because the dad was a lawyer and they’d had au pairs before so they knew what needed to be done.

Find out more about Mandy with her various social media platforms:

Mandy is a Software Developer who, bitten by the international travel bug during her Au Pair days, has been traveling full-time since 2008.  You can follow her travels at Vagabondette.com or check out her work at MandyM.com.

Blog: vagabondette.com  |  Professional wesbite: http://mandym.com  |

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vagabondette   |  Twitter: @mandym_webdev   |   Instagram: @wanderingdev

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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Farewell January, hello February!

Farewell January, hello February!

January is often a somewhat monotonous month. Christmas has come and gone, and people go back to work or university. However, for me, this January has been incredibly different to what I have become accustomed to. For the last 6 years, January has meant exams, but this year was the first time in many that I didn’t have to revise over the Christmas holidays nor panic myself during this period. So now, I have a very different view-point of this time of year.  As previously mentioned, nothing exciting normally happens around this time, but here in Paris, January has definitely been an eventful one.

One only needs to think back to the three days of terror that took the city by surprise, with the attack on the satirical paper Charlie Hebdo, and the hostage scenes taking place both outside Paris and in the very heart of the city. Everyone was shaken by these events, which ultimately led to the most attended march in French History. Within the following weeks, the hysteria subdued, and people carried on with their January. Personally, this month has been incredibly interesting, not only living within the city that endured the scrutiny of the world for three days, but being able to be a part of the historical march that took place the following Sunday.

Anyway, as we wave goodbye to January and welcome February, I cannot help but burst with excitement for this upcoming month. For me, February is all about travelling! By the beginning of March I would have travelled to three cities, in two different countries.

The beautiful village of Barcelonnette (Photo from skiinfo.fr)

My first adventure takes place in the French Apls, in Barcelonnette to be precise. I am going skiing with my Au Pair family for a week, and I cannot wait! I haven’t been skiing since I was about 13 years old, and I can only hope I remember how to do it. I remember how to snowplough, or at least I think I do, so fingers crossed. My French family own their own chalet up in the Alps, and it will be a wonderful occasion to send more time with them and to see them skiing (and letting them watch and laugh whilst I attempt to do so too!).

Straight after my week skiing, the very next day I go over the border to Switzerland for a quick two-day visit to Geneva. My friend Kate (check out her blog here, it’s awesome!), mentioned about some cheap flights to Geneva and wanted to see if I was interested in going – and of course I was! Whilst living in Paris and being on my gap year, I am desperate to make the most of being able to travel, and I jumped at the chance to be able to go to this enchanting city. Even though we’re only staying one night, I’m sure that we’ll be able to see and do plenty. I hate to admit this as well, but I actually don’t know that much about Geneva. So if anyone has any tips or knows of particular sites or places to go, please do let me know. I’ve always wanted to go to Switzerland, and I am really excited.

After Geneva, literally the day after, I get on a plane and head over to the west – to Madrid! I will be going to Madrid for 5 days to visit my boyfriend Malek (who’s blog is incredible, check it out if you haven’t already). When I last went over in November, we had two days of sight-seeing, so I’m particularly eager to see even more of this amazing city and perhaps take a day trip or two to places outside of Madrid. So if you’re reading this Malek, getting planning on the various things we can see and do in the city!

As you can see, this is going to be a busy month for me, and keep checking out my blog as I write about all these mini adventures 🙂 I’d love to hear your thoughts and insights about anywhere I am travelling to, or just in general.