Skandinaviska Institutet

Jessica, New Jersey

Åldrar på barnen: 2, 3, 8, 10, 11
Har varit i USA i (månader): 3,5

What were your reasons for applying as an au pair?
I wanted to experience something new and explore the world. I also wanted to study and work at the same time, so becoming an au pair was a perfect way for me to do all of it. Since, I didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future, so I though an au pair year would give me the time to figure it out, while not wasting a year doing so.

Tell us about your host family:
I take care of 5 children, 3 girls and 2 boys. It’s a family of 7 + me and + a rottweiler puppy. It’s not as crazy as it sounds! The mom is a stay at home mom, so me and her work together as a team. It’s a very loving family. They are louder than I’m used to and the days are very hectic, there’s a lot that needs to get done every day, but I’m the happiest when I’m kept busy!

Describe the area you live in:
The area I live in is rural area, with lots of open fields and orchards, but also many small towns close to each other. New York and Philadelphia are just 1-2 hours away! I love it here, because there’s more green and less traffic, but I still live close to to the bigger cities. It reminds me of my hometown I Sweden so it’s a comfort.

What does a typical day look like?
My alarm clock goes off at 5:35am and then I just press snooze until around 6:10. I wash my face, put my hair up in a ponytail and if I’m not too tired I’ll change out of my pyjamas. At 6:30 I start working and wake all the kids up. I help the older 3 get ready for school and make sure they eat breakfast and have their lunches packed. Then the mom drives them to school. I stay with 1 or 2 of the babies until around 10am.Sometimes I work other hours (every week is different) and feed the babies lunch and put them down for their naps. Then I’m off until around 2:30pm.

During that time a try to workout, but I usually end up watching tv-shows or video chatting with my family and friends from back home in Sweden. When I start working again I help the kids with their homework and play with them or get them ready for all of their after school activities. Then we eat dinner that the mom usually cooks.

Then I work 7:30-8:30pm where me and the mom make sure everything is prepared for the next day, we give the babies a bath and clean up in the kitchen, homework room and play rooms. After that I’m officially off for the night and can finally go to bed! It’s exhausting, but I have fun!

What do/did or are you planning to study and why did or will you choose the course?
I have signed up for a Criminal Investigation course at a community college here, I’m gonna take a travel course to Canada and a volunteer course. This will give me 9 credits and au pairs only really need 6, but I love learning so I couldn’t choose just 2 of them! I’m very interested in criminology, and I’ve always wanted to take a college course in the U.S. But I’m also here to travel, so the course to Canada was a good opportunity for me to visit a new country that I probably wouldn’t have visited otherwise. And I aslo want to volunteer, maybe at a animal shelter or at a police station.

Tell us about any traveling you have done or are planning to do:
This far I’ve only been to New York and Philadelphia, but next year I’m going to Florida, New Orleans and Canada. Then during my travel month I’m planning on taking a Trek America tour to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco and then going to Hawaii before returning to Sweden.

What have you gained during the year?
That nothing ever turns out as you expected it to. Neither in a good or bad way. It’s just different than what you expect. I’ve really grown as a person and done things I never thought I would do. For example I’m no longer afraid of skyping with strangers (I have had to talk to A LOT of host families) or talking to new people in general. I also know myself better than I did before, I now know my strengths, weaknesses and I have figured out what I want to do after my year is over.

What has been the best experience so far?
Definitely the travelling and exploring! Everything is so big and beautiful and there are endless of things to see and do. But also connecting with the family and the kids. The first time the 3 year old told me that she loved me is a moment I’ll never forget.

How have you been spending you pocket money?
Shopping! It’s so hard to save money when there’s so many things I want to buy! But I’m saving some of the money for education and travelling.

What do/did you find most challenging about being an au pair?
I went to rematch after a month of being here. It was a stressful and emotional period, but I learned a lot during that period and I’m happy I got a second chance with a new family. During 2 weeks of that month I also experienced culture shock, something I thought would never happen to me. But it got better and I’m happy that I didn’t give up.

The kids can also be challenging sometimes, especially when they try to test me, but it’s all about getting to know them and the parents, getting to know the routine and start exploring USA. That really helped me overcome homesickness and doubts. It reminded me of why came here in the first place: to learn, to experience and to travel. But I’ll admit that I really miss my own bed and apartment back home, where I had more privacy and less responsibilities!

Write a short message to anyone thinking about joining Skandinaviska Institutet / Au Pair in America:
You should absolutely try it out if it’s something that interests you. It’s an unique experience that will definitely help you later on in your life. You will learn so much about yourself!