Smartaupair of the Year 2016-7- Kirby from AUSTRALIA!!

Each year, we select one of our au pairs (based on host family nominations) to win the lovely Smartaupairs of the Year title. With a little bit of a drum roll, we would like to announce that…

Smartaupair of the Year 2016-7 winner is KIRBY FROM AUSTRALIA 🙂 

A MASSIVE WELL DONE TO KIRBY!!

Kirby has been living with her host family in Kent for over a year now (and will continue for another). She will receive a £200 gift card to Boots (her chosen retailer) 🙂

Of course, in our eyes, there are SO so many equally amazing au pairs out there, doing a fantastic job – and being a great “big sister/brother” to their host children so we also wanted to take this chance to also say a big thank you to ALL au pairs (whether nominated or not) for their effort and motivation, you are all great!!!

Below you may find both the host family nomination & Kirby’s own response along with some lovely photographs of Kirby & the host family. 

AuPair of the year award nomination: Kirby 

I first met our AuPair Kirby over Skype in February.  Being a single mum with twin 4 year old boys – we have a very busy household with a lot of energy and sometimes noise! I work full time – mainly from home, but need space and quiet.  I had a clear view on the things we needed as a family – along with being one of our family, loving, caring, organised, full of energy, the ability to be a great cook and have a touch of craziness (in a good way) was a must.  Kirby’s second interview with the boys on skype wow-ed us all – she was dressed as a pirate and kept the twins captivated for over 45 minutes – which is a miracle!

We immediately felt determined that she was “the one!” and flights were booked and she arrived from Sydney in March. For someone who has had to apply for a passport for the first time, she settled with ease and started her morning “walkabout” to gain her bearings, walking more than 5 miles each morning before breakfast. The boys fell in love with her, fighting to be her best friend.  The fact that she is so much fun, full of enthusiasm for everything – even the mundane – has led them to adore her and being an expert on Super Heros has added to their delight in our new AuPair.

Life with twin boys is very difficult to imagine, but Kirby has risen to the challenge with ease.  She copes easily with any conflict: able to distract them with other things. We both work on manners and school work together and Kirby brings exciting and interesting ways of looking at things.

Kirby is full of boundless energy – which is perfect for two very spirited twin boys, she designs boot camp exercises and sports in the park, has taught them how to bake the most scrumptious cakes and biscuits, built wands to make giant bubbles in the garden and helped teach them how to swim:  no day is ever the same.  There are treasure hunts, train track building, domino trails and interesting games to play to improve the boys’ reading, writing and numeracy.  In the background, she ensures the house is running smoothly, the laundry is done and the children’s meals are delicious and highly nutritious.  She has never been anything other than happy and full of joy, a pleasure for all the family. She is caring, loving and kind: often I overhear her reading to the boys and the little discussions they have – precious memories.

The children started school in September and Kirby has seen them easily through this transition and walks to school with them daily.  They always burst through the door after home time, often delighting in telling me what they found in the hedgerows from their walk home, as much as what they did at school! Kirby has developed a great rapport with the teachers and handles dropping each twin into their own class with the right books, gloves, hats, and so on – with ease. She never needs asking, floors get mopped, laundry gets done and the salads are chopped and in the fridge – it is as though she reads my mind.

Meanwhile, I have made a dear friend; she is like an older daughter to me.  Kirby and I will cook together – both with a love of cooking and healthy food, we have the same tastes in movies too and when the children are sleeping, we have made our way through quite a few films.  Kirby has joined us on our summer holiday and spent time in the French countryside with my parents and the boys.

Christmas this year saw a bout of tummy bug for the family including grandparents, and Kirby maintained her happy and energetic self, amongst the washing and Dettol, she ensured the boys had a fabulous Christmas despite it all and helped us all enjoy the break between Christmas and New Year. Santa even delivered her a special sack of presents – as she was on the good list too!

This year – both Kirby and I have signed up for the London Marathon to run for a charity; the long run training will doubtless require friends to step in and help with childcare, but we are working around each other to fit in our training plans.  It will be an amazing experience and one we both will never forget.  Her mother and Aunt have already visited this year – so this time – her brother and father shall be visiting, which will make our day all the more wonderful.

Kirby is truly one of the family here, the boys adore her and I don’t know what we will do when it is her time to return to Australia.  She has been such a positive influence on all of us, including me – we really hit the jackpot when we interviewed that pirate on Skype all those months ago.

Kind Regards

Claire

Kirby’s response – bound to make you smile!!  

We love her down to earth honest approach – let’s face it, there are days which are harder than others, all part of life!

Honestly, where do I even BEGIN..

I guess from the first night I talked to Claire and the boys over Skype – my initial thought being ‘Man, what have I gotten myself into! I hope I can match their awesome level of crazy…’

Ha! That thought was immediately wiped away when I met them in person…these were definitely my people.

I touched down in Jolly old England. Ahhh, I remember it well – my main thought being ‘Damn! 9 degrees! That’s nearly snow temperature! HA! Wasn’t I an idiot. Skip past a short car trip back to my new home of two years…and as soon as I stepped through the door and laid spread eagled on the sofa, I knew this wouldn’t be JUST a house to live in, but a mighty fine home.

As the weeks passed, what I first thought were going to be two, little, golden-haired gremlins, turned out to be two of the coolest little guys I’ve ever looked after, and it has been my pleasure to look after them. Of course we have the odd ‘GAH, YOU’RE DRIVING ME ABSOLUTELY NUTS!’ moments, but come on, what family doesn’t. And that’s what they have become to me. I’ve seen William and Alex go through the transition from ‘little school’ to primary school and it has been AMAZING seeing how much they’ve matured into top little gentlemen. I’ll ask them about their day, what they had for lunch, that seems to be their favourite part, and mostly the big question of ‘Ooooo, who’s your girlfriiiiend?’. I feel that not only will any future girlfriends have to go through Claire, but they will definitely have to pass the ‘Kirby test of awesomeness’, because there is no doubt, that in 20 years time, i’ll STILL be in constant contact with my England family.

Ahhhh, and Claire, what can I say about Claire, she is an absolute stunning human being, with a deadset pistol of a personality. She can make me laugh, fire me up when I’m feeling sluggish and always has a good story for me. The amount of times it’s felt like we have been on the same brainwave is insane, it’s as if she can tell what I’m thinking and I can tell what she’s thinking, whether it’s about what to have for dinner, what TV show to watch, what activity to do with the boys and even the occasional ‘ahhh, does your butt hurt from running today, as well?’

This year was my first year away during the Christmas period, and yes, my mother in Australia made very sure that I was at least a little bit homesick…BUT, that was short lived after waking up to my own personalised Santa sack filled with everything screaming Tangerine (inside joke) and watching the boys excitement as they opened their own presents…of course the real kicker was drinking Buck’s Fizz in the kitchen with Claire and laughing about anything and everything, while preparing my first ever British Christmas lunch. It was an amazing memory I’ll never forget, with a family I’ll never forget, Claire really is MUCH more than just a host, she has been my family while I’ve been here, and I’m sure I’ve been like family to her.

Now up to date in the household, we’ve just welcomed a puppy called Narla, she is REALLY testing all of us at the moment, but I have no doubts that we can handle anything now. I am very keen to see what this last year brings, but I’m also very sad that I only have one year left with this absolute goldmine of a family, I’m so glad I picked this family and would do it again a million times over 🙂

 

Our Top 5 Tips for Finding Au Pair Friends in the UK

Welcome to all au pairs who joined their host family in January! 🙂

An important part of settling in is finding friends in your area. Here are our top 5 tips on how to find friends in the UK.

  1. Join the Smartaupairs Facebook group

Our Facebook group is the perfect place to meet other au pairs in the UK. Au pairs often post here when they first arrive to say ‘hello’ and to find out who is living close to them. Plenty of au pairs are looking for friends here, whether they would like some company on a weekend trip overseas or are looking for someone to meet for coffee. Only au pairs placed through Smartaupairs are accepted into the group, so you can be sure of who you are speaking with.

  1. Use our ‘County Lists’ to find the au pairs who live closest to you

We email the relevant list(s) to au pairs upon confirmation of their placement. You can always access them through the Facebook group too, where they are regularly updated. You will be able to see the au pairs who live closest to you and make contact with them via email.

  1. Join aupairfriends.com

This is a great website, which all au pairs placed through a BAPAA agency have access to. Therefore, if you are living in a slightly more rural location with fewer au pairs around, this could be a valuable resource for you. Register using our agency password.

  1. Download the Excuses to Meet app

Excuses to Meet have recently launched this app, designed to make finding au pair friends much more convenient for you.

Again, you will need our agency password to register with the BAPAA au pairs group (please request this from our team – it does change from time to time due to security). There is also a wider au pair community which is available for all au pairs!

  1. Attend a Smartaupairs event

We regularly hold events for au pairs and you are invited to every one! These range from the big events such as an Introduction Day in September and Boat Trip on the Thames in May with other BAPAA agencies, to the smaller events, e.g. coffee mornings, a day trip to Canterbury, a picnic in one of the big London parks. Below you can see some photos from our recent events!

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Welcoming Tamara to Smartaupairs

We are really pleased to welcome Tamara to the Smartaupairs team as our intern!

Tamara has been an au pair in the UK herself and therefore knows exactly what it is like from the au pair’s point of view.

She will be assisting our team in au pair support and will be there to offer advice and guidance to au pairs throughout their application process and placement. She will also be helping to organise some upcoming events!

Tamara is a native German speaker and also speaks Italian and English.

Here is her message to all of our au pairs:

Hi 

My Name is Tamara, I’m 24 years old and I’m from Austria. I have studied International Cultural and Business Studies in Passau, Germany. Before I went to university I have been an au pair myself. I have spent an amazing year in the UK living with a host family in Oxfordshire.

I’m really happy to be back in the UK and I’ll do my very best to help all of YOU current au pairs to make the most of your stay!

tamara

Smartaupairs Does Santa Dash

Have you ever witnessed this many Santa’s in one place? Nor had we… 🙂

Tuuli, Chloe and Luisa (one of our brave au pairs!) took part in the London Santa Dash run yesterday – organised by the Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity. Luisa ran the 5k, and Tuuli and Chloe braved the full 10k stretch.

Luisa had her own support crew of other au pairs to cheer her on! 🙂

Despite the freezing temperatures, nearly 3000 runners took part, all dressed in Santa or other Christmas outfits (reindeers, elves, sledges were also spotted..)

It was such a wonderful event for an even greater cause.

To donate to the Great Ormond Street Hospital – please follow this link: https://donate.gosh.org/

Guest Blog from Au Pair Evelien

Evelien is a 19 year old Dutch au pair, who started her placement with her host family in Surrey in October. Here she shares two of her blog posts, describing her experiences of two key events: Halloween and Bonfire Night!

1st November 2016

Hey everyone,

This blog post is about a holiday that I thought was only celebrated this big in America, but I was wrong: in England, they celebrated just as big.

It all started two weeks ago, my host mum was talking about home decorations, carving pumpkins, and she told me that I had to have an outfit.

I still hadn’t found anything to wear the Friday before Halloween, so I went to town with my friend, Gemma. All the shops were full of Halloween decorations and different kinds of outfits. Eventually I found a nurse (or waiter’s) dress that wasn’t too expensive and it looked quite okay, so I bought that one.

halloween

On Saturday, I went to an event called “Pillage the village!” in Reigate with my host family. All the shops with the black and orange balloons outside participated. It meant that we could trick or treat at those shops. After visiting a lot of houses, we went to a super scary Halloween house too. The children were so scared that one floor was enough for them, so we went on to a nice little restaurant and had some food.

pillage

It was time to go home now, to carve the pumpkins! Before we got started we made some sketches, and then we had to clean the pumpkins. What a work! Carving the pumpkins was quite some work too! It was harder than I thought it would be, but these are the results:

pupkins

The next day, it was time to make the front yard Halloween-proof.
We had orange spider webs, spiders, rats etc. to decorate the yard. It was super fun to do and in the dark it looked super scary!

The first Monday after the midterm break, we went home very quickly to put on our Halloween outfits again, this time to go to a friend’s house. They threw a Halloween party with Halloween food and stuff like that. After having our “fingers with blood” and “dead body pudding” we went outside to search for pumpkins at people’s houses, where we could trick or treat.  The children were super excited, that was so nice to see! Even the children who are usually quite shy, were now the first to ring the doorbell!

When our buckets were full of candy, it was time to get home.

What a nice first experience of celebrating Halloween! I loved it (:

Lots of Love,

Evelien.

 

8th November 2016

Three days ago it was Guy Fawkes Night. This is an event in England were they celebrate that the parliament wasn’t attacked in 1605. In these days there were plans in London to destroy the parliament. Today they celebrate this with campfires and lots of fireworks.

On Friday I picked up the boys from school, we went to The Bicycle Shop; this is not only a shop but also a café. After a coffee, my host dad arrived and we went to the Fish and Chips Shop. There I had a real English dinner!

After dinner it was time to go to school to see the fireworks. It was an amazing, lots of different colours and music all on. They made a real show of it 🙂

fireworks

The days before and after I still heard fireworks at night on the streets.

Last Sunday, I went to Brighton with three of my friends. In the morning somewhere around 10 o’clock we took the train and after 30 minutes we were at Brighton!  Brighton is a amazing city, everywhere wall paintings, nice little shops and lots of second hand shops.

The atmosphere in the city is chill and calm, nothing needs to happen and everything is okay. It’s a bit like a student city.

First we went to The Lanes, these are small streets with little shops. Not the big brands but little private shops. It reminds me of some streets in my hometown. We went to a big second hand shop were we saw a photo booth we needed to take a crazy picture in there!

lanes

We walked on, then we saw a fudge shop, on the windows were stickers of prices. This was something we really wanted to taste. It was out of this world so delicious. We had three different flavours, sea salt, vanilla and strawberry.

fudge

After The Lanes it was time for the Pavilion building. This is a big concert building that looks like a fairy tale one. It looks like Aladdin could live there 🙂 We could see a little bit inside and after that we went to the big garden behind the building. There we have had lunch and we went to the most famous place in Brighton, the Pier.

When we walked on the Brighton Pier and we ate our fudge, but this was not a good idea. We were attacked by some seagulls, super scary! They took the fudge out of my hand and bit me. We ate our fudge quick and went to the arcades. Of course we needed to try this! We spent too much money but we got two little key rings 🙂

pier

We walked to the end of the Pier, over there it looks like a fairground. Attractions everywhere, but we spend already too much money so we went back to the station.

Back in Redhill we wanted pizza, so we went to a pizza place and had a lovely pizza. Super end of the day!

pizza

Lots of love,

Evelien

If you would like to keep up with Evelien’s au pair experience, you can read her blog here.

evelien

National Nursery Rhyme Week

This week is National Nursery Rhyme Week and a few au pairs wanted to share some rhymes from their native language.

Here are their contributions with an English translation – a great opportunity for you to learn a rhyme in another language!

If you would like to learn more nursery rhymes in English, the BBC has put together a great collection that you can find here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/learning/schoolradio/subjects/earlylearning/nurserysongs.

german-2

Jaqueline, Ilford, Essexdutch

Evelien, Redhill, Surreyspanish

Gemma, Redhill, Surrey

french

Celine, London

german

Lisa, Maidstone, Kent

Tuuli & Chloe from Smartaupairs visit Partners in Holland & Germany

Tuuli & Chloe, the head consultants from Smartaupairs visited some of our top Dutch and German partner agencies over the course of Wednesday – Friday last week.
What is a partner agency you might ask?
For an au pair agency like smartaupairs, a partner agency will the agency abroad whose role is to vet the au pair and to ensure correct understanding of the program, before sending the applicant profile over to us in the UK. A significant amount of work goes into applicant preparation before any potential host family will be able to see the application.
It is incredibly important for us to maintain strong relations with our partners abroad. For one, they are in the key position of vetting the au pairs. Secondly, it is important for us to be able to provide any feedback we have received from our families to the sending agencies and similarly take on board any feedback from the agency/au pair perspective. All of this is incorporated in the continued process of program review and improvement for all parties.
We really are lucky to work with such wonderful partners abroad and hope to meet many more next year!

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