Bring on the rest of my adventure!

My name is Sarah, I am 18 from Australia.

My adventure started when I received my results at the end of year 11 and I decided that I wanted to have a gap year.  I have had a fascination with London and England/ Europe for quite a while so this was my chance to live my dream!

Forms and information was all sent in and my parents believed that I was actually serious on wanting to move across the world to London. So when I received a profile from a family in Leeds I was a bit divided, where they seemed to be a lovely family, I wasn’t sure I wanted to live so far from London.

How I was wrong.

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I have been so lucky to have been blessed with the most amazing host family. The children are wonderful and my host parents are amazing and have made me feel at home, a month in and I feel like I am part of the family, which I felt from day one!

The day I was leaving came by way too quick for mine and my families liking. I am very close with all my family so saying goodbye to everyone at the airport was really hard. Thirty hours later I arrived at Manchester airport to be greeted by my host Dad, and we drove back to Leeds, and after meeting my host Mum we walked to the kid’s school to pick them up. When Hannah (Host Mum) and I walked into Lucy’s (5) classroom everyone, even the teacher, was excited to see me, apparently that is all they had been hearing about all day!

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To begin with, jetlag and getting lost were the biggest things on my mind. I was so worried I would get lost, or not be able to sleep for two weeks.  Having moved across the world, I was now eleven hours behind the time I was used to, so at about 4-5pm I would started getting really tired and explaining this to a 5 year old was a bit difficult but Oliver (9), completely understood, he would work out what time it was in Australia, so we could explain to Lucy that my body is thinking that it should be asleep right now or just waking up.

I have only gotten lost on one occasion in the city which is fabulous! Google maps and widespread free WIFI helps with this a lot!!

To be honest I haven’t missed home all that much so far. I have had a few days where I have shed a few tears and said I wanted to go home after the Skype has not worked or my parents haven’t answered my calls. But I think that I am extremely lucky to be travelling in a world that I can sit on a computer in a café or at home and be able to talk to my parents through the internet. I use apps such as Viber and Skype which are both fabulous!

I love to travel around and explore, which I am now starting to do a lot more of! I love the history of all the places and I love London, especially as I have some close friends who live there!

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There isn’t much I would change about my experience so far. I would love to make more friends and be able to travel around the UK more, but I have heaps of time left to do that! I love my job, the people and the kids! My host family are very relaxed and easy going which makes it heaps easier for me!
Bring on the rest of my adventure, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

Sarah 🙂

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Switching from a Nanny to an Au Pair

Rebecca Robinson, editor of national parenting site www.theworkingparent.com, has written this guest post for the Smartaupairs blog. The Working Parent offers advice and information to parents juggling work and family, covering a huge range of topics from pregnancy to childcare, mortgages to family holidays.

 

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Switching from a Nanny to an Au Pair

There are many childcare options out there and parents will choose what is best for their circumstances and their family. While the most common forms of childcare are nurseries and childminders, these aren’t always suitable for everyone; some parents just need additional help with childcare in their own home, or want the flexibility of hours that a nursery or childminder can’t offer.

What can a nanny offer?

Nannies and au pairs offer parents the flexibility of childcare within the family home and both have different roles and responsibilities to each other, which is why many choose to switch from a nanny to an au pair when their children get older. Fully qualified nannies will have qualifications in childcare and work experience enabling them to care for children from birth and beyond. You can opt for live-in nannies or a nanny that doesn’t live with the family and just comes into the home during their contracted hours. For the additional experience and qualifications, you can also expect to pay much more for a nanny.

Why opt for an au pair?

An au pair on the other hand, will be coming into your family from a foreign country to learn the language, help out with childcare and earn a little money whilst doing so. They aren’t employed by you or paid a salary in the traditional sense, instead they’re paid ‘pocket money’ to reflect the duties and childcare help they offer in the home. This usually works out considerably cheaper than a nanny. Au pairs are expected to help look after older children and should never be solely responsible for a child under 2 or for children with significant additional needs.

Moving from a nanny to an au pair

Because of these differences and especially when children start school, many families switch from having a nanny to an au pair. There is no longer the need for specialised qualifications as children grow older and au pairs can provide the perfect combination of flexible childcare and help in the home, along with the opportunity for children to learn a new language. Au pairs are keen to brush up on their English and many parents are keen for their children to also pick up new skills from their au pair too!

As well as childcare, au pairs are also expected to help out in other areas a nursery or childminder could not, such as helping the children get ready in the mornings, assisting with homework, light house work duties or other tasks while the children are at school and assist with bath and bed routine.

More flexibility

Au pairs can also offer more flexibility as children get older and many families choose to host an au pair during the summer holidays. For many families, and especially those with several children, this can prove a much cheaper option than other forms of childcare such as summer camps or childminders. For working parents, this can be a great option which relieves the stress of finding suitable childcare that fits in around working hours during the summer.

Benefits of an au pair with school age children

For parents of school age children, having an au pair is financially a great option.

It’s clear that as children grow older and their requirements change, switching from a nanny to an au pair is a natural progression that can suit families both financially as well as with the needs of the children and parents. For more information on hosting an au pair, click here.

 

NEW Welcome Pack Item for Smartaupairs Au Pairs

NEW Welcome Pack Item for Smartaupairs Au Pairs

We are excited to introduce a new item in our au pair welcome packs – “the Childcare Handbook for Au Pairs”. The book is full of useful and easy to understand information for au pairs on childcare.

The book has been written by Emma Dewey, an early year’s childcare specialist and owner of Babyem (childcare training company) in collaboration with BAPAA (British au pair agencies association).

The key topics include

  • Working with parents
  • Supporting children to deal with transitions
  • Sibling rivalry
  • Managing behaviour
  • Child development and activities
  • Learning through cooking
  • Safeguarding

This book will be included for every new welcome pack sent out as of end of October. This book will be for the smartaupairs host family to keep!

In addition to this, au pairs also already receive an au pair handbook – a separate guide the life of an au pair in Britain! Alongside with lots and lots of other useful information..

New Welcome Pack - Now Includes Childcare Handbook!
New Welcome Pack – Now Includes Childcare Handbook!

If you are a family in Britain, find out more here www.smartaupairs.com

Families in Australia:  http://www.smartaupairs.com.au/

Au Pair Feedback

It’s that lovely time of year again when we hear from au pairs and families about how their placements have started off. Here are the stories from two au pairs who have recently started their placements in the UK.

Firstly, we wanted to share with you the full PowerPoint presentation created by Dutch au pair Maartje, one of the winners of our recent competition.

The following slides cover the first month of her placement in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.

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Alex from France is currently placed in Penn, Buckinghamshire. Here is what she has to say about her placement so far:

All is perfect!!!!! I am really happy here. I have a lovely hostfamily, I found a news friends, I take english courses and I improve my english: the paradise!!!! Thank you for all.

Alex also shared these lovely photos of her time in the UK to date:

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After all of the hard work that goes into the search process and organisation for the au pair’s arrival, by our agency, the host family and the au pair herself, it is great to hear wonderful success stories like these.

Please continue to send us feedback on your placements 🙂

Competition Winners Announced!

We launched two competitions during our Au Pair Introduction Day in London earlier on this month. In order to enter, au pairs were asked to send a comment or photo to summarise or represent their placement with their UK host family so far. Two prizes of £50 in Amazon vouchers were on offer and our winners are as follows…

Comment competition winner: Maartje from the Netherlands, who is currently placed in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Maartje sent us a PowerPoint presentation to describe her placement so far, but it was the following comment in particular that we felt summarised the au pair program as a whole:

This is the house where I first arrived on Friday the 23th of August. The family did everything they could to make me feel welcome. And boy, did I feel welcome! In these first few weeks, I have been visiting London and making lots of new friends to make my stay in the UK even better! The children: this is the best part of being an au pair. Getting to spend lots of time with in my case, two beautiful young boys. We are very good at being serious but we are even better at acting silly. All of us are. Even though, they sometimes drive me crazy… this family, puts a big smile on my face! So this house is no longer my host family’s house, it’s our house now. It’s a place I call my home’.

Maartje's host family gave her a very warm welcome!
Maartje’s host family gave her a very warm welcome!

Photo competition winner:  Lena from Germany, who is currently placed in Fleet, Hampshire.

Lena sent us quite a few photos of her day out in London but this one was our favourite. A photo with the iconic red telephone box is a ‘must have’ for all au pairs 🙂

The winning photo entry by German au pair Lena
The winning photo entry by German au pair Lena

Congratulations to both girls and thank you to everyone who entered the competition. Here are some further excellent entries that we received:

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If you would like to share your experiences of the au pair program at any time, please contact us on aupairs@smartaupairs.com. We love to hear your stories!

Buckinghamshire – Au Pair & Host Mums Meeting!

“12 au pairs and 10 host mums met last night at the welcome meeting. Most were Smart au pairs families. We had a great time. I hope you enjoy the pictures! Lindsey”

Lindsey has been a smartaupairs host mum for several years now and is among many host families we currently have in Buckinghamshire!

We think it is a great idea to get the other host mums and au pairs together – see the pictures from the event below:

Buckinghamshire host families
Buckinghamshire host families
Buckinghamshire au pairs
Buckinghamshire au pairs

Welcome Mareike – Our New Intern at Smartaupairs UK!

Mareike joined the Smartaupairs team last week and will be supporting us as an intern until the end of January 2014.

Mareike

Mareike is currently in the third year of her Leisure and Tourism Management degree in Stralsund, Germany and is looking forward to being part of our committed team.

During her placement at Smartaupairs, Mareike seeks to gain considerable practical experience in a business environment and hopes to make a meaningful contribution to our agency.

Mareike’s native language is German and she has studied English for more than 12 years. Additionally she is eager to improve her Spanish skills.

In her free time, Mareike enjoys travelling around Europe and learning about new cultures, playing volleyball and spending time with her family and friends.

After finishing her Bachelor’s degree and before continuing with a Master’s degree in Service Management, Mareike would like to return to Cape Town in South Africa where she spent her exchange year in 2007/08.