This week, we are thrilled to present you with a very beautiful encounter : ARY L, former au pair and founder of Express Yourself Aupair (EYA), a non-profit organization. We really hope that we can share with you her thoughts on her experience as an au pair and the reason why she decided to create EYA.
# Can you introduce yourself in a few words ?
I am Ary, founder and president of the non-profit organization Express Yourself Aupair created in January 2017. I am 29, I am from Cameroon and I have a dual French/Canadian citizenship. Before starting the au pair adventure, I was an accounting and marketing student in Canada. I am very passionate about traveling, with my firm favorite being New York city. Today, I live in Lyon, France and I dedicate the majority of my time to the organization so it can be known and I can give my support to the au pairs by replying to their inquiries.
# How did you come about the idea to create this organization?
I was an au pair in the United States between 2014 and 2015, after I graduated from college. My goal, through this au pair experience, was to improve my English in order to find a job. I went through an agency program because this is mandatory to become an au pair in the United States. During my stay, I had three different host families (in New York city, Washington DC and Portland, Oregon). Because we didn’t get along on some terms with my host families about the conditions of the au pair contract, I had to “rematch”, which means finding a new host family. A few times, I felt sad and alone. Finally, one of the hardest things was seeing some of my au pair friends leave in a hurry because their experience had failed due to a lack of support. I had also noticed that most au pairs struggled to talk about their issues to the agency or their host family, so they talked a lot on social medias and during au pair classes. In order to free their speech and report some actions, I had the idea to create an organization outside of the agencies. This is how EYA was born at the end of my au pair experience.
# What is the role of the organization today?
We have numerous roles in the au pair community: – First of all, our role is to be there for au pairs when they have questions, delicate situations and issues. We interact with our community via our website, Facebook page and blog. – Our second most important role is to advise au pairs who need it depending on their situations. – Lastly, we act as the spokesperson of the au pair community and as a mediator in case of conflicts with the agency or the host family. We have the will power to be able to cater to all the au pairs, no matter where they’re from or which language they speak.
# According to you, what is a successful au pair experience?
In order to live a good experience, a few things are important to me:
– It’s very important to go through an agency which provides guidance and safety. If you want to pick a good agency, usually two rules apply: how much the program costs and the testimonies of au pairs who used this agency.
– However, the agency doesn’t solve everything. You need to be prepared beforehand, which means, understanding what the role of an au pair is (the duties, the experience, the required skills and the obligations). Unfortunately, even if you love children, this is not the only condition to try the adventure. Not everyone can be an au pair.
– Have realistic expectations: if the experience can be sugarcoated into a dream adventure, you have to be aware of the advantages that it brings but also the many daily challenges. – When you start being in contact with a host family, it’s important that the exchanges stay honest (for the au pair and the host family).
– Finally, being patient and mature are the keys to having a nice stay.
To sum up, it is a commitment between the 3 parties: the agency, the host family and the au pair.
# What are the values that come from the au pair experience?
This experience makes us more curious and opens up our mind. We also learn about patience and determination (you need time to adjust to your new environment and as well, for the host family to adjust to their new household member). At the end of the adventure, we feel like we could overcome anything and unavoidably we have grown a lot, even if the journey wasn’t always simple
# Can you tell us about a negative memory from your au pair experience?
One time, when I was with my host family from Washington DC, I was very cold during many days because the heating in my bedroom had broken. It was hard for the family to understand that I had a hard time fighting the cold and in that moment, I really asked myself what I was doing there, living in those conditions.
# Can you tell us about a positive memory from your au pair experience?
One of my best memories from my stay is to have been able to celebrate Thanksgiving with my host family in Connecticut. Sharing this traditional holiday with the whole family (including the kids and grand parents) taught me a lot about the American culture and spending time with family
# If you had to sum up your au pair experience in a few words?
To me, the au pair experience is a really fulfilling experience, especially on a personal and professional level. It’s an incredible adventure from which we all come out more mature, no matter what happened during the year.
# What kind of advices would you give au pairs who want to try the adventure?
I have three small advices for au pairs:
– Write down WHY you want to do it: I personally did it before my departure, I just wrote on a notebook page the reasons why I wanted to become an au pair. When I felt sad, I re-read what I had written. It helped me to overcome some stressful times, and it pushed me to go through with my au pair year.
– BE REALISTIC: Aside the cultural experience, being an au pair is a real job and so you need to be realistic on what you expect from this experience.
– ENJOY EVERY MOMENT because it’s an incredible chance than to be able to live abroad and travel so much.
# And some advices for the host families?
It’s really important for the host families to understand what an au pair is (her/his dreams and projects when they come to their country), and also that they consider the au pair as a family member and not only an employee. As au pairs, we expect from the host family that they treat us with kindness and empathy, as though the au pair is one of their children trying the same experience abroad.
# Last question: what are some projects for Express Yourself Aupair in 2018?
The team is starting to grow and we are looking to launch donation campaigns and seek partnerships.
We also want to federate our community: we are therefore planning to propose meetings in France and elsewhere to inform, answer questions and create links between au pairs.
To contact us Express Yourself Aupair :
Retrouvez aussi Express Yourself Aupair sur les réseaux sociaux :
Découvrez ici les témoignages de nos au pairs et leurs conseils pour réussir son expérience à l’étranger !