Learning to be on my own

How my au pair experience helped me find my independence

I grew up in Bunbury, a city in western Australia, where I lived a pretty simple life. Growing up, my mum and I were inseparable; she always did so much for me, and I respected her to the utmost. A big reason why I decided to be an au pair was because I wanted to become independent, and I knew that the au pair program provided a real opportunity for growth. I needed to know that I could be away from my family and manage without them—my mum in particular.

During my au pair year, I learned that I could be on my own. Caring for someone else’s kids is a huge responsibility, and the fact that my host mum placed that much trust in me so early on pushed me to rise to the occasion. I learned how to do things completely by myself, and manage the day-to-day responsibilities of adult life. And over time, I came to appreciate the value of having my own time and my own space.

The au pair program gave me the opportunity to think about things and understand myself. I got a clearer sense of the direction I wanted my life to take, and how I could use the strengths I’ve gained from the program to achieve my goals. Through living with a host family and meeting au pairs from different cultures, I’ve learned how to adapt to different personalities. I’ve also become a stronger communicator—better at connecting with different types of people, and clearly expressing what I need to say. Even though I’m not always the most outgoing person, the program has really pushed my boundaries in that respect. I’ve learned how to stand up for myself and be direct about my opinions.

When I left the airport in Sydney to leave to America for the first time, I was almost in tears because I was so nervous about flying by myself. But by the end of my year, I had done so much travel to other places—sometimes with other people, sometimes by myself—that when it was finally time for me to fly back to Sydney, I realized that I wasn’t nervous at all about flying alone. That was a huge turning point for me in realizing how much I had grown!