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Q&A with expert reveals details of working as an au pair. Are you interested in taking a gap year? Whether you’ve just finished school and need some time-out to decide what to do, or if you’ve been working for a while and need a change, au pairing overseas is a viable career choice.

Of course, you’ll need to have an innate love of children and have all the patience expected from a childcare worker.

“The best route to take is to speak to a reputable agency to assist you with your placement but be weary of dodgy fly-by-night companies who are out to make a quick buck,” warns Marc Whitmill, General Manager of YDP (Youth Discovery Programmes), an organisation that assists young people enrich their lives by assisting them secure international work and travel experience.

“A reputable agency will first interview you, assess your skills and understand what it is that you are looking for in an employer before considering the most suitable placement options".

"Make certain that the agency you choose to assist you is a member of the WYSE Travel Confederation, the largest and most prestigious global international youth travel organisation.”

“Then, understand exactly what it is what your placement fee is buying you before making the purchase. Most importantly, make sure that your placement agency works with a reputable American based partner who can offer 24/7 assistance. Taking a gap year au pairing can be a wonderfully fulfilling experience if it’s done right,” continues Marc Whitmill.

Good advice indeed. We catch-up with Marc, a veritable authority on the subject after organising some 300 au pairing positions annually, about some of the finer details of this exciting gap year option.

What is the most common destination for au pairs to be placed?

95% of the au pairs we place are in the United States, followed by the Netherlands. On average we successfully place 300 au pairs per year since we started our au pair programme with Cultural Care Au Pair six years ago.

How much can au pairs expect to earn?

All au pairs earn tax free pocket money of $180 (approximately R1, 400) per week in the US and roughly €350 (approximately R4, 000) per month in the Netherlands.

Au pairs have no expenses as all the food and lodging is provided by their host families. Therefore, in 12 months, an au pair can save roughly R70 000 – if they save it all that is which is unlikely but it has been done before. All in all, a great way to save money for onward study at university.

Who is eligible to be an au pair?

The opportunity is open to anyone over between the ages of 18 and 26 who has a matric certificate and South African passport. Naturally, the job would suit someone who loves working with children. Childcare experience and a driver’s licence would be beneficial.

What type of person will be a good au pair?

Au pairing is as much about a cultural exchange as it is about looking are your host family’s children, so you need to be eager to learn about other cultures and be willing to share your culture and traditions as an ambassador of South Africa.

A friendly, self-confident individual who enjoys adventure and socialising will be most successful.

What are au pairs expected to do?

Au pairs are expected to take care of the children of their host families and perform light household duties that relates to the children. You are expected to work 45 hours per week with one full day off.

What are some of the benefits of being an au pair?

Besides the benefits of living in a foreign country and adopting a completely new lifestyle for one year, you will be able to study a course of your choice during this time.

This is compulsory for all au pairs and any course you take is worth six university credits. You will also be allowed to travel in the US for one month after your contract has been completed. If you find that you’d like to continue working for your host family you are able to sign up for an additional 12 months.

Is it true that only ladies are allowed to be au pairs?

Although this job appeals mostly to ladies, guys are definitely not excluded. In fact, some families specifically request guys. So guys should feel welcome to apply, although at times they could wait a few months to be matched with a family.

Do you have any tips for any people who would like to apply to be an au pair?

Having your drivers licence will make your application much more attractive to your potential host families. If you don’t already have your driver’s license, make sure you get it soon.

Fill out the application form with extra care, yours will be up against hundreds of others and you need to ensure that your chances are the best.

There you have it, it’s really that simple. You get to participate in a cultural exchange while learning about yourself and the world. If you would like to find out more information or if you’d like go ahead and apply contact YDP on 021 423 1583 or visit www.ydp.co.za for more information.






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