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How I Found A Job That Paid Me To Live Abroad For Free

Travel

What does it mean to be an Au Pair?


I had heard the term "Au Pair" before but wasn't really hip to what it actually entailed. Until one December, I stumbled upon the very creative way to live abroad while on a rampant Google search. It struck me that month, during one frustrating day of contemplation and confusion about life and where to turn next, that I wanted, needed, to travel often and experience new cultures. While I've been able to take the international/domestic trip here and there I was craving more frequent jet-setting. But, given my financial situation, I wanted to do it for free, or at least at a low enough cost.

Overlooking Blanes, Spain, my Au Pair hometown

By far, Au Pair felt the most creative.

An Au Pair is a person who lives with a family in another country to help with the kids.

I vaguely remembered Au Pair from a made-for-TV movie back in the day but not as something that seemed accessible. Plus, I had never personally known anyone to do it so I thought it was out of my league. But upon looking deeper into it, my eyes were opened to the opportunity awaiting. I couldn't help but think, Why haven't I looked into this sooner?

That day, I found aupairworld.com and signed up on a whim. Two days later, I had completely forgotten about it and moved on from my moody episode when I checked my e-mail to find multiple applications from families needing an Au Pair. At least 10 families had reached out to me and over the next week, applications kept rolling in. By the end of January, I was practically booking my flight to stay with a family in Italy! However, it didn't quite work out last minute and I thought, what a relief, it was all moving kind of fast.

Nine months later, a family from Spain that I had previously spoken with reached out. "I noticed you still have a profile on here and I would love to chat again if you are available to come in November," the mom had said.

It was mid-October and in reality, I didn't think it would be feasible. I had pushed aside the thought of being an Au Pair and was focused on saving money and finding a full-time fashion job. But, though the turnaround was tight, something inside told me not to say no just yet.

Day trip to Barcelona with my Au Pair little sister

As it turns out, that same week, a friend of mine found out that they had to leave their apartment by the end of October. The family needed me in Spain by the first week of November. Instantly, I felt as though everything was falling into place and the universe was telling me that it was time to take this chance. My friend took over my apartment and before I knew it, my flight was booked and I was off to Spain for six weeks. I decided that since I would already be in Europe, I would travel to different countries for two more months after the gig.

And that's how six countries, 10 cities and three months later, I'm wishing I would have jumped on and benefitted from this opportunity years ago instead of waiting until I was 26.

But I just didn't know! Being an Au Pair is the perfect launch pad for girls coming out of college who don't want to go into the workforce just yet or for young women who just want to travel in general. And while it is certainly not limited to girls in/finishing college, fewer responsibilities back home make it an opportunity more accessible for young women.

A photo taken by my Au Pair little sister in Catalunya, Spain

As I shared my travels on social media, many people reached out to me asking how my experience was, how I did it, and how they too could do it because they felt inspired. So, below is a round-up of key points from my experience as an Au Pair. I hope it sparks a fire in other travel-hungry women like myself and can specifically encourage more black women to seek this out as a travel opportunity.

What Is An Au Pair?

According to aupairworld.com, "An au pair is an unmarried young adult aged 18 to 30 years, who has no children and travels to a foreign country for a defined period of time to live with a host family. The au pair is considered as a full member of the family during the entire stay. As such, he or she helps the family with childcare and can be asked to assume some light household tasks. In return, the host family provides free board and lodging, as well as pocket money. However, the au pair is neither a housekeeper, nor a nanny."

From my research, it's true that Au Pairs do generally have to be under the age of 30. Many sources, such as AuPair.com, also state that having no kids of your own is a general requirement. However, with the site that I used, the terms and conditions are always personalized between the family and the Au Pair. Don't be discouraged based on these guidelines alone because I'm sure being 31, for example, would not count you out.

Photo by my Au Pair little brother while walking him to school

How To Get Started As An Au Pair

I used an independent website, aupairworld.com, in which both families and Au Pairs register for free. After registration, I simply made a profile featuring general information about myself, why I want to Au Pair, my experience with kids, and a few pictures. Families that register will also complete similar sections on their page. From there, the site's "easy find" feature is available to search for matching families. And, like in my situation, families will send applications directly to Au Pairs.

Screen shot of my profile on Au Pair World

How To Choose The Right Family

Of course, there's more to it than registering, picking the perfect family on paper, and flying to their home. After speaking with different families, I exchanged e-mails with my favorites. From there, our e-mail communication consisted of multiple questionnaires about each other, recommendations from close friends/acquaintances, and Skype calls. I also spoke with their previous Au Pairs for firsthand insight on the experience. Finally, I had my parents Skype with the family so they could all meet "face to face."

The family I ended up living with in the Catalonia region of Spain seemed perfect for many reasons. First, the children were 10 and 12 years old, which I felt was an opportunity to hang out with them and help them with English as opposed to caring for younger children, like toddlers. The daughter also dreams of being a fashion designer living in NYC and seeing as I live in NYC now and work in fashion, this was an awesome bonding experience waiting to happen. Finally, I had visited Spain before and knew I would love the opportunity to actually live in the country.

Visit to the Botanical Garden in my Au Pair town; Photo by Au Pair sis

Why Europe?

This was primarily a result of the families that contacted me, with most being from Spain and Italy. The website I used allows you to select the countries you are interested in, and Spain and Italy were among my choices. I also felt most comfortable being in Europe for an extended period as a solo traveler. I had studied abroad in London years ago and much of my international traveling has been in European countries such as France, the Netherlands, and Germany.

A colorful street in Blanes, Spain

What About Visas?

American citizens traveling to Europe for less than 90 days don't (shouldn't) need a special visa. I simply relied on my tourist visa. However, if a family wants you for longer, then they will likely apply through their government for you to stay legally over 90 days. The families typically indicate how long they want an Au Pair and you should also have an idea, right?

Do you want a short stay just to get a taste of another area? Or, do you want to immerse yourself in the culture for up to a year? Keep in mind, a longer stay probably equates to saving more money. This all depends on your expenses back home and what you want to do while you are abroad. Once you have a timeframe in mind, partner with your prospective family to tie up all the logistics and make sure any necessary paperwork is filed in a timely manner.

Standing on Sa Palomera in Blanes, Spain

What About Money And Travel Expenses?

Here is the tricky part. Technically speaking, as an Au Pair the main element to pay for is your flight there and back. You will be living with the family as a regular member, so food, toiletries, and all essentials are covered and sometimes transportation. Family-led activities should generally be covered, as well. Like how I was lucky enough to be offered an extra ticket to a Barcelona football match (a BIG deal) because my Au Pair mom's father couldn't make it, though the circumstances weren't as lucky for their previous Au Pair who decided to shell out a few hundred dollars for the chance to see the famed team play. And of course, there is also weekly pocket money for any activities you want to do in your free time.

Attending the Barcelona vs. Malaga football match at Camp Nou

With that being said, the pocket money is in no way a means to supplement an income. I would say a high average is about 100 euros/week, so 400 euros/month (about $430). This money is only meant to provide you with funds to enjoy yourself in and around your new city, not intended to support any financial responsibilities. Therefore, it is crucial to save if you want to take trips to surrounding countries, go on shopping sprees, eat fancy dinners, or do anything that cannot be sustained outside of a hundred bucks a week.

Eating mackerel in a ponzu sauce in Barcelona

I committed to my Au Pair family about three weeks before my scheduled arrival so I hustled to build up a small stash of funds before I left. Being able to travel through Europe after I was finished with my stint was the ultimate goal. Plus, I did not know when I would have the chance again. I saved about $1300 in those weeks, separate from my personal savings, and accepted that I would use my credit card when necessary. Due to a few setbacks on my trip, my money definitely ran out! But I still managed to keep traveling in Europe and made it back with plenty of stories to tell, despite not a lot of cash.

How To Find Cheap Flights For Country-Hopping

Once you are in Europe, it is easy and cheap to travel via planes and trains. My favorite sites to check for flights were lastminute.com and cheapoair.com. When I found low prices, I would then check the airline's website before booking because often it's even cheaper on their own site. One note is that many of these low-cost airlines do not allow free checked bags so travel light when possible. I always checked the airline's baggage fees before booking, knowing I would have to purchase at least one bag for my suitcase. Even with my bag, my flights averaged around $75 one-way to each country.

Photographing Lisbon's skyline on a weekend trip to Portugal

What Next?

Now, I'm back and I have tons of new destinations under my belt, unforgettable memories, and a new extended family on the other side of the world. At the time that I left, I was freelancing and did not have any major work commitments, so I had the flexibility to leave. I'm now back in the US and able to pick right back up where I left off and am glad I took the chance.

For those of you who may not find it so easy to go, I'm not saying to pick up and quit your job or leave your life behind. But for those of you who are looking for an outlet and a means to travel on your own terms, maybe becoming an Au Pair is the next right move for you.

For more on my journey, visit my blog Eclectic Culture.

Originally published September 12, 2017

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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