I had enough. Of lecturers, of essays, of books and exams. I had enough of my worth only being measured by a grade on a piece of paper but after 16 years of full time education I knew no different. One night I was scrolling through Facebook, avoiding a barrage of emails from tutors when I saw an advert from an au pair website looking for British girls. I decided that it wouldn't harm me to sign up and see what it was all about. And well that is how I ended up moving to Athens.
My first few days on the website was filled with updating my profile and making myself look appealing to families. In my personal statement I spoke about babysitting family friends and my brother, my charity work and my involvement in British politics. These families aren't looking for people with childcare qualifications and a BA in education studies. They're looking for someone who is enthusiastic, who wants to learn about their culture and becoming part of their family.
I started to speak to families from Poland, China, Russia, France and Italy and none of them quite fit. Some of the fathers seemed very pushy and many just wanted a cheap babysitter or to show off to their friends that they had an au pair. I really wanted a European family with a little girl or two who really wanted me to become part of their family. I ended up interviewing with seven families: two Italian, one French, one German, one Polish, one Greek and one Chinese.
To sum up the German and Polish interviews: the families just were not for me. The Polish family simply didn't pay enough for wanted. They wanted a full time nanny for around £60 a month. And well, I remembered my distaste for the Germans the minute my interview started. The father was rude about Britain and as soon as my views on the European Union became clear I feel they wanted little more to do with me as well. The Chinese family were lovely, I cannot say many bad words about them but travelling as far away as China seemed too much for my first move out of the UK. The French family again were lovely but lived in central Paris and I felt that was too much of a risk given the current state of affairs regarding terrorism in France.
The two Italian families lived in the same city but were completely different. The first family had two boys and one girl all under seven. It paid rather well but it seemed the parents wanted little more to do with their children than to find them a new au pair; well that was the impression I got from the father who loved the sound of his own voice and barely allowed his wife to speak. His children had been looked after by British/American au pairs since they were babies yet could barely utter a sentence in English; something just didn't feel right. The second Italian family were lovely, they had a young daughter and son who were both fairly fluent in English and if by this point I hadn't had my heart set on my Greek family I would of possibly au paired with them.
But I decided on a single mum with a sevn year old daughter in Greece. Why, you will ask. Because I wasn't a glorified babysitter, I was not only allowed to Skype with the parents, I was asked questions about my life and my family and my host mum is a broadcast journalist, something that fits in with my hobbies and interests.
I had two introductory Skype interviews with my Greek family and talked daily on Facebook with her mum right up to the minute I boarded the plane to Greece. If you look hard enough on these websites you will find a family you click with and feel part of even before you arrive, it's just about seeing what you are comfortable with.
I never saw myself as the type to go and live as an au pair, never mind in Europe. But it is the best decision I've made. The satisfaction you get from seeing your family accept you, from meeting new people and from seeing your new brother/sister grow as a person is unbeatable. So before you accept that place at university thinking that it's the only thing for you to do next or dread the thought of going back to university but think you have no other option, maybe give being an au pair a try. You can take a year out to figure out what you want from life and create new connections around the globe without a trust fund to go travelling for a year.