When I first decided to extend my studies in Australia, I was anxiously searching for a job, and I was also looking for a new place to live (Read more about program versus independent housing here: https://finsupabroad.com/2020/12/20/living-in-independent-housing-abroad/). While this proved to be difficult in the beginning, with the job market being so poor due to COVID-19 and already not catered to students only available part-time, it ended with something falling in my lap that included both in one: a job as a nanny and a safe, affordable place to live in a home with an Australian family. In my search for a sharehouse/apartment, I’d been invited to apply as an au pair for a family of four, and what an experience it was.
An au pair is typically a young girl from a foreign country who is coming from overseas to visit, travel, or study, and typically looking to stay temporarily with a family in exchange for housing, food, and pocket money while they explore their host country. Luckily for me, a formal background in childcare experience isn’t typically required.
My search for a job was getting quite tedious and very disheartening. Retail, fast food, and customer service jobs I could’ve gotten in a heartbeat back home where all rejecting my applications. On-campus, part-time jobs for students are not as popular in Australia, especially for international students who are limited to work restrictions of about 20 hours per week while school is in-session and need to work around our busy class schedules. Lucky for me, however, a sharehouse finding website connected me to Jhana.* Jhana saw my profile which described me, my background and occupation, and my living preferences and invited me to view the room she had for rent in a home with her, her husband Owen*, and her two children (4 year old Elanor* and 18 month old Liam*). The living situation would give me a private bedroom and bathroom in their home and include rent, food, and household expenses such as internet and home items in exchange for 15 hours of babysitting every week. This sounded perfect, as it would allow me to cover basic living expenses without worry of exceeding my visa’s work limitations, give me a safe and comfortable place to live, and give me plenty of time to focus on my studies and see what Sydney was all about after lockdown.
After some trial babysitting, a tour of their home, some family dinners, and a trial period of living with the family, I decided to sign on as their au pair.
See Part Two to read about my experience as an au pair and Part Three for my advice on working as an au pair while abroad.
*Names changed for privacy purposes.