I know this will seem like it came out of nowhere, as in my last blog post I was happy and starting to find my feet. I’ll try to explain how things turned around so quickly.
The weekend after I had gotten the bus for the first time, I went with my host family to their holiday home in Porto Ercole, leaving on Friday night and coming back Sunday morning. I then spent Sunday writing blog posts, and doing admin stuff on my laptop. My host parents had given me the choice to stay in Rome, but I went to Porto Ercole with them as I wasn’t comfortable staying in Rome on my own when I had only just got there and I didn’t know anybody. I’m not supposed to work on weekends but I was very happy to make myself useful and babysat three times. So it was a surprise to me when my host parents asked to speak with me, saying that they thought I was unhappy because I ‘hadn’t interacted with them all weekend’! I felt this was unfair because they were out most of the time and I had also been on a high on Friday because of figuring out the busses. So it seemed to come out of nowhere, and I’m still not really sure why they would think that.
I had told them, in passing, that I didn’t plan to go out the next day, which seemed to trouble them greatly. They told me I should be going out every day to explore the city, otherwise I would never be happy, but gave no thought to the fact that I was new to the city and didn’t know anyone there! It was all very strange and I felt increasingly isolated and unhappy.
In short, I was working more hours than agreed and now they were dictating what I should do in my free time! This was a really difficult position to be in as I wanted to see through my commitment, but on the other hand this clearly wasn’t going to work. I knew the longer I left it, the more opportunities I would be missing out on at home and my homesickness had returned in full force, so I decided coming home was the best option for everyone.
All in all, this was definitely the right decision for me, especially as they become increasingly cold the last few days and didn’t even ask what my arrangements were for getting home! But my mum came out to Rome for my last few days and I loved showing her what I had learned and acting as her guide.
This blog was meant to document my experience of being an au pair, but I think I will carry on because I have found it to be really therapeutic to write everything down, and at the end of the day I am still on a gap year and who knows what might happen next!
I got the bus today! This is a massive achievement for me and something I never thought I would be able to do comfortably! I really think this will be a big step towards me feeling happier in Rome.
My host mum, now back from Kazakstan, offered to get the bus into the centre of Rome with me when she went to work. So this morning we left at 8:15 and got the 913 to the end of the line at Augusto Imperatore and then walked first to the Spanish Steps and then on to the Trevi Fountain where she left me to go the her office. It was early in the morning so there were not very many people there which was peaceful and it was very amusing to watch the new tourist patrol blow whistles at people who dared to sit down on the steps. I also had a good time people watching on the Spanish Steps, watching people take a few photos and move on, rather than just enjoy the space!
As I found the bus so scary here in Rome, I thought I’d take you through what happens on a bus journey. First, you have to indicate to the bus driver that you want them to stop, something that we seem to have stopped doing where I live, but then I guess there is only one bus where I live! Then you get on the bus at the middle or back rather than the front. If you have a monthly pass like me you can just sit down (if you manage to find a seat) and don’t have to worry about anything. If you have a paper ticket you have to validate it in one of the yellow machines usually found at the back or in the middle of the bus. Paper tickets are valid for 100 minutes and include one trip on the metro, all for just €1,50! The bus displays the name of the next stop on the screen at the front of the bus and you have to press the red buttons found throughout the bus if you want to get off at the next stop. I have also been using the ‘moovit’ app mentioned in my last blog post, which works really well as it shows you what bus stop you are at in real time! All in all the buses are quite simple, and not all that different from buses in England – so I don’t know why I was so worried!
Overall, today has been a very positive day for me, my best day in Rome so far!
I think this week has possibly been one of the hardest I have been through. I have never been away longer than a week from my family and to know I wasn’t going home for a long time was very difficult for me. But we have been using FaceTime everyday so that has helped as it is like they are almost here with me.
This week has also not been a usual week, as I flew in to Rome (where the family I am staying with live) but went straight to their holiday home in Porto Ercole for 5 nights, so I have only just spent my first few nights in Rome despite having been in Italy since Monday. I think it is taking me a while to settle in because of this, and because I come from a small market town in England and Rome is a very big city with a whole other country in the middle of it!
The one thing that I am really worried about here in Rome is getting the buses. From where I am staying the buses are the only public transport availabe to get into the centre of the city, but I am terrified of getting busses. I don’t like to do it at home, because of not knowing where to get off the bus. Let alone in a foreign city where the buses follow a different system! However I have found a few apps through recommendations on Facebook pages such as ‘Expats in Rome’ that seem to be very good, although I have not tried them out yet. The three apps I have downloaded are ‘moovit’, ‘transit’ and ‘city mapper’. These apps can run in the background whilst you are on the bus and tell you when you need to get off the bus, which I think will really help when I do manage to get on a bus in the first place! I’m hoping one of my host parents will get the bus with me, but they both work and so finding the time for this may be hard, especially as the mum is currently in Kazakstan!
On a more positive note I have found a family that have been very welcoming and two little boys who never fail to make me giggle. Only yesterday I blew their minds by letting them know that we have Nutella in England.
So, I guess the best thing to do is to take each day as it comes and see what happens, hopefully I will slowly become more comfortable and be able to make the small world of this street bigger by exploring parts of Rome.
I thought I’d write a post on how I got my au pair placement. I got my placement through a website called AuPairWorld. I found this website easy to use and was quickly able to connect with possible host families. They also have lots of information about things such as the different host countries that you may want to go to and what you should ask about possible host families.
Some top tips for using AuPairWorld from my experience:
- As a native English speaker I was quite overwhelmed by the amount of interest I got for my lack of lots of babysitting or childcare experience, so if you are a native English speaker as well, be prepared for that!
- Because AuPairWorld is just a database of host families they don’t do security checks for you as au pair agencies would. But remember this goes both ways so host families are just as keen to make sure that you are the real deal. My mum phoned the English embassy in Rome to ask what kind of checks we could do on the family but we didn’t end up doing them as we felt comfortable with my host family. Do make sure that you get the full names and addresses of everyone involved though as if they can’t give you this then they are definitely not legitimate. The most important thing to do is to make yourself feel comfortable with the family which I was able to do through Skype.
- Skype lots of different families; I ended up going with the first family I skyped but I am glad that I skyped so many different families as it has meant that I am certain that this family is the right one for me and I was able to learn a lot from different skypes. For example, during one Skype I got the opportunity to talk to a current au pair and that really helped me with knowing what kind of thing I could expect as an au pair.
- Don’t be afraid to ask awkward questions; when I skyped with families I asked most of the questions and one of the questions I always asked was ‘how do you discipline your children’ which often got lost in translation so I mostly just ended up asking if they hit their children to tell them off which is what I really wanted to know, as I could never hit a child and I knew I wouldn’t be compatible with a family that did. Luckily the answer was always no, but I am glad I asked it because it meant I didn’t have to worry. Also don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions about all sorts of different things, one I found especially beneficial to ask was how much support I would be getting as I didn’t feel comfortable being left alone with the children straight away.
- Talk to your host family about your expectations; the second time I skyped my host family with my mum too and we were able to talk about the expectations of the experience for everyone involved. For me it is really important to manage my expectations and be aware of what I can expect otherwise I can find it very difficult to adapt and change. My mum and I were able to communicate this with my host family who were very understanding of this and are also aware that I am only 18 and that this will be my first time being away from my family for longer than a week!
Overall, AuPairWorld is an easy website to use and I was able to secure a placement I was really happy with within about 1-2 weeks! I could not recommend it enough, even if it’s just to procrastinate in photography lessons!
If you have any questions about my experience of becoming an au pair, please leave a comment below!
I have started this blog as a way to document my gap year. I have just finished A-Levels in History, Sociology and Photography and hope to go to uni to study journalism, although I have not applied yet. From the 28th August I will be flying to Rome to be an au pair until Christmas, after that I hope to go interrailing all around Europe with my best friend Ella. Hopefully I can help someone along the way and connect with other au pairs and travellers.
Leave a comment and tell me what you think!