In the spring of 2013, as the end of my TAPIF contract loomed ever-closer, I didn’t feel at all ready to leave France. So I started plotting ways to stay.
Renew my TAPIF contract? No…While being in France didn’t feel over and done with, TAPIF definitely did.
Become a cheese maker’s apprentice? Tempting—oh so tempting—but I never quite got up the nerve to ask the cheese man if he needed one.
Apply to study at a French university? Maybe in the future, but at the time, I didn’t have nearly enough direction to choose a field of study, let alone research and apply to potential programs.
Become an au pair? I was qualified, sure, but I’d have to go back to the States anyway to apply for the correct visa…
In then end, I left France and—after lots and lots of traveling—made my way back to Southern California and then on to Portland. But even as I started to settle into a new place and a new job, I seemed to always be thinking about how and when to next uproot myself. Since graduating college, I’ve been restless and nomadic, and I’m not ready to give that up yet.
When the time came in the spring of 2014 to renew my contract at the French immersion school in Portland, I chose not to. This was partly because I didn’t see the job furthering my long-term goals, partly because of the aforementioned restlessness, and partly because, as much as I loved Portland, I needed to leave.
After the school year ended, I decided to stay in Portland through the summer, nannying for the same family I’d worked with the summer before while waiting out the terms of my lease and planning my next move.
So where would I go?
Back to Southern California? For a little while, yes, but not for good.
On to graduate school? Not yet. I have more direction now, but still don’t feel quite ready. Because I need to reassert my independence and self-sufficiency. Because I need to truly solidify my sense of self-worth. And because I need to feel beyond confident in my French skills before applying to a competitive program where “near-native fluency” is a prerequisite.
France, then. It’s always been France. And I decided that this time going as an au pair would be my best bet.
To be an au pair in France, you must meet several criteria:
- Be between 17 and 30 years of age,
- Be a foreigner with a temporary student residency permit (a.k.a. visa, which you apply for once you’ve secured a host family, negotiated a contract, etc.),
- Be enrolled in a French class specifically designed for foreigners (which you need proof of to have your contract validated and your visa application approved).
As an au pair, your host family provides you with room and board and a small monthly sum in exchange for your help with childcare (babysitting, escorting the children to and from school, helping the children with homework, getting them ready for bed, etc.), cooking, and light housework (tidying up after yourself and helping the children keep their spaces in order). The specific terms of the contract are negotiated and agreed upon individually by each au pair and host family.
My past childcare experience and preexisting language skills make me an extremely attractive candidate, and being supported to live, study, and be immersed in France makes au pairing an extremely attractive way to further my goals.
My year-long contract starts in two weeks. It seems sudden because I’ve been keeping everything under wraps. Because everything only seemed certain once my contract had arrived, and that was only a week ago. It seems sudden, but it’s taken six months of researching and shifting tactics and paperwork (seemingly endless paperwork) to set everything up.
But now it’s all set, and in two weeks I’m moving back to France.