Tag Archives: au pair

Avoiding Homesickness this Holiday Season

Homesickness can be a problem during the holidays, even if it hasn’t been at any other time of the year. Au pairs often miss their friends and family, familiar places and their own traditions and customs. The holiday activities in the United States seem, and may actually be, different just at a time when an au pair would welcome something familiar. 

It is common for au pairs’ emotions to be close to the surface during the holidays. Her highs are higher, her lows are lower. The enormity of what she has done–actually living in another country (which is an amazing thing when you think about it!)–hits her and throws her into a self-protective mode.

Host parents can help her through this unfamiliar territory by talking to her about what your specific family activities will be (gifts, meals, visitors, religious services, in-home traditions, or none of these, as the case may be.) In the spirit of cultural exchange, ask her if she has any favorite holiday traditions or foods that you might be able to incorporate into your family’s celebration of the season. Let her know what you will be doing, when you will be doing it, and what she can expect. Talk to her about what has to be accomplished and get her involved and interested. Don’t expect her to just “know” what needs to be done. Give her some clear, agreed upon assignments. Make her feel a part of things. And, let her know her contribution is needed and appreciated.

Photo: Sheila Sund (Flickr)

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Adapted from an earlier post by Christine Connally

This time of year, it’s easy to get distracted, and when you’re distracted you’re at a greater risk for holiday crime.

Here are some important tips that are always a good idea, but especially during the holiday shopping season.

  • Always pay attention to your surroundings.  Avoid distractions like using cell phone or listening to music when you are coming and going from stores.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.  Take just the amount you need or use debit or credit cards.
  • Keep your money in your front pocket.  Pay close attention to your wallet when you are in crowded places like buses, metro, and elevators.
  • Be careful not to lay your purse or bags down on the floor or out of your sight at the mall.
  • Save your most expensive purchases for the end of your shopping trip, so you aren’t carrying them with you for long periods of time.
  • Whenever possible, shop during daylight hours and if you must shop after dark, go with a friend.
  • If you’re not driving yourself to go shopping, use the Metro Trip Planner before going out to minimize time waiting at the bus stop or metro station.  Never accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Criminals will use different methods to distract you and steal your belongings.
  • Look around the parking area when you are leaving.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.  Return to the store and ask security to walk out with you or wait for a family or other group of people to walk out at the same time with you.
  • Trust your instincts, If something seems suspicious or unsafe, you are probably right.
  • Remember the saying, “Better Safe Than Sorry.”

5 Thanksgiving Tips for Au Pairs and Host Parents

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November each year. Even though a few other countries also celebrate Thanksgiving, it’s still considered a uniquely American holiday, one that the au pairs look forward to experiencing. You can learn more about it hereContinue reading

It’s Cold Out There! A 2017 Guide to DC Winter Weather

When I moved to DC from the warm South Carolina coast for graduate school, I refused to believe that winter weather would actually arrive and (even worse) stick around for several months.

That first September, I was confused by the empty hooks hanging in the back of all of the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short months each hook would be holding a winter coat.

In October, I ignored the racks of coats and stacks of sweaters displayed in all of the stores. My lightweight jacket and jeans seemed to work just fine.

In November, I dashed to and from the car, grateful for the warmth and heat inside my house and university.  “It’s just a cold snap,” I told myself.

And then it snowed.

I watched my neighbors shovel their sidewalks and head off to work. I checked the university website and was shocked that classes hadn’t been canceled. December had arrived and I was living in DC without a hat, gloves, scarf, or boots. I slipped and slid my way to my car, carefully drove to Nordstroms (marveling at the snow plows clearing the roads), and bought the only pair of snow boots left in the store.

Seventeen years later, my closet is fully stocked with coats and everything else necessary to live, work, and play in the winter. Because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about living in a city with winter weather- unless we have a blizzard, people go outside in the cold weather. In fact, they even have fun outdoors.

Children love to play in the snow- and they need the exercise. Staying cooped up inside only leads to grumpiness and fights. It’s much more fun to stay outside and build a snowman. Au pairs need to be prepared to join in the excitement.

For those of you not used to this weather, I understand your dismay. However, I encourage you to take advantage of this unique experience. Embrace the cold weather months as a chance to wear sweaters, try out a pair of gorgeous boots, and experience the snow. The au pair year is over very quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be home again showing your friends and families pictures of the first snowman you ever built.

Important Tips*

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Dress in Layers – Consider buying sweaters, jackets and long underwear.  If you wear several layers, you can take off things to be comfortable. For example, when it might be too warm for a heavy jacket, but too cold for just a sweater, you can combine different pieces of clothing.

Set a Good Example – Host parents will expect you set the example for your kids by wearing a coat when it is cold outside. You should have a winter coat, hats, gloves, boots, and scarves.  Your host kids will fight wearing a coat if you don’t wear one. Think of yourself as a celebrity and everyone wants to look like you — especially your kids.

Check the “Emergency Change of Clothes” – With young children, we often keep an emergency change of clothes in the car, diaper bag or at their school. If you haven’t already switched out the shorts and t-shirt for something warmer, now is the time to do it.

Buy Cold Weather Clothing Now – Many stores have sales this time of year. Target, T J Maxx, WalMart, and Macy’s have lots of outdoor gear in their stores. DSW has tons of warm and stylish boots and has many DC-area locations, including Columbia Heights, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Lands End and Amazon are great online alternatives. An even more affordable option would be to go to a thrift shop. There are many in the area and you can often find a very warm jacket for a small price compared to buying one new.

Monitor School Closings and Delays– Because DC doesn’t get as much snow as the Alps, school is often canceled or delayed when it snows just a little. Au pairs from Germany, Poland, and other cold-weather countries will laugh at the DC area’s dysfunction in the winter ice and snow. Talk with your host family now, so you can all understand the plan for these inevitable schedule changes.

(*Important Tips includes information first posted on Christine Connally’s Au Pair Chatter blog. )

Fashionably Winterized

It’s possible to look great and still be warm. Here are a few articles to inspire you:

Education Requirements for Au Pairs

Required Credits 

Au pairs are required earn at least six academic credits during their year by completing classes/courses at accredited US post-secondary colleges and universities. 

6 academic credits = approximately 8 CEUs = approximately 80 classroom hours 

Universities and colleges use several different systems for credits, and au pairs use any combination of academic credits, CEUs, or hours as long as they add up to the required number of hours. (The absolute minimum is 72 classroom hours.)

Accredited Schools

For a list of classes approved for your DC-area cluster, click on this link.

If you want to take a class from a school not listed on the cluster blog, check with your Community Counselor first to make sure it is accredited. Otherwise, it will not count toward your education requirement.

Choosing Classes

Be flexible. Remember that your childcare responsibilities come first. Class schedules need to be arranged with your host family and around your childcare duties. Your favorite class may not be available when you are. Schools vary in what they offer, but most offer a wide range of choices and offer day, evening, and Saturday classes.

The APIA Advantage UCLA Course is the only State Department approved class with an online component. No other online classes are accepted.

Tuition

Your host family will pay an education allowance of $500 to assist you in completing your education requirement. There are a few ways to get your credits for just your education allowance, but choices are limited. Normally au pairs will contribute some of their own money ($200+) towards their education.

Transportation

Your host family will provide transportation, including gasoline, parking, or public transportation costs, to and from your classes in your community until you complete your education requirement.

If the class is remote (out of town), host families pay for the class and what is included; au pairs pay for transportation, food, & lodging.

Education Proof

Submit any of the following as proof of your education:

  • Letter from the school on letterhead
  • Completion certificate from the school
  • School transcript

All proof of education must state your name, school attended, course title, start and end date of the course, and number of credits/hours earned. If your community counselor does not have proof that your education requirement has been completed, you will not receive a completion certificate upon your return to your home country and you forfeit the opportunity to extend.

DCC cluster au pairs should use this link to submit their education proof to their Community Counselor, Catherine.

Extending 

Image: NEC Corporation of America (Flickr)

Image: NEC Corporation of America (Flickr)

In order to extend, you must show proof that you have completed the education requirement no later than the end of your 11th month. 

If you are still in the process of completing your education, you must obtain proof from the school stating that the course(s) you are taking will conclude no later than the end of your 11th month and the number of credits/hours/CEUs that you will earn.

All proof of education must state your name, school attended, course title, and number of credits/hours earned. Completed verification should be given to your community counselor. Your extension request will not be processed without this proof.

Options for Those Last Few Education Hours

How many total classroom hours do Au Pairs need to complete in their first year?

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Au pairs are required earn at least six academic credits during their year by completing classes/courses at accredited US post-secondary colleges and universities. 

6 academic credits = approximately 8 CEUs = approximately 80 classroom hours 

(The absolute minimum accepted is 72 hours.)

Certain combinations of classes can leave you just a few hours short of the requirement. Here are several options for completing those last few hours. Prices listed are correct as of February 10, 2017 and are subject to change. Consult the university websites for full information.

Virginia International University Saturday Museum Classes
5 hours (.5 CEUs) for $40 (+$20 reg. fee)
Held almost every Saturday morning (10:30am) in DC. Metro-accessible locations.
Students will spend a day at a different museum each week and participate in an interactive, themed museum tour facilitated by ESL instructors.

University of Virgin Islands Experience America through Art Galleries & Museums
5 hours (.5 CEUs) for $40
Held once per month on a Saturday (10 am or 1:30pm) in DC. Metro-accessible locations.
Students self-guide through a local museum over a 3 hour period and complete an outside assignment. The assignment is creating a detailed pictorial report of the visit, due within 7 days of the course.

University of Virgin Islands Fitness Fridays
2 hours (.2 CEUs) for $20
Held once per month on a Friday evening (8 pm) in DC. Metro accessible location.
A fitness class where students will stretch, move and exercise. Register early, space is limited.

-adapted from a post by Christine Connally

Valentine’s Day Activities

Image: JWI_ValentinesOwl

Image: JWI_ValentinesOwl

Valentine’s Day is a time of love, friendship, giving, and caring. Americans use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to tell friends and family how much they care.  Celebrated on February 14th, children usually exchange cards at school on that day or one close to the holiday. 

Au Pair in America’s Valentine’s Day Pinterest Pinboard has lots of ideas for fun crafts and activities:

APIA’s Valentine’s Day Pinterest Board

Have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

Adapted from an earlier post by Christine Connally

This time of year, it’s easy to get distracted, and when you’re distracted you’re at a greater risk for holiday crime.

Here are some important tips that are always a good idea, but especially during the holiday shopping season.

  • Always pay attention to your surroundings.  Avoid distractions like using cell phone or listening to music when you are coming and going from stores.
  • Avoid carrying large amounts of cash.  Take just the amount you need or use debit or credit cards.
  • Keep your money in your front pocket.  Pay close attention to your wallet when you are in crowded places like buses, metro, and elevators.
  • Be careful not to lay your purse or bags down on the floor or out of your sight at the mall.
  • Save your most expensive purchases for the end of your shopping trip, so you aren’t carrying them with you for long periods of time.
  • Whenever possible, shop during daylight hours and if you must shop after dark, go with a friend.
  • If you’re not driving yourself to go shopping, use the Metro Trip Planner before going out to minimize time waiting at the bus stop or metro station.  Never accept a ride from a stranger.
  • Be aware of strangers approaching you for any reason. Criminals will use different methods to distract you and steal your belongings.
  • Look around the parking area when you are leaving.
  • Do not approach your car alone if there are suspicious people in the area.  Return to the store and ask security to walk out with you or wait for a family or other group of people to walk out at the same time with you.
  • Trust your instincts, If something seems suspicious or unsafe, you are probably right.
  • Remember the saying, “Better Safe Than Sorry.”

It’s Cold Out There! A Guide to Dressing for Winter Weather

When I moved to DC from the warm South Carolina coast for graduate school, I refused to believe that winter weather would actually arrive and (even worse) stick around for several months.

That first September, I was confused by the empty hooks hanging in the back of all of the classrooms. I couldn’t imagine that in a few short months each hook would be holding a winter coat.

In October, I ignored the racks of coats and stacks of sweaters displayed in all of the stores. My lightweight jacket and jeans seemed to work just fine.

In November, I dashed to and from the car, grateful for the warmth and heat inside my house and university.  “It’s just a cold snap,” I told myself.

And then it snowed.

I watched my neighbors shovel their sidewalks and head off to work. I checked the university website and was shocked that classes hadn’t been canceled. December had arrived and I was living in DC without a hat, gloves, scarf, or boots. I slipped and slid my way to my car, carefully drove to Nordstroms (marveling at the snow plows clearing the roads), and bought the only pair of snow boots left in the store.

Sixteen years later, my closet is fully stocked with coats and everything else necessary to live, work, and play in the winter. Because that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned about living in a city with winter weather- unless we have a blizzard, people go outside in the cold weather. In fact, they even have fun outdoors.

Children love to play in the snow- and they need the exercise. Staying cooped up inside only leads to grumpiness and fights. It’s much more fun to stay outside and build a snowman. Au pairs need to be prepared to join in the excitement.

For those of you not used to this weather, I understand your dismay. However, I encourage you to take advantage of this unique experience. Embrace the cold weather months as a chance to wear sweaters, try out a pair of gorgeous boots, and experience the snow. The au pair year is over very quickly, and before you know it, you’ll be home again showing your friends and families pictures of the first snowman you ever built.

Important Tips*

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Photo credit: Catherine McEaddy Holmes

Dress in Layers – Consider buying sweaters, jackets and long underwear.  If you wear several layers, you can take off things to be comfortable. For example, when it might be too warm for a heavy jacket, but too cold for just a sweater, you can combine different pieces of clothing.

Set a Good Example – Host parents will expect you set the example for your kids by wearing a coat when it is cold outside. You should have a winter coat, hats, gloves, boots and scarves.  Your host kids will fight wearing a coat if you don’t wear one. Think of yourself as a celebrity and everyone wants to look like you — especially your kids.

Check the “Emergency Change of Clothes” – With young children, we often keep an emergency change of clothes in the car, diaper bag or at their school. If you haven’t already switched out the shorts and t-shirt for something warmer, now is the time to do it.

Buy Cold Weather Clothing Now – Many stores have sales this time of year. Target, T J Maxx, WalMart, and Macy’s have lots of outdoor gear in their stores. DSW has tons of warm and stylish boots and is located right beside the Columbia Heights metro stop (around the corner from Target on Irving Street). Lands End and Amazon are great online alternatives. An even more affordable option would be to go to a thrift shop. There are many in the area and you can often find a very warm jacket for a small price compared to buying one new.

Monitor School Closings and Delays– Because DC doesn’t get as much snow as the Alps, school is often canceled or delayed when it snows just a little. Au pairs from Germany, Poland, and other cold-weather countries will laugh at the DC area’s dysfunction in the winter ice and snow. Talk with your host family now, so you can all understand the plan for these inevitable schedule changes.

(*Important Tips includes information first posted on Christine Connally’s Au Pair Chatter blog. )

Fashionably Winterized

It’s possible to look great and still be warm. Here are a few articles to inspire you: