Just graduated from High School or college and not sure what’s next? Interested in taking a break from your studies to experience life abroad? Eager to practice your second language, whether it be Spanish, French, German, or the like? If you find yourself in one of these situations, consider becoming an Au Pair.

Active around the world, this program matches volunteers with host families in exchange for part-time domestic help, whether it be childcare, tutoring, or teaching your native language to children. Depending on your work expertise, this sort of international exchange could be a great resume builder for young professionals.

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What are the logistics?

Normally participants receive food and lodging in exchange for an average of 25 hours a week with weekends free, unless specified otherwise in your contract. Besides the meals and housing, participants can also earn a modest weekly allowance. For example, last summer I was earning 60 euros a week while working as an Au Pair in Galicia, Spain.

Generally Au Pair hopefuls have three options for being paired with a host family.

Au Pairs provide domestic help to familes in exchange for room and board -- Vimeo/Vitta Films Channel
Au Pairs provide domestic help to familes in exchange for room and board -- Vimeo/Vitta Films Channel

If you'd like to exert the least amount of effort in searching for families and are willing to pay an additional fee, then it would be advisable to go through an external agency. Once you write your introduction letter (explaining who you are and what you intend to gain from the experience) they will send your application along to various families in order to find the best arrangement for you.

The second option would be going through an online agency (such as Au Pair World) that allows you or the family to directly contact each other.

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Predominantly the gigs founds on this website (that essentially functions like a social media account) are in Europe, North America, and Australia. According to their website, approximately 300,000 Au Pairs used their services in 2013.

Lastly, Facebook offers an assortment of groups where participants and families post frequently. Sometimes these postings are last-minute, meaning one could find (or even change) host families rather spontaneously. In case you need to switch host families, or want to mingle with other Au Pairs in the area, easy access to Facebook will always come in handy.

My experience

Over the summer while traveling throughout northern Spain, I decided to use the agency method simply because I didn’t have the computer access to be searching for families myself. Since I was previously living in Murcia at the time, I already had all of the necessary paperwork (health insurance and visas that an agency requires) in place. My goal was to gain some more teaching experience with youngsters before beginning my job at a Spanish primary school in October.

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Be warned, however, that sometimes Au Pair families provide accommodation outside of their home. For example, while volunteering in rural Galicia last summer, the family put me up in a hostel for two weeks. While at first this felt luxurious, there's no denying that over time the solitude became crippling and I was bored out of my mind -- both on and off the clock. Specifically, I was spending more than ten hours a day puttering around the country estate with two feisty kids and an additional caretaker.

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In this sense, being a live-out Au Pair can be a little daunting.

Speaking of feisty kids, sometimes the children's behavior can also be horrendous. In Galicia I will never forget the political disputes I had with a 10-year old praising the ever-so-contentious Donald Trump. Considering the severity of Trump's presidency -- with racist rhetoric, dangerous diplomacy in the Middle East with Jerusalem [VIDEO]'s new status, cahoots with Russia, past sexual misconduct, etc. -- I had to tell the boy that Trump's presidency is no laughing matter.

This prompted the boy to view me as "the unpatriotic American," which earned me plenty of ridicule. For example, he loved to say that the United States wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for Spain, or that Native American culture was insignificant compared to what Europeans brought over. Coming from the mouth of a ten-year old, most of the time I was in a constant state of despair and combativeness.

Not all kids are potty-trained, either. Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into before agreeing to work with a family -- whether that entails you cleaning the child’s bottom or finding soiled underwear in the bathroom.

My final Au Pair stint was in Madrid with an affluent family who paid for my own apartment in exchange for 25 hours a week of tutoring and occasionally babysitting their eight-year old son. Although this child was utterly brilliant and fluent in English, little did I know that he still wasn't properly potty-trained and would soil himself in class without realizing it. Not only did his bowel problems present an array of uncomfortable situations, but the search for an apartment wasn't any easier. I was pretty much thrown out to the wolves to find something, yet given a lot of flack for finding a place without a contract.

In the end I would firmly say that this program wasn't right for me. Nonetheless, it was an eye-opening cultural experience working alongside so many different Spanish families. Perhaps some of the best Au Pair candidates are recent high school graduates who would like to travel abroad and integrate themselves in a foreign culture for the first time. If teaching is of professional interest, then aspiring educators would also fair well in this position. While most of the time families want an Au Pair to interact and teach their native tongue, often times you can practice your second language on your own time.

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