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Au Pair in France: Reflections From Sophie

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You traveled to France in 2016 to live with a host family for 2 months and help them learn conversational English. What made you decide to do a program like this?

I really wanted to do some kind of work experience program overseas but didn't want to be away for a whole year as it was one of my first traveling experiences so a short program like this this suited me really well. I had also been learning French in high school and wanted an immersive experience where I got to live like a local to help improve my French while also helping the locals improve their English.


What were your professional goals before your program in France?

IMG_2808I had just finished high school in 2015 so wasn't too bothered about starting a professional career yet but my goals were to explore and see some other parts of the world and hopefully while doing that I would figure out what I wanted to do with my life when I got home!

Did your goals change after your tutor abroad experience? If yes, how so?

Somewhat. I knew that what I really wanted was to keep traveling and see more of the world and hopefully be able to turn it into a career in the tourism industry back home in New Zealand. 


You’ve traveled to 20 countries so far, which is amazing! Had you done a lot of international travel prior to your trip, or did your time in France inspire you to travel more?

Before I went to France I had only been to a few other countries close to New Zealand so this trip was my first long-haul flight, my first time to a different continent and also my first experience as a solo traveller. It definitely inspired me to travel more both on that trip within Europe and various other trips around the world since then.


What has it been like working in early childhood education? 

Since I got home I have done a few different jobs in between my travels including working in early childhood which was definitely a lot of fun and hard work! It is really cool to help inspire younger generations and see them learn about the world around them.


What do you currently do now?

I am now working as a Museum Host which is a new challenge for me but it's great to be in the tourism industry and interacting with lots of new people every day including tourists which is awesome as I get to talk to them about their travels and help them have an excellent time here too. 


How did you feel you were able to make a positive difference in your host family’s lives during your time in France?

The family that I lived with were about to move to the USA so were really keen to improve their English to feel more confident in moving to a new foreign country. I feel that I taught them lots of tips for their conversational language and gave them confidence in talking to a native English speaker without worrying too much about making mistakes. I am still in touch with my host family now and they are basically fluent in English so it's great to see their progress over the years.


What experiences living in France influenced you or stand out in particular? 

I will always remember how kind and welcoming everyone was in my new small town in France. Not many people there spoke English and my French wasn't perfect but they were all very helpful and very glad that I was giving their language a go. It taught me that it is really important when traveling to respect the local language and culture and not just try to make them speak English to me but to push myself out of my comfort zone which is a great life lesson in itself. My host family in particular were so amazing and welcomed me like one of their own even taking me on family trips with them to visit other parts of the country which I probably wouldn't have discovered on my own.


In what ways do you feel you were challenged during your program?

During the week days when my host family was at work/school I had a lot of time by myself to explore the village which did get a bit lonely and due to the time difference in New Zealand I couldn't talk to my family when I felt like that. I had to again go outside my comfort zone and get comfortable with talking to strangers in a foreign language and enjoy exploring the area by myself.


How do you find ways to “do good” in your everyday life?

I always try to have a positive attitude and share that with others as you never know who needs their day brightened up :)


What would you recommend to others who are looking to make a leap and volunteer/teach abroad for the first time?

I would definitely recommend taking on a challenge like this as there is so much you can learn, both about yourself and the world around you. It is a great way to explore a new place in a different way instead of just seeing everything from the perspective of a tourist but actually living like a local you learn so much more about the culture and the people there. 


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