Being an au pair is the perfect way to experience a new culture, travel for free (and get paid), and live with a local family. If you’re young, love kids, and are up for an Italian adventure, being an au pair in Italy might be for you!
I had the pleasure of chatting with Kailee Smart who spent 3 months as an au pair in Italy and absolutely loved it! She shares with us what it’s like to be an au pair, how much you get paid, why Italy is the perfect place to au pair, and more!
Before we dive in, let me share a little more about our interviewee. Kailee is 23 years old and originally from Boston, Massachusetts however grew up in Orlando, Florida. She is a traveler, photographer and student. She is currently taking online college courses at ASU, therefore able to travel as often as she wants. Her major is Global Studies, with two minors: History and Women & Genders Studies. She spent 3 months in Italy as an Au Pair and is currently preparing for a move to Spain!
Becoming An Au Pair
What is an au pair?
There are a few ways to describe an “au pair,” some say a live in nanny, others say an English teacher. To me, being an au pair is both but in a family sense. You live with a family, you eat with the family, you truly become apart of the family. Work tends to not feel like work, rather just play time.
What are the qualifications or requirements?
There are different requirements for every company. For the specific company I au paired with, the only qualification was to be over 18 years of age. Some companies will require you to be from an English speaking country, some require different age limits. The company I went with was very simple in the sense that it set everything up, I just had to apply and be over 18.
For more information about the recruiting agency, please contact Kailee directly. Her contact information is below.
Why did you want to be an au pair?
I had actually never considered being an au pair until I had done another program (The International Language Program) which was a complete bust. So, I sought out other opportunities. I got my TEFL Certificate with the International TEFL Academy. Then to gain inspiration, I started following other ITA alumni, (like Courtney!) and in doing so I came across the idea of being an au pair.
What is the hiring process like?
The hiring process was fairly simple!
First, you fill out a simple application indicating which country and time frame you are seeking. Next, a Skype call with the person in charge of the company to ask questions and get to know each others background more. After this, you will be sent families profiles for you to look over. If you find one you like, you Skype with the family and introduce yourself. This was the most exciting part, because it all becomes so real when you meet the family. After the introduction, assuming all goes well, you sign a contract and you’re all set!
What is a typical day as an au pair?
Everyday is different, depending upon your schedule. My schedule was very similar throughout the entire 3 months I was in Italy. My kids had school from 8:30am-4:30pm. So I started my day at 7:00am, where I would wake them up, eat breakfast with them, get them dressed and walk them to school. Then I had from 8:30am-4:30pm free during the day! After school, I had two different schedules that would rotate. Either I would get the kids from school at 4:30pm, play at the park for a little, bring them home, give them a bath and get them ready for dinner, OR I would see them at 7:00pm after their swim lessons and I would cook them dinner and put them to bed.
My days off were always Saturday and Sunday, which was embedded into my contract. My family also traveled a lot, so I got lucky in the sense that often I would have long weekends.
How does an au pair differ from a nanny?
I believe the roles of a nanny and au pair are similar. However, as an Au Pair you are there to teach their child English. Whether that means sitting down and actually teaching, or through conversation. As a nanny, you are usually responsible for cleaning, doing shopping, running errands, etc. As an Au Pair, the kids are your priority and your time spent with them feels more like play than work. My host mom told me, “I want you to feel as if they’re your little siblings.” And in no time, that is exactly what it felt like!
How much do you make as an au pair?
The pay for au pairs certainly ranges. I received €70 a week, with my food, room and transportation card covered. I believe most Au Pairs in Italy make €60-80 a week. It is not a lot, however you can certainly live more than comfortably on it as everything else is covered for you. I personally would not recommend being an au pair if you’re in a place in your life where you need to save a bunch of money, because that wouldn’t be realistic. Yet, I was able to save quite a lot of my money.
How much time do you have to travel?
Due to my schedule and having off 8:30-4:30pm everyday, I would often take two day trips during the week. I lived right by the main train and bus station in Rome, so it made it especially easy. For example, I would drop the kids off and catch a train at 9:30am, spend the day in a little Italian town and catch a train by 2/3:30pm to be home in time to get the kids from school.
On the weekends however, I was off Friday at 8:30am-Monday morning. I traveled to over six countries and more Italian cities than I can count. I did not get paid vacations, or paid time off, however my pay was always the same. If my family left on Friday and I didn’t work that day, I still received the €70. So it definitely evened out!
What is your favorite and least favorite part about being an au pair?
My favorite thing about working as an au pair was the kids. At first it was overwhelming being there 24/7, but once I developed a routine and understood my private time was for me, it became amazing. You get so close to the kids and it really breaks your heart leaving them. In the same sense though, my least favorite thing about working as an au pair is relevantly the same answer. It is quite difficult living with a family because sometimes your “off” time turns into more “work” time. It’s hard establishing that boundary. So my best advice is to set up that boundary right off the bat.
How long are au pair contracts?
My contact was for 3 months. I believe most are for 3 months because you do not need a visa (if coming from the U.S.) I would have signed another contract, however I wanted a change in scenery. Next, I am doing 3 months in Spain, then going back for another 3 months in Italy this year. If you have a good family, with a schedule you like and the kids are working well with you, then by all means you should extend your contract!
If I want to be an au pair, where do I start?
Please talk to me! I have signed two of my good friends up so far and can even get you a discount/referral code (which goes towards the program fee). Follow people on Instagram that you know have au paired! Ask people questions! I have no shame when it comes to these types of things, I will message any and everyone if it means getting good information.
How quickly could I become an au pair?
You can realistically become an au pair in less than 3 months. Once you apply, as long as there is a family available (which there usually is) you just sign a contract and book your flights. I would recommend giving yourself some time. I scheduled so far ahead of time that my flight cost $300.
Which countries are the best to be an au pair?
I believe Spain and Italy are two of the best countries to become an au pair in. Their languages are incredibly beautiful and known everywhere. It is really easy to pick up on different sayings. I know that Spain often pays a little bit more than Italy, so consider that in your plans.
Is there anything you wish you knew before your experience?
I wish I realized that it is normal to feel a bit out of place at first. I spent my first week incredibly depressed, fatigued, and exhausted. I didn’t bond with the kids because of this and I was so nervous it would stay that way the entire trip. However, it didn’t. I just needed to get accustomed to my area. It’s okay to feel out of place, but then remember you’re doing this for yourself and if you’re miserable only you are hurting. So hang in there and push through that first week, because what’s to come is absolutely amazing!
Any quick tips for future au pairs?
I would recommend bringing a small game or a book. This can be helpful the first week, before you get comfortable with the kids and they get comfortable with you. Playing a game gets their attention and shows them what exactly you’re there for!
Life in Italy
Do you have any advice/tips for living in Italy?
Yes, sooooo much advice and tips! First of all, yes of course all the famous cities are incredible, but branch out! I recommend sitting down with a map and picking some smaller Italian cities and seeing how much a train ticket costs. Often my friends (also Au Pairs) and I would just type in a city and go to the cheapest ones. We found incredible cities for less than €10 round trip via train. See all the history and the famous sights, but save room for the lesser known ones because that is where I truly fell in love with the country!
Any advice for packing?
My best advice for packing is do not over pack! Yes, I know so easy to say. Italy (and Europe in general) has such incredible fashion and is often very cheap. I bought more clothes than I ever meant to. Another tip on packing, you may get excited and pack a bunch of nice things, which is good to have, but for the most part you’re going to be in the house playing with the kids. So, bring some comfy clothes, clothes that will make you feel better when you’re overwhelmed and want to just relax. Lastly, you can get every kind of toiletry in Italy. They’re all there, cheap and easy to get, so don’t over pack!!
Last words of advice?
Go open minded! You’re joining a family, becoming a member at their table and shaping their children’s futures. Be positive because it will reflect on the kids. Whenever you’re upset at an outside force, it may show to them and that’s just not fair. It is an incredibly experience, one you will miss as soon as it’s over, so remember that! When things get difficult, just know as soon as my contract ended I signed two more. So hang in there, experience it the best you can and know that you are exactly where you need to be!
Thank you so much for your time, Kailee! Cheers to your adventures! I can’t wait to follow along xo
More questions? Comment below or contact Kailee directly! E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM @kaileesmart.
Want to travel for free? Check out 12 Ways to Travel for Free for more opportunities!!
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