Moving countries is daunting in itself. When I left home just after my high school graduation to stay in Sweden with a friend, I had no idea that I wouldn’t come home for another 6 months. I just wanted a vacation and a short adventure with my friend!
Towards the end of my stay in Sweden, I withdrew from my intended university and decided to fly to Korea to attend Korean language school at Seoul National University. I was (and am) young, inexperienced, and afraid to move to a big city. Being a small town girl from Central California, I didn’t know whether or not I would acclimate well to life in a giant metropolis like Seoul.
Luckily, I found that I’m pretty good at adapting to my environment. My aunt helped me find a good goshiwon (room) to stay in and I met some amazing friends at my language school with whom I explored Seoul and found a beautiful, diverse community.
After my course ended, I returned home with a better understanding of Korean and Korea, enriched by my overseas experience. But I wanted more! I longed to jump on a plane and go somewhere — anywhere. But who would pay for something like that? I had about $700 saved after my adventures in Sweden and Korea.
So, what could I do?
I decided to au pair! I spoke to maybe 9 families and eventually had to pick between 2: one was from Spain and one from the Netherlands. It was a very hard decision and, ultimately, I picked the Dutch family. (That turned out to be the wrong choice, but that’s for another time!). The good thing about au pairing abroad is that I had next to no living costs. Some au pairs even get their public transportation and language classes paid for by their host families!
I was originally supposed to stay with my Dutch host family in Amsterdam for 7 months, but after 3 months I realized that my living and working conditions were too stressful and unhealthy, so I quit. Now I’m touring around Europe when I can, still based near Amsterdam, and working on getting a student visa to study in Belgium this Fall.