Ashley Brown is a junior at Florida State University pursuing a dual degree in International Affairs and Media/Communication with a minor in English. After college she plans on furthering her education by pursuing a Master’s degree with the goal of traveling the world.
Studying abroad is one of those things that everyone who has participated in swears by. “You must do it before you graduate” or “It was the best experience of my life” are common phrases to hear on college campuses, but it is not the only way to travel. This past summer I was in Switzerland working as an au pair, which is basically a nanny or caretaker who helps a family watch over their children and/or teach them English. While I was working I was able to travel to Paris, Rome, and Milan, and I even took a mini backpacking adventure throughout a couple of places in Switzerland.
While I still think that studying abroad will give college students an equally life changing experience, for those who would prefer a less traditional and also cheaper alternative, being an au pair is a fantastic experience. It is cheaper because instead of paying somewhere between $8,000-$12,000 in program fees all you have to pay for is your plane ticket over and any additional traveling/souvenir shopping you do while there. You also get paid by the family you are working for, so you even get some of your money back!
Another reason I suggest becoming an au pair is because of the large amount of time you will spend speaking another language. I recommend that you choose a language that you would like to learn and then pick a country where said language is spoken. For example I had been studying French for three semesters before going to Switzerland, where French is widely spoken, and I was able to learn so much more while there.
As an au pair you have a very high level of independence, and I can guarantee that you will grow as an individual because of this. And if you decide to do a bit of traveling on your days off (which I definitely recommend) you will learn even more than you thought you would. Throughout my stay in Switzerland I took numerous trips. Some were weekend trips with my host family, and some others I planned on my own. I visited Europe’s largest system of subterranean waterfalls and hiked the Alps. The memories that I made while on these trips will stay with me forever, and by traveling to different places on your own you will find a new sense of self.
As mentioned earlier I went to Paris, France, where I managed to do everything that you are supposed to do the first time you visit, as well as traveling to Rome and Milan, Italy. Each of these places had so much to offer, from the Coliseum and the Eiffel Tower to the fashionable streets of Milan, there is always something to love.
The bottom line is that if you have the opportunity to go abroad, do it. Whether it is choosing a study abroad program or being an au pair, you will make so many memories and learn so much about both yourself and the world around you. So my advice to you is to pick a place and go there, because you won’t regret going, you will regret staying.