The J1 au pair program provides young women and men between the ages of 18 and 26 the opportunity to live with an American host family, care for their children, and experience life in another culture, for up to two years. Once au pairs finish the program, however, they must return to their home country. However, if after two years they would like to return to the U.S. as an au pair, and they still qualify – like Sarah – they can.
Sarah grew up in the small village of Gerblingerode in lower Saxony, Germany – population 1700. She got her four-year degree from Vinzenz von Paul Schule in the town of Duderstadt, which is exclusively for those who want to be preschool teachers.
“I was just 20 years old when I completed my degree (I stared school when I was 16) and was looking to see if I could live abroad but still work in my profession,” Sarah explained. “Then I found apex PROaupair and it worked.”
Sarah spent two years in the U.S. as a professional au pair with apex PROaupair – living and working with the Asay family in San Clemente, California from 2012 - 2014. Susan Asay, her host mom, is also the founder and CEO of apex PROaupair. At the time, Susan’s children, Klaus and Mika, were ages 6 and 4 respectively.
After her program ended, Sarah returned to Germany and within a few days, had signed a contract and began working as a preschool teacher.
“I came at a perfect time – they were opening a new preschool and wanted a good English speaking teacher,” she said. “ I helped them open the new school and gave them all the input about what is important for the school. I helped all the other German teachers too, with the experience I had from the U.S.”
Sarah worked at the school for two years, from 2014 to 2016 – but she and Susan had talked about her coming back to the U.S. again, as a returning au pair.
“In Germany they gave me a forever contract, but when I told my boss that I wanted to go back to the US, she said its OK and to just let her know with enough notice, but that I would always have my job back in Germany,” Sarah explained. “This made the decision really easy for me.”
Sarah returned in August 2016. She had a variety of reasons for wanting to come back to the U.S. as an au pair.
“In my first two years, I didn’t travel much, which is also part of the program,” she said. “I wanted to travel more, and do more volunteer work at the preschool where Mika was when she was younger. Also, I got along with the kids and Susan so well – they are like my second family now – so I wanted to live with them again.”
Sarah has settled back into life in San Clemente. She enjoys her time with her host children Klaus and Mika, riding bikes together, baking together, and going to the beach to have bonfires. During her free time she goes out to dinner with other au pairs in the area as well as her American friends, spends time at the gym, visits different local beaches, and attends baseball games. She also travels during her weekends off, including recent visits to Seattle and San Francisco.
Sarah’s experience on the au pair program has helped her to grow as an individual and as a professional.
“I’m way more confident now, I’m not scared to talk with anybody,” she said. “Being able to speak another language when you work with people is very handy. It is also a plus to see how the U.S. teaches its kids so I can incorporate that into how I teach when I go back to Germany. It gives me more material to choose from.”
Sarah plans to return to the same preschool in Germany after her time in the U.S. is over and feels like her additional time in the U.S. will be a great benefit.
“I think I’ll be even more confident in my English and very comfortable with the American traditions,” she said. “I’d like to bring those things into the German preschool so we can celebrate both the traditions to get to know the other country.”