Advice for Au Pairs

Lessons on the Au Pair Educational Requirement From Our Au Pairs

Four au pairs discuss the importance of the Au Pair Program educational component.

This post was originally published in November 2020 and revised in November 2023 by other contributors.

POP QUIZ: which of the statements below is not true?

  1. Au Pair USA connects talented childcare providers with welcoming U.S. families.
  2. Au Pair USA allows au pairs to share their culture with their host family.
  3. Au pairs can take university-level courses to develop their professional skills during their time in the USA.

That’s a trick question: all are true! Don’t worry: university-level courses may not surprise you with as many “pop” (unannounced) quizzes as did your early education. Similarly, you shouldn’t be surprised to learn that, as an au pair, you can take university courses that will stimulate your mind and enrich your life and career when you return home.

You may be eager to enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes to improve your English communication and comprehension skills. Or maybe you’d like to take advantage of the opportunities to promote personal and professional development or introduce a new interest or subject into your life as an au pair.

We asked four au pairs about their experiences taking classes in the USA. 

Luisa from Mexico

Young woman poses smiling in front of the Statue of Liberty.
Au pair Luisa, from Mexico, took “Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories” at Harvard University and “Innovation Leadership” at Georgia Tech.

Lauri from Colombia

Young woman and young boy in Halloween costumes of Batman's Harley Quinn and the Joker.
Au pair Lauri, from Colombia, took “English for Career Development” at the University of Pennsylvania.

Laura from Belgium

Young woman with puppet in front of crayon drawings.
Au pair Laura, from Belgium, took “Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice” at Harvard University.

Alison from Mexico

Finally, au pair Alison, from Mexico, took American Sign Language at Bellevue College.

Why did you choose to take these specific classes? 

I chose “Innovation Leadership” mainly because I’m in business and “Women Making History: Ten Objects, Many Stories” because the topic I’m more into is feminism.

– Luisa

Although I started the program with an advanced English level, I found it very convenient to add the course “English for Career Development” to my resumé. I didn’t want to take a regular English class, so I selected this one, focusing on the current professional path I’m building right now.

– Lauri

In January of this year I had the chance to travel to Uganda as a teacher. During my internship I noticed a lot of children didn’t go to school because they were working, taking care of (their own) babies or getting married. I knew this was not right but had no judicial knowledge to prevent it. I graduated in my own country but when I came here and knew I would have the chance to take “Child Protection: Children’s Rights in Theory and Practice,” I was really looking forward to it. This really is a wonderful opportunity to broaden my knowledge in a field I am really interested in.

– Laura

I think it is important to have the ability to talk with everyone. I consider this like another normal language that allows me to talk with any non-verbal person and make them feel understood.

– Alison

How has taking the classes allowed you to develop your personal and educational goals? 

Taking ‘Women Making History’ taught me about empowering women generally and also helped me grow as a woman.

– Luisa

Combining work and study is a real challenge. Before coming here, I did not like to study. It felt like something I had to do, an obligation. Right now, I don’t have that feeling at all. I take this class for myself, and I enjoy it. Getting the chance to study at a prestigious university in the country makes me proud.

– Laura

I always knew before coming to the USA that I didn’t want to take general classes but courses related to the field to which I wanted to dedicate myself. Also, one of my goals while doing this program is to improve my resumé so by the time it comes, I will be able to focus my future jobs in everything I’ve learned here. English is a professional tool that can open up hundreds of doors in the professional field.

– Lauri

It has helped me realize how important it is to know and can talk with deaf people, that they deserve to be understood like everyone else. I know it will help me in the future in any job, knowing this will give me an advantage on my CV.

– Alison

In which ways is the experience at an American university different from your country?

The factor that was hardest for me was the language. But I came to improve my English, and taking classes helped achieve that goal.

– Luisa

Taking the class in English is a big difference but I love it. I learn a lot of new academic vocabulary. It’s cool to be able to talk with people that share your interests. This course is really practical and gives me a lot of concrete examples which makes it easier to understand. Another added value is the interviews during the course.

– Laura

I’d say the experience is not very different from instruction in Colombia. Even though it has similarities, just having the experience feels very fulfilling.

– Lauri

There are many different people taking this class: different ages, nationalities, for different reasons, who make this more interesting.

– Alison

Have you ever discussed the classes and your experience at the U.S. university with your host family? How did it go?  

Yes! They are very interested in what I study and we have talked about these courses and how they help me to build a great CV for later when I look for work in the business industry. They totally support me in my educational career.

– Luisa

I told them about the course and they were really interested in it!

– Laura

I did and we all agreed that it was a great idea to certify my English as that could open up a lot of opportunities outside of the Au Pair program. 

– Lauri

Yes! They love that I am taking this class. I’m currently working with a baby who is non-verbal, so this is helping me to teach her and put in practice my class.

– Alison

Do you have any recommendations or advice for a new au pair taking a class in America?

I would recommend that an au pair be open! The courses you would love to have are not always available in your town or they are out of budget. Be adaptable to change and open to study whatever it comes for you!

– Luisa

Look for a class that you’re really interested in. This is purely for yourself so choose something that you are really looking forward to enroll in. If possible it would be nice to take an in person class so you can meet new people. But on the other hand, when you choose an online class, you can do it at your own pace. 

– Laura

Try taking classes that you know you might not take in your home country like a language in general, since you can take that class no matter where in the globe you are. If you’ve always been interested in something that maybe in your home country is not “popular” but you really like it, try getting a class of it! You never know all the things you can discover of yourself and the world itself. 

– Lauri

Don’t miss this opportunity and take all the classes you can and want. Think about what could help you in your future depending on your goals and put into practice as much as you can.

– Alison

The classes that Luisa, Laura, Alison, and Lauri took are just a few that might be available to you as an au pair! There are hundreds of classes you can take that will enrich your professional life. Many people find that traveling abroad helps them better understand what they want from their professional life. Like these studious au pairs, you too can spend a year abroad and reorient yourself for professional success! Ready to find out more? Sign up today!

Matt Wallace

Matt Wallace was previously the Community & Digital Content Manager for the InterExchange Marketing team. He received a Master of Science in Global Affairs from New York University, and worked with the State Department and two New York organizations with missions to introduce young people to multiculturalism and international relations.