Applying to become an Au Pair is by far the most drawn out experience I’ve ever had when wanting to travel! Generally, I look at travelling as book, pack, leave – the process to become an Au Pair is definitely a lot more intense! But, considering you’re moving your whole life over to the US and into a family’s life, the lengthy process is actually pretty understandable!
To start with, there are so many different companies offering the chance to become an Au Pair in America. With all of them offering varying prices for seemingly differing services, initially, making a choice for the right company for you can be quite daunting. In reality, most of them tend to offer the exact same package for the exact same eligibility requirements. From what I’ve seen, the only slight differences other than price between each company are their specific matching processes. It seems that the four main companies that provide Au Pair jobs in the USA would be Cultural Care, Interexchange, Au Pair in America and Au Pair Care.
Cultural Care was initially the one I was drawn to most, with a really attractive and easy to use website, immediately drawing you in and perking your interest. I attended one of their information meetings, which was really interesting and explained in depth, all aspects of being an Au Pair. They also give you a short interview to make sure that you are right for the program and meet the necessary specifications, which thankfully I passed! They seemed great. However, after leaving the meeting, I was contacted constantly by their Head Office, chasing payment to start my application form, when I was still shopping around and hadn’t even decided they were definitely the company I wanted to go for. The hard sell was really off-putting for me and I felt as though I was just another income for their already profitable company.
Au Pair Care was a lot more expensive than the other two companies and so I dismissed it rather quickly without doing too much research into their specific offerings. Au Pair in America seemed like a really good company, with host families in a huge variety of locations in America. I liked the fact that you could be viewed by more than one family at a time, giving you the option to make an educated choice and therefore hopefully dismissing the prospect of a future rematch during your Au Pair year. However, I had a list of questions longer than their application form and I occasionally struggled to get frequent contact or detailed answers, which was a huge negative for me. If I was going to be halfway around the world, working under their company, I needed to know that I’d be able to speak to people as and when I needed them!
After lots of deliberation, I ended up choosing Interexchange, who has Gap 360 as their British counterpart. They were by far one of the cheaper companies to book with, being almost half the price of some of their competitors. At first there was a slight worry that it would be less involved than other providers as it was two different agencies in control rather than just one. After the past few months however, I realise that this is not the case at all! They act as the UK middle man for American-based company InterExchange, providing you with personalised support while in the UK whenever you have any issues or problems. When arriving in America, you also get a huge amount of guidance and access to numerous staff members at Interexchange, so it was two for the price of one! I had numerous questions throughout this process and found the UK Coordinator, Nicola Pearce, to be absolutely wonderful when it came to answering my constant stream of questions and queries!
One of the only downsides of being with Interexchange/Gap 360 was that you can only be matched with one family at a time, so it’s a difficult process saying yes or no to a family without knowing what other opportunities are out there. Although this does help you to be more open minded and thoroughly consider each family that puts you on view, it can still be frustrating, being held by a family, not knowing if they are the only good ones that will take an interest in you, or if you could have had lots more potential views from families much better suited to you.
Overall, everyone has different criteria that is more or less important to them when selecting an agency. Some people would prefer to keep it as low budget as possible, while others would happily splash the cash in order to get a more tailored service. My only advice to all the future Au Pairs out there, trying to make their decision, is to do your research. But ultimately, don’t stress; whichever agency you go with, if you put your best effort into your application, you will have a positive experience.