This post is also available in: Spanish
One of the requirements to be an Au Pair in America is to attend some classes while in the US. It’s a sort of precondition from the American Government which allows au pairs to be involved in the local institutions.
There are different ways to meet the educational component but the choice you make will depend largely on the educational opportunities in your community and your work schedule.
Despite this, standard au pairs are required to take 6 credits (or the equivalent of approximately 72 hours in the classroom) over the course of their year. Only when you get them, you are entitled to extend for another 6,9 or 12 months or to get your return flight ticket. Having said that, before to apply for any school, you need to know:
. only accredited US post-secondary educational institutions give you the right to get your credits
. only after the approval from your Regional Representative/Agency you can apply, pay and attend the class
. online courses, volunteer courses and travel courses are not allowed
. if the cost of your course is more expensive than $500 (money the host families will give you to cover the cost of school tuition and fees) you have to add the difference yourself.
With this little introduction, now I would like to tell you how I got all my credits and the experience behind it.
It’s all started when I was in Florida for my training week. My advisor explained to me and the other au pairs how the credits process worked and what options we had to reach it, which are: regular classes at any local school of short or medium length ( it’s advisable to opt for them since they give you a better knowledge of the subject you are interested in) or weekend classes which are the fastest to get all the credits.
In my case, I had to choose the weekend classes in Long Island University (NY) because my working schedule didn’t allow me to attend any courses regularly. With that, each weekend class give you the right to have 3 credits on the course of your choice (with regular classes the number of credits given depends on each school).
There are different courses you can attend, from American culture to Marketing and Social Media or just some English classes. Moreover, you even have the choice to live in the campus for all the course length or come back at home and then go to the campus again in the morning. I would recommend the first option, even for those who live close to the college, because it is a wonderful experience, especially if you are interested in the American lifestyle. You sleep in a dormitory with other au pairs, you have your meals in the same building as American students and your lessons as well. I can even tell you, sometimes the students make some random parties in the campus so why not join them?! With this little parenthesis, now I explain you in detail how the program is structured.
Regardless of the type of the course you have chosen, every class starts on Friday afternoon at 6 o’clock to let au pairs finish their working journey and come to the campus for the check-in. Once there, you get your dinner box and your room key, if you have decided to stay overnight. Normally, the first day is pretty relaxing: you meet your teacher, you introduce yourself and you speak about the program you are going to follow for the next days.
Saturday is the longest day because it’s when most of the program it’s handled. You start your day with the breakfast in the student center and then you head to the classroom which starts at 9 o’clock and finishes at 9 o’clock in the evening. Between your lessons, you have four breaks: one in the middle of the morning, one for lunch, one in the middle of the afternoon and the last one for dinner. I can say that although the weekend classes may seem tough because of the long hours, you won’t feel the tiredness at all because every break is close to the other, so you have time to relax and take air. It’s also very easy to make new friends because you are all au pairs and you are sharing the same experience, so don’t be shy and make your move.
Finally, Sunday, which is the last day, is the day when you finish to speak about your program and when you get your certificate to have attended the class. If it is your first-weekend class, you get only an attendance letter with your 3 credits certified, while, if it is your second time you get your certificate of completion with all your 6 credits.
For what it’s been said, I would say that my experience inside the college was really great, although short, because I had a lot of fun, I met new interesting people and I could experience the college’s life as an American person, but, nevertheless, my advice is to try local classes first because you improve much better your language skills attending them weekly rather than the weekend ones.