I recently hosted a cluster meeting at my home that was a Bon Voyage for one of my au pairs and a” welcome to America” for the new arrivals. Of course, the new arrivals were a little nervous, quieter than the other girls, standing back to observe. My au pair who was returning to Germany was so helpful, telling the others how to maximize the time in the U.S.: see as much as you can, save your money for travel, meet lots of people, spend time with your host family (she also said that the relationship with the host family is the most important part of the year), come to cluster meetings and basically enjoy all the ups and downs because it will be over before you know it! And then she became silent, turned her head from us, and started to sob. She was overwhelmed by sadness at the thought of leaving her family, her friends and her year of unbelieveable experiences. I took her aside and we talked: we reviewed her year, her goals, her accomplishments and her plans for the future. She made a statement that hit my heart. She said, “…this year, this incredible year is over. I will never be able to get it back. It’s gone forever.” “Yes,” I said. “It is over, but for you, it is the the first step of many.”
It is a beginning, not an end because she has attained skills that she would never have achieved had she not made the leap of faith to come to a strange family in a strange country. I told her one of my favorite sayings, “Leap and the net will be there.” She got it immediately and smiled. One year ago, she made a gigantic leap and look where she landed-on her feet with friendships that will last a lifetime.
We immediately set up a new FB group, Au Pairs Past, so she can chat with others who have had the experience of returning home and having to re-adjust to their own countries. We also pledged that we’d meet for a reunion, somewhere exotic in the not too distant future.
Oh, my girls! They’re so wonderful. Her friends were right there for her, hugging her and assuring her that they’d stay in touch. I think it was wonderful for the new arrivals to witness this. In those moments, they caught a glimpse of what this year has to offer and what they’ll be saying a year from now.
Good luck! And lots of love.