Au Pair in America has au pairs arriving to the U.S. from so many different countries. These young women take a leap of faith, trusting that the net will be there. And be there it is! With an excellent field network of community counselors, a dedicated staff in Stamford, CT and host families wanting to support cultural exchange, the young women arrive to open arms and on-going support.
I’ve had the pleasure of recieivng their essays, poems, songs and artwork expressing their views on cultural exchange: what does it mean to them, what have they learned about the U.S. and Americans, how has this experience changed their worldview?
The common threads in these writings can’t be missed. I read over and over how a cultural exchange experience is an opportunity to form your own opinions. Adelina Martinez Lavartiega wrote that she doesn’t want anyone telling her about Americans and their culture; she wants to “live it!” Not only do the au pairs learn from Americans, they learn from each other and their community.
Several au pairs wrote about the diversity in the U.S. “…so many races sharing and living peacefully.”
Pre-conceived notions go out the window as the au pairs have “mind-changing” experiences. Laura Gonzalez from Colombia wrote that “living with Americans helped me open my mind….I can delete the barriers in my mind!” Laura would like to teach people that they’re uneducated impressions of Americans are wrong and then share her impressions that Americans “try to improve the things that people need to live a better life: and how they “like to help themselves. ”
I was surprised to read that so many of the au pairs commented positively on American patriotism. Emma Korpi from Finland expected Americans to exhibit “overly enthusiastic patriotism,” but what she didn’t expect was the twinge of “jealousy” over the way “every American embraces their home country.” When given the opportunity to “share…the singing of the national anthem with thousands of Americans before an NFL game, I felt really emotional by the way all the people were singing together and honoring the country and its ancestors.”
Throughout the essays, there was the belief that the cultural exchange experience broadened the young women’s minds, helped them mature and learn how people in their countries and the U.S. can learn from each other.