The summer after I graduated college, I was depressed. I had a good job, a great apartment and wonderful friends, but my mind never stopped nagging me that I never studied abroad.
It was something I’d always planned to do, but I somehow never seemed to have enough money or resources to make it happen.
So, the fall after I graduated, I did a little research, quit my job and moved to Paris to spend one year as an au pair.
It was terrifying and risky, and I had more than my fair share of ups and downs. But, I never regretted it for a second.
Here are 10 reasons you should follow in my footsteps and try it, too:
You’re Only Young Once.
It’s cheesy, but it’s absolutely true. There is no better time in your life to take risks and have adventures than right now.
Maybe you have a carefully-constructed plan for your life, or maybe you have no idea where you’ll be in five years.
Either way, take advantage of your youth and liberty now because it won’t last forever.
Learning A Second Language.
I had been taking French classes since I was 12, so when I first got to Paris, I naïvely believed I could speak French.
Yeah, I was obviously wrong. But after a year of living in France, I became fluent.
Humans are wired to learn other languages, but note this will only work if you actually speak the language with people from that country.
If all your friends are other aux pairs from your own country, like mine were at first, you probably won't improve that much.
You Have The Opportunity To Travel More.
Part of the reason I wanted to go to Europe to begin with was the opportunity to travel more.
Before living in France, I’d traveled very little outside North America.
But flights within Europe are incredibly cheap, and during my year, I was able to visit Madrid, Malaga, London, Brussels and other French cities I’d always wanted to see.
As A Nanny, You Generally Have A Lot Of Free Time.
Obviously, this varies depending on the family you’re working with, but in general, kids are in school most of the day.
So, you have most of the day to yourself. I didn’t have to pick up my child until 4:30 in the afternoon, which gave me almost the whole day to spend with my friends drinking wine by the Seine and going to museums (mostly wine, though, if I’m being honest).
New Friends (Duh).
It’s true I haven’t seen them in a while, but some of my closest friends are the people I met while in Paris.
Some were other aux pairs and some were Parisian, but I wouldn’t have met any of them if I hadn’t gone.
Spending time with locals is literally the only way to learn how people there really live.
It’s the only way to go to random and beautiful apartments where everyone brings a bottle of wine, and the night devolves into Serge Gainsbourg karaoke.
It’s the best way to find secret spots with cheap drinks and live music. Travel books just can’t do that for you.
It’s A Pretty Cost-Effective Way To Travel.
If you’ve always wanted to live in another country, but you can’t afford to support yourself independently and have no real job prospects, au pairing could be the way to go.
It’s important to do your research because it’s definitely possible to get taken advantage of.
But my family was great, and they paid for my apartment, my Navigo (public transportation pass), my French lessons, my phone and €100 per week for recreation.
One hundred euros is not a lot, but it was enough to allow me to travel, eat, party and shop like a Frenchy.
French food is everywhere, but there is nowhere else in the world to get a real boulangerie experience — with fresh bread, pastries, sandwiches and snacks — all under €5.
I’m convinced that to really understand a culture, you’ve got to eat like you’re a part of it.
I don’t know anyone who came to Europe without a boyfriend and went home without having at least one breathtaking love affair. Kissing on the grass under the Eiffel Tower? Magnifique.
New Culture, New Habits.
Living with people from a different culture, you pick up some of their habits without even realizing it.
Some of them are good, and they stay with you, while others you may leave behind.
For example, French people have a small breakfast of tea or coffee with usually just toast or yogurt. Guess what I eat for breakfast now?
You’ll Come Back Different.
Maybe it’s just that your local accent is a little less pronounced, or you suddenly only drink Bordeaux wine, but there’s no way you come back the same person you were when you left.
In France, I learned how to cook, I learned about French music and film, and I learned about the clashing political factions that are growing more aggressive with large-scale unemployment.
Living abroad automatically makes you a little more informed about the world around you. It’s not bad résumé material, either.