You may remember when I shared my experiences of being an au pair in Madrid. This time, we wanted to inform people of what they need to know before they Google “how to become an au pair in Spain.” Cue the entrance of Camilla!
Camilla responded to a post that I made on a Facebook au pair group requesting an interview for this very project. I met her in Atocha, where we made our way to Starbucks. We sat down and had a conversation about her experiences and her life in general. Turns out, Camilla was one cool cat. My first impression of her was that she was a stylish, fabulously well-put-together young woman with sunglasses and a lovely Italian accent. She was from one of my favorite cities on Earth (Florence) and was super nice.
Get to Know Camilla
I asked her what it was like growing up in such a famous place. She told me that since she was from an outside village, anytime she went into Florence proper that it felt magical. She showed me pictures and asked me questions about my visit to Italy. We had a nice time talking about our respective travel experiences and she even helped me to identify a type of dessert wine that I remembered tasting in Florence two years ago (Vin Santo). It’s a staple of life over there. I was amazed by how happy and integrated she was with her Spanish family. She told me that she thinks of them as her second family and has been made to feel that she fits in. Below you can read more about Camilla and her life as an au pair in Madrid.
What can you tell me about yourself?
“I’m Camilla. I’ve been an au pair in Spain since September in Campo de Criptana, in a village of Ciudad Real. My village is an hour and a half by train from Madrid, a five-minute car ride from Alcázar de San Juan, and is a pretty big city with all the necessary accommodations. I’ll turn twenty in June 2020 and I grew up in Florence. Well, I grew up in an area called Chianti, which is 30 minutes from Florence.
Chianti is very famous for its wine and nature. Although I’m an only child, my mum and dad have many brothers and sisters so my family is pretty big. I love my parents: I have a beautiful relationship with them. My favorite things to do in my free time are to listen to music, go around and explore new places, watch TV, and dance. I have been practicing hip hop and modern dance for many years. In 2017, I started helping my dance teacher in dance classes with children.”
What inspired you to be an au pair?
“When I decided to be an au pair I was in a confused period of my life. I was about to start university and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to apply to psychology in Padova (a city in the north of Italy) but I didn’t pass the test. Although I could have gone to university in my city, Florence, I still was not sure that was right for me. I decided to go abroad for a year to clear my mind, to meet new people, see new places, and continue working with children, which I certainly knew I loved.”
What has been your best experience?
“The best experience so far as an au pair is a trip I went on with my Spanish family to Barcelona. It took about six hours of driving from Campo de Criptana, which is the village where we live. I enjoyed the trip a lot. However, the best experience sincerely is the everyday life with the children and the family. I found a family that is perfect for me.”
What has been the most challenging aspect?
“The most challenging aspect was being in a new place without knowing anything. I knew no one, I wasn’t familiar with the shops, and I had no clue about what kinds of activities I could do there. Adjusting to a new life has certainly been the most challenging aspect. Speaking Spanish with my family was not an issue for me, although I was initially a bit shy speaking Spanish with them. Now I can speak fluently. After almost five months here, I can say I’m used to this life and I’m feeling very good here.”
What are your future plans?
“My future plans are to live the year with my family in Italy and then to start university. I’m planning on starting linguistic mediation, which is languages in practice, like for tourism. Later I would like to do an Erasmus+ program. I’d love to go to the north of Europe, like Sweden, Norway, or Finland… These places look beautiful!”
What is your daily life like and what are the requirements for an au pair in Spain?
“During the week I typically wake up at 8:00 AM. Along with the mother, I dress the children, Laura, who is seven years old, and María, who is four years old. Then I walk with them to school at 9:00 AM. Afterward, I go home. Twice a week, I go to the gym in the morning. Once a week, I attend a Spanish class for the Dele C1 exam in May. If I’m not in class, I study at home.
When I’m not studying, I clean my room, tidy up the children’s room, and make the beds. I usually have time to go on walks and explore. After my morning routine, I prepare lunch and at 2:00 PM I go back to the school to walk the children home. We have lunch together with Nacho, the father, and Laura, the mother. In the afternoon, I get to spend time with the girls. They have a lot of activities like English classes, swimming practice, music lessons, dance, etc.
I always make sure they do some homework from school. If it’s a nice day, we go to the park. If it’s raining, we go home to play together or to watch a movie. Sometimes we do something with other people from their family, like Laura and María’s cousins who are about the same age as Laura and María. Once we return home, we take a shower and have dinner. At 10:00 PM, the girls go to bed. I usually call my parents or some of my friends before I go to sleep and end the day.”
What do you do in your free time?
“In my free time, I like to walk outside near the village. On some days, I go to the gym, to Spanish classes, or I study at home. I have free time on the weekends so I go out with some friends I’ve made here. We have lunch or eat dinner out, go to pubs, to the disco, to the cinema, or just hang out at someone’s house talking or watching a movie. I love traveling, so on the weekend I usually do some little trips. I love going to Madrid and Toledo, which are nearby. I’ve gone to Córdoba, Albacete, and Barcelona. In the next few months, I would like to travel more around Spain.
What is your favorite part about being an au pair? And least favorite part?
“My favorite part of being an au pair is having fun with the children. The worst part is when they do something bad and I have to get angry with them.”
What can you tell me about the process of becoming an au pair and the criteria that were required of you?
“The first thing I did was search the Internet for “How to be an au pair?” I discovered Au Pair World on the first page. I found my au pair family through the forums on this site.
First, I had to create my profile and put what languages I spoke. I also indicated any preferences I had, such as where I wanted to go. For me, that was Germany, Spain, and England. The main requirements were to be responsible and have a little experience with children. Also, knowing a bit of Spanish and English was important so that I could communicate with the family. I typically speak with the family in Spanish rather than English. Within literal minutes, I had lots of notifications from families interested in meeting me. There were so many that I thought that I had done something incorrectly.
From there, I was able to search through different families and I chose to have a skype interview with the family that looked perfect for me. The town looked nice as well. We clicked immediately. I based my decision to go with them based on instinct alone. Within ten days of deciding to be an au pair, I bought my plane ticket to Spain. It was very easy and I didn’t have to pay any kind of agency fee.”
What has surprised you the most about being an au pair?
“I was surprised at how fast the children and I became attached. After a week it was like we had known each other for many years.”
What advice would you give to prospective au pairs? What do you want them to know?
“I would like to tell everyone who is thinking about being an au pair abroad to not worry. Try this experience without thinking too much. It is a beautiful experience and is the best one in my life so far. I would like them to know that it is normal to be afraid. Starting your life again in a new place is scary, but after a while, you will already feel at home again. I heard about people who had bad families, but some experiences are 100% positive. So just give it a shot, and if it’s not what you expected, you can always come back home.”
Au Pair in Spain Requirements and Final Thoughts
After we finished our interview, Camilla and I left Starbucks to go to Retiro Park so we could take some pictures. We said our goodbyes and we went our separate ways: me to my home and she to a nearby museum exhibition. Even though we met only once, I took an instant liking to Camilla. She was very relatable and down to Earth. I hope to see her again and wish her the very best of luck in life. If I were a bit younger and interested in being an au pair and heard Camilla’s story, I would leap. She made it sound fun and like one of the best things to ever happen to her.
Au Pair Tips
If you’re interested in becoming an au pair in Spain and want to know some of the requirements or how to prepare for interviews, specifically if the interview is via Skype etc., my advice would be as follows:
- Make sure you have good lighting.
- Dress so you come across as responsible and put-together.
- Ready yourself to talk about what makes you right for the job, for example, if you have experience with kids.
- Remember that it is more than a job! You are going to try and fit in with their family. The chemistry between you and the family becomes very important. If you notice any red flags, no matter how small, pay attention to them! Remember it is as important for you to like them as it is for them to like you!
- Try to relax and have a good time during the interview. It should flow like an easy conversation.
How to Have a Great Au Pair Experience
- This point isn’t interviewing advice so much as just my method of application to becoming an au pair. I used Au Pair in Spain to apply for my au pair position. I didn’t do a lot of research and I paid an €80 fee. I could have applied free of charge! There were some extra resources I probably could have used that I ultimately didn’t. All in all, I still felt like I was on my own. If I were to do it again, I would go through Au Pair World as Camilla suggested. That’s just me, though.
- Take a page from Camilla’s book. She ended up with the best situation ever after a spontaneous, no-to-low prep interview! Always keep your safety in mind, but also remember that at heart, most people are good and don’t want to take advantage of you. Be smart and alert but also be open to new experiences!