My holiday job dream flopped

Working abroad to pay student fees may have its pitfalls as Paula Gloger, 22, discovered as an au pair in Spain

By Marcus Dysch, December 17, 2009
Paula is in her fourth year studying Spanish with Psychology at Birmingham. She was talking to Lianne Kolirin

Paula is in her fourth year studying Spanish with Psychology at Birmingham. She was talking to Lianne Kolirin

“A couple of friends were going abroad as au pairs and the thought of returning to Spain appealed to me. Living with a family would help keep up my Spanish and I had previously enjoyed working with children.

“My friends recommended a website where they found jobs, so I logged on and posted a profile.

“I got a few responses, including one from an agent in Majorca. She rang to tell me she had a suitable family. I was interested, so she put us in touch.

“They had three children and seemed really nice. They needed me to help out during the school holidays. I would work six days a week, but have the afternoons and evenings off.

“I was excited, but nervous as I’d never done it before and didn’t know what to expect.

“I arrived in the evening and the family met me at the airport. It was a bit surreal.

“They were really welcoming and I didn’t feel like there would be problems, although they lived in a very remote area. There was no internet connection or mobile reception.

“The first few days were a bit rocky because they didn’t tell me what they expected of me, so I had to guess. A couple of days later we had a chat about things. After that I started to feel it was going quite well and the kids were getting used to me.

“But then a week later I had a call from the agency. They’d had a call from the mother, saying she didn’t think I was doing a good job and wasn’t sure if they wanted to keep me.

“I was shocked. I’d been doing my best and thought things had improved. I sat down with the family to try and sort things out. It was very awkward.

“They thought I was depending too much on them and not taking my own initiative. I felt they hadn’t given me enough guidance.

“We agreed to see how the next week went, but I felt like I was on trial. The mother said she thought I was doing better, but after two and a half weeks she suddenly asked me to leave.

“I was upset as I’d done my best, but the whole situation really knocked my confidence.

“One of the main reasons I think it didn’t work was that the family had never had an au pair before and I had never worked as one either. Neither of us knew how to handle the situation properly.

“Things didn’t work out well and I wouldn’t do it again, but each family is different and my friends have had good au pair experiences. I think it depends on luck and which family you end up with.”

Last updated: 12:50pm, December 17 2009