Originally from Sweden, Tove Meyer was a Cultural Care au pair in Chicago between 2002 and 2003. She is now a journalist and author, as well as a producer at a large Scandinavian talk show.
I remember the first time I saw a traffic light on my way from the airport and it hit me, how very different and bigger everything was. It was my first time in the USA, and my first time away from home for a longer period of time. I started to depend on myself and myself only, the minute I stepped off of the aeroplane.
Thankfully, from the moment I met my second host family, I felt like I was home. They were really open minded and we had great communication regarding the children and my work. I felt confident in what the purpose of my stay was and I felt like they welcomed me with open arms. I felt like they trusted me and saw that I could give their kids something special. Because of this, I gained a lot of self-confidence — I managed so much more than I thought I could handle.
It was during my au pair year that I really started to develop a sense of who I was, and think about what I wanted to be and accomplish in life. I learned that I was a very social and adventurous person with a very creative mind. I started to write a lot, especially short stories and novels in my room, and I realised this was something I was good at. I got published back home in Sweden in some anthologies and I won some writing contests while in the States. (Yes, the Internet was up and running back then!)
I loved the way I so naturally connected with new people, whether it was in the supermarket or at my host kids’ school. I met a lot of people, and I began to listen to their stories. My interest in other people's life stories got me thinking about becoming a journalist — and here I am now, working with different people's life stories every day.
Being an au pair is a very good addition to your CV, because it shows that you work hard, take responsibility, and are brave enough to leave your country for a new culture. But I would also say that this experience in enriching at every level. It is an adventure and a challenge which cannot be compared to anything else: A cultural experience that, in some ways, will define you for the rest of your life.