Case study

Au pair — Freya Thoenissen

Freya studied geography before taking a gap year to work as an au pair in Munich

Why did you decide you wanted to take a gap year?

I was very unsure of what career path to follow, so I took a gap year post-graduation to broaden my options for the future. I decided to become an au pair because I wanted to improve my German speaking skills and live in Germany.

How did you decide on the country?

I chose to au pair in Munich because my father is German, and I wanted to reconnect with my German heritage. I don’t have many family members living in Germany, so au pairing was a fantastic way to immerse myself in the German language and culture.

What was a typical working day like?

My day normally started around 3:30pm when I picked up my host kids from school. We would then make our way home on the bus and play together for around an hour.

Around 6pm we would eat dinner together and then I would help put both kids to bed and brush their teeth. I would then read them a story and tuck them into bed. My workday would usually end around 7pm, or 7:30pm at the latest.

Roughly three times a month I would babysit the kids in the evening to allow my host parents to go out, however, this varied a lot due to their work commitments. I received a monthly allowance, and my host family provided free food, board, and my travel.

What did you enjoy about au pairing?

I loved the flexibility and trust the host family placed in me throughout my au pair experience. I enjoyed spending time with the children and getting to know the family, while also using my free time to explore Munich and nearby areas. The freedom to make new friends in the city was also a bonus.

What were the challenges?

I initially struggled to set boundaries within the household, as it was difficult to distinguish between work hours and non-work hours. However, I quickly resolved this issue by organising my time better.

What skills did you gain from your gap year?

I developed confidence, leadership skills, and the ability to prioritise my wellbeing. I also learned the importance of listening to feedback and being flexible in the workplace. I will carry these skills into the working world to be the best version of myself. My time working in Germany gave me many character traits that I didn't have before, such as resilience, adaptability, and open-mindedness.

What are your career ambitions?

My gap year broadened my horizons and changed my future. I recently started an internship at Siemens UK, which I would not have secured without my year of self-reflection and exploration. While I'm still unsure of my long-term goals, I know I want to be happy and fulfilled in my career.

What advice can you give to those considering a gap year?

If you're unsure of what career to pursue after college or university, I highly recommend taking a gap year. I was uncertain about my future while at university, but my gap year gave me the time and space to explore my options and discover my passions.

I would also encourage young people to work abroad at least once in their 20s. It's a great opportunity to experience new cultures, learn new skills, and develop your independence.  

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