Earlier this month, we had the chance to interview Theresa, one of our au pairs from Germany who is three months into her au pair stay with a host family in Madrid. Thanks, Theresa, for sharing your experience with us! Such a pleasure to have you be part of the Amazing Pairs Team!
- Can you tell us a bit more about yourself, Theresa?
Hi, my name is Theresa, I am 17 years old and I am from Dresden, in Germany. My city is located in the east, in the state of Saxony, and has a population of about 550.000 people. Last summer I graduated from secondary school and wanted to take a year off before going to university due to my age as well as my wish of learning another language.
- What inspired you to become an au pair?
Well, firstly I wanted to do something with children in general, that is primarily because in my family as well as in my group of friends I am one of the youngest and I wanted to do something with younger people. My first idea was actually to be a GAP-YEAR-student at a boarding school in England or at any other international school, preferably in Europe. Long story short, that did not work out, either because of my age or complications due to the Brexit, so I ended up searching for something I could do instead.
Secondly, I wanted to learn an additional language. Since the beginning of secondary school, besides English, I only got taught Latin, which was really great considering how much easier it is to learn Spanish now because of many similarities between those two languages.
The third reason is probably that I wanted to learn more about the culture of another country, including history, art, music, food, habits and different ways of living of the people. In the end, I can say that being in Madrid and also in my family, although I have been here just three months, I have already experienced so much more than I imagined, and I am incredible thankful for the experience.
- Why did you choose Spain? And Madrid?
I chose Spain firstly because of the language. Spanish is one of the most spoken languages in the world and still quite easy to learn for us Europeans compared to for example any language from the asian area.
But, also, a very important factor was the location. I did not want to be more then 5 flight hours away from my family. Also, staying in the EU made everything easier for me, considering the passport or VISA, especially because I decided to be an Au Pair less then two months before I arrived in Spain.
Additionally, I was interested in the Spanish culture. I chose the city of Madrid because I wanted to experience living in a bigger city, and not just being a tourist in one. In general, I love being in the countyside but for my everyday life I prefer to be in a city.
In retrospect choosing Madrid is also better for me personally, considering the language. When I travelled around Spain I noticed that in many parts of the country the accents are quite strong and not as easy to understand, especially in the south.
- What was the most important question you asked your host family in the interview, that helped you realize they were the right host family for you?
Definitely their way of education. You have to be on the same page about how the kids should be educated and how to react in all kinds of situations. You don’t just need to know the house rules of the family and their way of handling complications, you also need to embrace the strategies in your own thinking. Only then can you act with confidence and conviction when something happens and it is your job to find a solution. In order to agree with those rules, you should form your own precise opinion about education in general before you talk about it with your family.
- So, one of the first things you had to do when you got to Madrid was choose the language course. How did you choose the right language course for you, from among all the options?
Most importantly, I would recommend to not book a class when you are still at home. When you arrive, take the first week off and go around the city, get a first impression, take in the atmosphere from the streets and your new environment. Do some sightseeing, study the map of the metro, and visit some language schools. Take your time, study the length and the intensity of different courses and compare it to what you think you are able to do and what you are willing to do. Take a look at possible classmates or students in general, talk to the teacher if you can.
There are schools with a lot of au pairs, there are others with people of all ages and backgrounds, some focus on activities and do an excursion once a week during lessons, others test you every two weeks with a small test in order to guide you better through your learning process. In any case, even if you think you found your school, please consider checking out the others that are on your list.
For me, finding my school involved a lot of walking between several districts, but when I visited my school I loved the learning atmosphere and the location. It takes me around an hour to get to class everyday because I live quite far away from the centre and my school is literally located at Gran Via, but I wouldn’t change my school any day.
- How would you describe the experience of living with your host family, now that you've been living with them for a few months?
Well, in general I am a person that can adapt to a lifestyle, connect with people and feel home very easily, but I also had a ton of luck that my host family and I share so many interests and our dedication for those. But on top of that, I get a lot of privacy and adequate free time and I don’t have any curfew when going out. I can talk about a lot of stuff with my host parents and they also really open up to me which is not something I take for granted.
The kids are not hard to handle, which is probably a result of their good education. They amaze me every day with all their creativity and their joy for simple things and their growing personality and also the way they fight and make up afterwards and how they think and the way they reason and reflect their actions and how sometimes I can recognize myself in them.
- What's your favorite (and least favorite) Spanish food?
That one is really tough, we have so much good food at home because it gets freshly cooked every day... Well, I love the yellow rice with chicken for example and almost every time I go out I order croquetas. When I went to the sea I also had a lot of fish and seafood, stuff I did not eat before but it was amazing as well. Oh, and I love the Jamón Ibérico.
My least favorite part is probably the ton of olive oil in some meals. That is just not my thing. They have a lot of fried stuff here and apart from the croquetas I don’t like that. Also Spanish people eat a lot of meat and fish in general, well, like once or twice a day, at least in my area. I am not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat meat that often and sometimes it is a little too much when seemingly half of the fridge is filled with it.
So, it is important to mention the topic of food when you talk to your potential host family.
- Has anything surprised you about Madrid?
As I said, I have never really been to Spain before and I chose to be an Au Pair very spontaneously and even though my mom got me some guides of Madrid before I left I did not start reading them until I was waiting for my plane to take off. So here are my first impressions: The architecture of the entire city is just amazing and the historical centre in general, the Plazas and the Puertas ad especially the parks, and how new and old houses go so well together, all the different districts for example La Latina and Salamanca, all of that made me love the city in just a week, I swear. Especially at Christmas time, when the Christmas light are on in the streets, you just keep strolling around and try to take it all in because it is too beautiful.
- Have you had the chance to visit any other cities in Spain? Tell us a bit about it.
Yeah, so one of the good things about Madrid is its location in the centre of Spain. There are so many interesting cities nearby with a lot of history and impressive architecture, nice restaurants and cosy little cafes with amazing food, perfect for one-day-trips. I have been to Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez and Segovia already, others are Toledo, Ávila and Cuenca, and all of them are just about an hour away and the public connections are frequent and don’t cost you any extra money. You can also go to Valencia or Salamanca, bigger cities that are like two or three hours away, for a weekend trip.
Also I went to La Coruña at the seaside and visited my Spanish friend who was my roommate when I went to an english boarding school a couple of years ago. Together with her family, we also visited Santiago de Compostela for one day and saw the world-famous cathedral.
Just a few weeks ago I also went to Sevilla which is an amazing city. I have a friend from Germany there who is also an Au Pair. Sevilla is filled with a lot of culture and music and beautiful monuments and buildings.
If you go make sure you visit the world- famous cathedral with the Giralda, the Alcázar Palace, the Plaza de España and the "Setas" (Metropol Parasol), a beautiful open-air panorama.
- What's your favorite memory with your host family (till now!)?
So this might be unexpected but it was the day the eldest child of my family was able to walk again. Just a few weeks after I arrived he broke his leg really badly in a sporting accident. The entire time was hard for everybody because it took so long to operate the leg and we had to make some changes in the house because he needed to go everywhere in a wheelchair and it takes his leg a way longer time to heal because the break was quite complicated and dangerous. And then one day he surprised me and just got up and walked a few steps.
But there are so many other great memories, like when my host dad took me to the stadium Santiago de Bernabéu to see Real Madrid playing a few times or when I cut the first Halloween pumpkin in my life or just some special days of the school when the students prepare something for all the families or when we go out and have dinner as a family and I just feel like a part of all of it.
- What's your favorite memory in Madrid with your friends (till now!)?
Honestly, I don’t have one yet. We go out together, we travel, cook, watch movies and learn together. I have my group of german friends and another rather international one from my language school.
I think what I like most about those friendships is when I feel how they are developing. Like the moment when I feel comfortable opening up to people in a certain way or I entrust my thoughts and problems to someone or even more when someone tells me something personal and you notice you are bonding with this person.
- What advice would you give to other young men and women considering becoming au pairs in Spain?
Well, probably to go out and meet people. Go to intercambios de idiomas, these are language exchanges, either organized by your school or others or the city itself. There are a lot of organizations that bring people together and they also offer afordable tours and weekend trips. Just get in contact with people.
Also, be honest in your family. State what you need and what you expect and clear everything up that seems uncertain to you.
Thirdly, don’t loose your focus. Don’t forget why you came and wanted to learn a new language and care for those children and travel around the country. And if you ever do lose it or you feel lost just ask somebody.