Au‌ ‌Pair‌ ‌Culture:‌ ‌Your‌ ‌Gap‌ ‌Year‌ ‌Escapade‌ ‌


Marcelina Kukawska, Photographer/Reporter

As a high school student and young adult, you are encouraged to follow the traditional life path: the high school to college to the nine-to-five job pipeline. But what if you wanted to do something else? What if you wanted to see the world while you are still young and full of wonder? What if you wanted to immerse yourself in a new culture or a new lifestyle? Becoming an au pair could be just the thing you are looking for. 

Being an au pair can be the perfect way to spend a gap year abroad. It is an opportunity to explore a new culture and a new region of the world, while maintaining contact with a lifestyle that pushes you to learn how to support yourself financially. Additionally, it is a unique way to meet new people and create new friendships. 

An au pair is a helper and caretaker that lives with the family that hires them. The role of an au pair is to serve as a nanny for the children and as an extra hand within the household, often helping with small tasks such as cooking or cleaning. The term “au pair” is French for “on par”- a reflection of the mutually benefiting relationship between an au pair and their host family. The host family provides the au pair with a home, a weekly allowance, and access to a first-hand experience of a new country and culture, while the au pair acts as a pillar and helps the family steer clear of chaos. 

This concept is not foreign to John Adams. Zuzanna Kukawska, John Adams alumni, graduated high school in 2021 and, instead of going directly to college, connected with a family in Spain. A handful of weeks before flipping the tassel, Zuzanna finalized plans and saved the date to move to the eastern coast of Spain to become an au pair. Now, five months into her au pair journey, Zuzanna lives in a small coastal town and is immersed in Spanish culture. 

In the first few weeks of arriving in Spain, Zuzanna was scared of everything. As an outsider with a basic apprehension of the Spanish language, she felt like she needed a tour guide to take her everywhere. Ordinary tasks such as ordering ice cream by herself in Spanish were huge undertakings. However, after five months of living in Spain, Zuzanna feels more comfortable than ever. “I can do things on my own, like ride the metro without using a map,” she says. 

Being an au pair has a multitude of benefits. Zuzanna’s favorite things about being an au pair include the travels – big and small, the new people in her life, and the learning opportunities. “Not only do you learn how to use the language, but also how to live alone and how to get from one day to the next”, Zuzanna says. She claims that, unlike a traditional job, there are no mundane moments when working as an au pair. Additionally, she believes that the accomplishment that you feel when you connect with the children that you are living with is unlike any other. 

Going to Spain has not only provided Zuzanna with exciting adventures, but also an opportunity for self growth. “You think that you don’t know how to do something until you are forced to do it because no one else is going to help you,” she says. Zuzanna’s time as an au pair has made her realize that she is much more independent and self-sufficient than she ever considered herself to be. Being an au pair has taught her how to handle difficult situations, like the one time she had to walk from Premià to Vilassar in the middle of the night when the metro workers went on strike. 

Zuzanna believes that becoming an au pair has been one of the best decisions that she has made thus far. Some words of wisdom that she would like to pass on to those who are considering becoming au pairs are: know what you want and how you want your life to look like, learn from your mistakes, and keep going. “There are no ‘Au Pair for Dummies’ books about how to do this,” she says, “So you have to feel it out one day at a time.”

But where do you even begin? How do you move across the world into a new home with a new family? Websites such as and can quickly connect you with a family that is perfect for you. These websites aid you in matching with a family that is located in the country of your choice and whose needs match your abilities. This process allows you to get to know the family you will be living with before making the big step and moving across the world. These websites can help you make plans in a matter of weeks.

Becoming an au pair is the perfect opportunity to see the world, immerse yourself in a new culture, and acquire new experiences. Take a gap year and see for yourself.