4th December: Overcrowding Starbucks

Happy 2nd Advent everyone!
And I’m back with another part of the 24 days to christmas countdown!

Again we’re going back in time to the 11th September. The good thing in being with an agency is that they try to bring as many Au Pairs together as possible. In order to do this, they arrange several Au Pair meet ups over the year. The first one for me was on that Sunday. They invited us all to come to the Starbucks on the New Oxford Street.

Since the meeting started at 11.30am, Amelie and I met at the Tube station at 10am. Due to Network Rail track work between High Barnet and Archway we had to take a bus replacement service to Archway and take the tube from there to Tottenham Court Road.
Luckily we arrived not only on time, but even a few minutes early.
Since the agency is located in Kent, none of them could come to actually organise the whole thing. Instead Barbara, who’s been an Au Pair for the agency years ago and ever since lives in London, came to manage everything. We were already 30 people at 11.20am and more and more were coming. It was quite hard to find a place for everyone, so we squeezed together and some even sat on the floor.

In the end we were over 50 people, I’d say. Because we were taking over the whole place, some customers even left. When nearly everyone was there everyone had to introduce themself. This was quite a hard task, because we were so many people and therefore you couldn’t hear everyone. During the introductions we noticed that more than half of the Au Pairs are from Germany, which made quite hard for us to find Au Pairs who are not german.
I don’t have a problem with german Au Pairs, but I came here to improve my english and it’s not a big help when I know I can speak german with them.
Luckily I had a girl from Sweden and one from the Netherlands in my group, when we had to form smaller groups to get to know each other better.

After a short Q&A we decided to leave Starbucks and go on Oxford street. Mainly to get out of the overcrowded Cafe. Outside we took a quick Selfie of our group, since there was a competition to win a voucher for the best group Selfie of the meeting.
We then went down Oxford Street to Bond Street to bring one of the girls to her tube and then we splitted shortly after.
Even though we had a great time and we made a Whatsapp group, we don’t really are in contact with each other any more. I don’t know about the others, but I just write from time to time with two of the girls, but sadly I haven’t seen them again.

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Needless to say that Esmeralda won with this picture! 🙂

Since my group splitted, I reached out to Amelie again and asked her what she was up to. Apparently she stayed with her group at Starbucks, so I went back there and got to know another group of Au Pairs. Sadly they all live on the outskirts of London, but they are quite the fun group anyway. Because we’re all from Germany we obviously talked german the whole time. Soon we noticed that two of the girls have quite a similar accent as mine and we started talking more and more with accent.

Around 3pm we then left Starbucks to go to Primark and after that to Forbidden Planet, which is a merchandise store for fantasy worlds and all the comic universals.
From there we went back to the Oxford Street and went to several small shops to then end up at McDonald’s for a small snack before we all went on our way home.

The next meeting I went to was two weeks later. On Sunday morning, the 25th September the big BAPAA Au Pair Welcome Event took place from 11am to 1.30pm for all London-based Au Pairs at the International Students House, London W1. There has been another time frame the same day for Au Pairs from all the other Locations. This meeting is quite different from the others, since it’s not only for Au Pairs from the Smartaupairs agency, but for all Au Pairs whose agency belongs to the BAPAA Association.
To be on time, Amelie and I took the Tube at 10.20am. At Finchley Central Station Marieke then joined us. Around 10.50am we arrived at Great Portland Street Station and had to walk to the location.

After we showed our tickets we entered the venue and had to put on some name tags. The room was divided by balloons in the different areas of London and we had to gather around the balloon representing our area. When everyone had arrived Tuuli, the head of my agency, welcomed everyone and officially started the event. Our first task was to get to know new people from our area and exchange numbers or Facebook profiles. We were also asked to take Selfies for yet another challenge. After the time run up on this task we had to move around in the room and find even more people to talk to.
The beginning part was really good, because you actually got to know people from your area. Of course it’s nice to get to know people from different places, too. But in reality you won’t really keep in contact or at least won’t meet each other again.
The trick with the second task was that even though you looked at the balloon and thought okay that’s reasonable close to where I live, the people there also had moved and suddenly you were talking to someone from the complete opposite of London from where you live.

The only good thing was I got to know a girl who already changed her family and we talked about her problems and what it was like, so she actually encouraged me to talk to the agency and see if I can change.
After this second task there was a small snack break where they dished Pizza and everyone could take a slice. I took the chance and asked Chloe from Smartaupairs, if we can have a chat and then talked to her about the problems with my family I was facing and told her that the Au Pair before me had some similar problems. When we came to talk about changing the family I asked her how it would work and she kindly explained the whole ordeal to me. But she also pointed out that I have to keep in mind that changing always has the risk that you may not find a new family within the two weeks notice.
Still this conversation helped me a lot, because I finally knew what I would have to expect and therefore could try to decide what to do now.

Shortly after the nice conversation the program went on and they opened the photo booth, where we could take group pictures with fun props. In the end we played people bingo. We all had a bingo plan on our program and then had to find another person in the room who for example has coloured hair, has blue eyes, is in London for over a month already and other things. Obviously you’re not allowed to list someone more than once.

After the nice game of bingo I got to know a guy named Jonas and his good friend Lisa. Jonas and I were chatting with each other when a group of girls asked us to photobomb their picture they were taking at the still open photo booth.

Soon the whole party was finished and we all went out to take picture in front of the venue and then were free to go. Since Jonas, Lisa and I all wanted to go in the same direction, we decided to take a bus together to Westminster Abbey.
I really like them, especially because they’re as crazy as I can be at times and even though we just knew each other for a few minutes, it felt like we know each other at least for a year already.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to see each other again for now, but we still write with each other now and then and both always asked how my search was going and Lisa even tried to bring me in contact with a potentially family.

I enjoyed both the meetup very much and I found new friends there too. Especially the big welcome party was really nice, because you not only get to know Au Pairs from your own agency, but from all the agencies who belong to the BAPAA Association. It’s also nice to get to know people from your agency to finally put a face to a name.
And even if you won’t find a lot of friends there, it always is a lot of fun and you can just enjoy the time together with all the other Au Pairs.

Thanks to Amelie and Marieke we still found other Au Pairs who joined our group permanently and belong now to my closest friends here.

Thanks to Smartaupairs for organising all the “small” Au Pair meetings and to the BAPAA Association for organising such a lovely welcome party for all the Au Pairs in England.

Vicky! Xx

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3rd December: Life is better with Friends :)

Day three and the third post for my own little advent calendar.
Today’s post is for all those, who have been spending so much time with me here. Who would go sightseeing with me or just shopping. Who would spend their free time with me, so we would have company. In one word: my Friends!

The most important thing as an Au Pair is to make friends quite fast, otherwise you’ll be stuck alone and you won’t ever see someone else as your family. Even if you have the best family an Au Pair can wish for, we all need a bit of space and need to spend our free time with other people.

I had to learn this the hard way, since I didn’t make a lot of friends during my first few weeks, I soon felt really lonely and got more and more frustrated. Especially when the first problems with my ex family started.
I was so happy that I then found Maja. Even though we haven’t seen each other since the 4th September, we still keep in contact and she offered me a place to stay for one night when I had to move out, too. I really miss her and now that I’m settled in we have to arrange to see each other again. But apart from not seeing each other, we still kept in contact. We’re not writing on a daily basis, but we would talk on the phone sometimes and when we write again, it’s just like we are continuing a conversation from the previous day.

But she’s not my only friend. When I came back from Ireland I got to know Amelie, because our families are friends with each other. She is the one I spent the most time with and she also was a really big help during my re-matching time. I owe her big time for keeping more than half of my stuff in her room and putting up with her host mum who was getting more annoyed by it day by day.
But not only for keeping my stuff, also for being there for me and listening and giving me advice whenever it was needed. And mostly for putting up with me, I know I can be a pain in the a** sometimes… ;D

On the 4th September Maja came to visit me and Amelie in North Finchley. After we showed her our not so impressing High Street, we took the bus 134 to Muswell Hill and arrived there after a 30 minutes drive. In Muswell Hill we were supposed to meet a girl named Jana, who I’ve got to know over Facebook even before I came to London. We tried to meet for quite while and never got the time to, so finally we could meet.
While I brought Amelie and Maja, she brought two girls who live next door to her. There was another girl who no one of us knew before, since she just arrived two days ago. While everyone else was from Germany, she was from Sweden. The last in the group was the only girl who’s not an Au Pair and lives in a different part of London.
After we all met at 3pm, we went to a café and just sat together, talking and trying to get to know each other. At 5pm we then decided that we should move again and went first to a nice second-hand shop and then to a pub called O’Neill’s, which belongs to an irish pub chain.
Around 5.45pm Amelie and I decided to head home. Maja had already left and the others wanted to stay a bit longer.
Even though all the girls are really nice, I just kept a bit of contact with Jana, which really is a shame, because they were all really nice!

After this nice meeting Amelie and I tried to make more friends and even went to an Au Pair meet up on Oxford Street. There is only the problem that all the other Au Pairs were from all over London and it can be quite hard to keep in contact with people who are not living close to you.

So we tried using an App called “Excuses to meet”, where you would give excuses why you should meet and then the app will show you people with the same excuses around you. This app has a big Au Pair community and is even promoted by our agency.
On Thursday, 22nd September, I made arrangements to meet another Au Pair in Finchley Central at 11.30am. I knew that two other Au Pairs are joining us, but it was a nice surprise to see Amelie there. Marieke, a dutch Au Pair, organised the whole thing and Anna, a polish Au Pair, was the fourth Au Pair joining us. We went to Costa and just chatted the time away. At 2pm Amelie and I then decided it’s time walk back home.
This meeting went a lot better and we actually stayed in contact. Sadly we haven’t seen Anna much after, because most of our get together are in Finchley or North Finchley and it’s too much of a hassle for her to get there.

On the 25th September we had a big welcome party for the Au Pairs in London. We even made more friends there and Amelie and Marieke made plans with them for after the event, while I already had other plans.
So I didn’t knew the girls when they invited me to come with them to the British Museum on the 1st October. Originally I didn’t want to go out that day, because I had to babysit from 5pm onward, but they convinced me and so I met them at Woodside Park Station the same day.
Amelie, Farina, Kathi and I took the tube from there and at Finchley Central Station Marieke joined us. While Farina lives closer to a different tube station, Kathi lived more or less a 5 minute walk away from my family.
When we arrived at Tottenham Court Road we walked to the Museum and got in quite fast. But inside were so many people, that we went around the Museum for a bit, but soon gave up and left in order to find a place to eat something. After a short snack, Amelie and I went back to the tube station and went back home. Because it was already 4.20pm when we went on the tube, I really had to hurry up to walk home from the station and arrived just 2 minutes too late.

The next day we made plans to see each other again. Since the other girls went to a party the night before and came home quite late we arranged to see each other at 2.30pm in front of the Sainsbury on the High Road. Sadly Farina stayed home, but we were joined by Lenka instead. After we bought a few things for a picnic, we went to Friary Park, close to my family’s house.
That day was the day I planned to tell my host family the two weeks notice and therefore I was quite nervous. So I enjoyed the picnic even more because it was a good distraction from what was to come later that day.
At 5.30pm we decided to get a move on and went back home. Amelie walked with me until we arrived at my house and had to say goodbye. By then I was a nervous wreck and I’m still very grateful for her trying to calm me down and to encourage me.
Even though it was a good idea, it didn’t help at all. But at one point I had to put an end to my perfect task of procrastination and finally talk to the family.
This meeting with my friends at the park helped me a lot to ease my mind that day and also reminded me that no matter what happens with the family, I have a bunch of good friends behind me who would always try their best to help me the best they can.

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Let’s have a picnic!

After I told the family I would leave, I tried to spent as much time as possible outside the house on the weekends. On the 8th October we then made plans to go to Brent Cross, a big shopping center in the North of London. We just asked in our, now very big, Whatsapp Group of Au Pairs around our area, who wants to join us.
In the end it was just Amelie, Kathi and I who took the bus at 1pm at Tally Ho Corner and went on our way there. Because of problems with an oyster card it took us a bit longer then usually and we finally arrived at 2.15pm. After we strolled around for a bit, we met with another Au Pair from the group we haven’t met yet; Ellinor.
We just went through all the shops we wanted to see and finally I was able to visit a Hollister shop and even bought my first piece of Hollister there.
Because I once again had to babysit, we went home at 4.30pm. But not without a small lunch snack from the Food Court of the Center. For the way home we used the tube, which was way easier and cost the same.

Even though I made a lot more friends during my time here, Amelie, Marieke, Farina and Kathi are the ones I’ve spent most of my time with. But not only did they spent time with me, they also helped me a lot during my rematch time. Kathi lend me her hand luggage suitcase so I could leave it with my things at Amelie’s place and Farina always told me about families who are looking for an Au Pair.

You always need friends in your life, but even more so when you’re away from all your other friends and your family. The question is just how you can see who is your friend and who is just an acquaintance. For me it was clear when I had to change and they all tried to help me. I see myself quite lucky that I’ve found friends like these here! Hopefully we’ll be able to stay in contact, now that I’m living on the other side of central London.

Thank you guys! I don’t know what I would have done without you!

Vicky! Xx

 

2nd December: Finally back to School!!

Hey guys, sorry it’s already this late, but I haven’t had the chance to post any time sooner today.
In this post I’m going to tell you all about my time at a local language school. Starting with my enrollment to some of the lessons. Not only wanted my host family for me to go to a language school, but I also wanted to go to one to get the Cambridge Language Certificate in the end.

On the 3rd August, just on my third day here, my host mum brought me to a Language school in Finchley Central, which is just two Tube Stations or a 25-30 minutes walk from where I lived. Since the school was still on summer break, I just could do my interview so they can estimate my level and tell me in what class I could take part in.
For the interview I had to do a small test where I just had to choose between four words which one is the right to but in a gap in a text. After the gap text I had to write a 50 word story about either London or my hometown (I obviously choose Trier) and then I had a little chat with one of the teachers there. Apparently I was really good and just got one word wrong. They said that I would need to attend the Advanced Level classes, but I would need to come in September to start and then I could also do my trial lesson first.

When September finally came around, Amelie and I went to Language School on Monday morning, but they sent me back because the Advanced Class wouldn’t start until Wednesday so I would need to come back two days later.
So on Wednesday, 14th September, we went back to the Language school and did our free trial lesson. Because school just started, they haven’t figured out who would teach the class yet so we had a substitute teacher named Thomas. He was a really fun guy and we had a good lesson.
Amelie had to go to another class so she wasn’t part of my class, but there were three other girls. Giulia and Benedetta, both italians and Au Pairs too, who were already a definite part of the class and Rosa, a brazilian who also was there for her trial lesson.
After the lesson I decided that I want to enroll in this school, but because I wasn’t sure on how many weeks I would have to do they offered me a mock exam for Friday.

On Friday I then went back to the college and did my mock exam. Because I want to try to get at least the Level C1 Certificate, I had to do the CAE (Cambridge Advanced Exam). The Exam is subdivided in four different parts: 1. Reading and Use of English; 2. Writing; 3. Listening; 4. Speaking.
The first part is again subdivided into 8 different parts, where you would have to fill in some words, find a different version of a word or just answer questions to a text. One of the hardest ist the gapped text, where a text is divided into paragraphs and some paragraphs have been taken out of the text and you have to fit them back in, in the right order. But the hardest really is to finish all the tasks in just 90 minutes!
The second part consists of two different texts you have to write. The first is compulsory and mostly just an essay. For the second text you can choose between three different writing tasks. This could be a proposal, a report, a letter or a review. Again you have to finish the task within 90 minutes and make sure you don’t have more or less than 220-260 words.
The third part is the listening. Here you have to listen to conversations and choose the right answer, complete sentences and multiple matching, where you have to complete two tasks at one. For this task you’ve got 40 minutes but that isn’t a problem, since this part is led by a CD. The problem here is more the listening part itself.
Luckily I haven’t had to do the fourth part, but even if I would’ve done it, it wouldn’t have been a problem at all.

Before I could do the mock exam I had to enroll at the school, so they could make sure that I’m actually staying with them, before they put all the work in. The enrollment fee is £25 and I’ve paid a £5 deposition. I couldn’t pay for the whole course already, because it depends on how many weeks you’re doing.

The following Wednesday Amelie and I went back to language school. She also took a test on Friday and was able to move a class up and was now part of my class. We now also had a teacher from this school: Emma. She also was the one who interviewed me in August and organised the whole mock exam thing for me.
After class she told me my test results: 70%! You need 60% to pass the test and because I’m also taking lessons, Emma told me that I can even try to get the higher Level C2. For this I would have to take the CPE (Cambridge-Proficiency-Exam), but she thinks that I could actually manage it. On my request on how many weeks I should do, she said that 2 days a week for 6 weeks in total would be absolutely fine.
Luckily my grandfather said he would help me pay for it, because Language schools in England are really expensive and I would never be able to pay for it with the money I earn by working as an Au Pair.

So from then on, Amelie and I walked all the way from North Finchley to the Language school every Wednesday and Friday morning from 9.30am to 12.45pm. After around two weeks Giulia left London to go back to Italy and therefore also left the class. But before she could leave Enrico, also from Italy, joined our class.

I really loved going to language school. Not only did we learn a lot there, but I also found good friends there. Even Emma, our teacher became in a way a friend of us. She would always listen to the problems we were facing at the moment and would try to give us an advice. Because of that it sometimes felt like a support-group for Au Pairs, but we still would connect it to learning english. Talking about our problems helps us to get more fluently and confident in talking and she would always correct us, so we still would learn something.

This class, which really was more like a group of friends, helped me a lot in deciding if I change the family or not. They wouldn’t tell me what to do, but their reactions to the things I’ve told them, made it clear for me that it definitely is not a normal behaviour.
But they not only helped me in making the decision, but one girl especially (apart from Amelie, because we are friends even outside of the classroom) helped me out after I left my family and had nowhere to go. Even though she was an Au Pair herself, she offered me to stay with her for one night.

Sometimes the school has a test day. That means that every class has to write a test, so they can see if we’re improving and for the lower classes if someone can even move up a class. Before I left I we had one of those test days and it was just annoying. In a way the test was nothing more than a mock exam. But we didn’t really want to write a test so we could convince Emma to at least do the writing part in the next lesson.

In my last week with the family, Amelie and I’s friend Kathi joined our class at the language school. This time it wasn’t Emma who was teaching us, but a guy named Tony. Because he looks a bit like Voldemort, we gave him Voldemort as a nickname, but never told him so. He thinks his nickname could be Dumbledore, because he is the head of the teachers and sometimes is referred to being the headmaster. Tony is actually a really funny guy and his lessons are also really good. But his lessons are a lot different to Emma’s. Even though he jokes with us, his whole demeanour is more serious and in a way he is more challenging than Emma is.

During his lesson he would dictate us some phrases and we had to write them down as we heard them or what we thought he said. This was funny, annoying and frustrating at the same time. Annoying and frustrating mostly because we just wouldn’t get it right. But it was all the same so funny, because of the things some of us understood. One time Tony dictated the phrase “I don’t find them easy” and Enrico understood “I don’t find a museum”, which was so funny at that moment.

After this lesson I signed up for a few weeks break. Not only because I was between families, but also because my exam would be in December the earliest. Right at the beginning I decided I would do 4 weeks of language school now and then would do the last 2 weeks just before my exam, so I’m well prepared.

When I first took the break I planned to be back in the last two weeks of November to do the CPE (C2) on the 1st December, but I now decided that I’ll wait until January and do the CAE (C1) then instead.

I decided to do the CAE (C1) instead of the CPE (C2), because you automatically get the C2 Certificate when you get 80% or more in the CAE.
On the Wednesday I had to leave my family I went to the language school to meet Benedetta there and we all did another mock exam where I got 80% without the speaking part, so I would definitely get the C2 Certificate. But even when if it will go wrong during the final exam, I would still have the C1 Certificate, while I would have nothing if I wouldn’t pass the CPE.

So now I’m on break until January, but I want to go back to the language school one or two times to do another round of mock exams and maybe finally even do the speaking part of the exam.

However I have to say that this school is really good and the staff tries his best to help you as much as they can. They even helped me during the time where I had’t found my family yet and are cooperative with whatever problem you have.
Sadly my working hours never allowed me to take part in any of their programs, but just so you know, the school has regularly events scheduled. If it’s a sightseeing trip on a boat, a Halloween party or just ice skating at Alexander Palace. They really try to form a community and to bring their students into contact.

I’ve really missed going to school while I was away and I still do! It’s not only learning. It really is coming together for a few hours of fun and leaving with a better knowledge of the language we have to speak on a daily basis now.

At the end I just want to include a thank you to Emma and the Nacel English School London!maxresdefault

nacel English School London

See you tomorrow (or for most of you later today)

Love,
Vicky! Xx