Friday, August 21, 2015

language school chosen and visa appointment booked

It's been a couple of weeks since my last update, and I haven't had to do much on my end. Last week, I had to choose a French language school, and I'm not going to lie, this caused me a bit of anxiety and a few hours of frustration. I didn't get a whole lot of direction other than "Here's a list. Take your pick."

My stream of consciousness went a little something like this: Umm...ok? Great. All of these websites are in French. How the heck am I supposed to do this? Why are they all like 3 times what I was told it would cost? I'm not going to be able to go to class during these times... Ooooh they have specific programs just for people working as au pairs. Got it. That makes more sense. Ahh and there was the price range I was expecting. Ok, freak out over.

So after looking at about 20 schools, I chose the least expensive one I could find that was not in a sketchy looking location, but rather in a charming little building within a 15 minute walk to Luxembourg Gardens and a 20 minute walk to the Louvre Museum. Yes, I'm serious. Three times a week, I will hop on the RER (French for Réseau Express Régional AKA Regional Express Network) and head to French class at École L'Étoile in the heart of Paris.

Is this real? I'm still in utter disbelief that I get to do this. I just want to be there. Like right now. But there's still a few items left to do.

I have scheduled my student visa appointment at the French Consulate in DC for September 4th. I wish I could have made it sooner, but the French family and partner agency have to enroll me in the language school I chose and compile the rest of the paperwork I will need for my visa. After September 4th, it will take about 3 weeks for the visa application to be completely processed (and hopefully there won't be any obstacles with that). After it is complete, all that is left to do is obtain an apostille for my birth certificate, which is apparently used to register me with the local police once I get there, then buy my plane ticket! So as quickly as I can get a flight, I'll be on my way!

The fall trimester at École L'Étoile starts September 28th, and I really don't want to miss the beginning, so any prayers that somehow I am able to arrive in Paris by the weekend of the 26th at the latest would be very much appreciated. It won't be a big deal I don't think if I can't make it by then, but it would be nice. If a miracle happened and I could get there during that week or the weekend before, I'd have time to get acclimated to the RER and Metro systems, which would be wonderful since I'll also have to get the boy I will be looking after to and from school. It's going to be a lot to handle in a very short amount of time, but it'll be a challenging experience that I know will be a good one in the long run.

So that's it as far as updates go for now. I still have a lot to work out stateside, but I'm sure everything will work out the way it is supposed to. One more fun thing I want to announce is a new Instagram account I created just for my trip. I didn't want to make my private one public, so I made one that I will use to post lots and lots of photos during my time there. So follow me at @chelseatheaupair on Instagram! There won't be many posts until I'm there, but add me now so you don't miss anything when I am!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

placement secured!

Yesterday I had my Skype interview with the family that was interested in me. People have asked me how that process works, so in a nutshell, my company sent my completed file to their partner company in France. The French company represents the host family, and after reading my file, thought that I would be a good match with one particular family. They sent them my file, the family agreed to get in touch with me, then their information was sent to me. I was told to contact the family via email. Now let me stop here. My first thought was "I don't speak French, how am I supposed to contact them?" Well, say what you will about Google Translate, but that's pretty much how me and the family communicated over a few days. Which brings me to the Skype interview.

First off, I have to say a big thank you a friend at work, Mark, because without him, I have no idea how this would have gone. Mark speak French, and after being told I didn't need a translator for this Skype interview, I'm happy I ignored that advice and brought him along anyway. I seriously don't know how I would have said more than a few words without someone translating. So kudos to Mark. The family loved him too, and invited him to come visit haha.

So about the "interview" itself. The family is SO NICE. The son Gaspard is 8 and is adorable. I will be his 5th au pair, but the first English speaking one. But the family told me he is very sweet, mature for his age, and used to being looked after by au pairs. The parents are so sweet, and gave me a tour of their house, including my room, which overlooks their lovely garden. They are all about me visiting Paris as often as I can. I have every weekend off, and only "work" 30 hours a week. But I am free to eat my meals with them, or go out if I want. They told me there are a lot of au pairs in Paris, so I can connect with them and they all hang out together a lot. I also found an English-speaking church 4 miles from their house that I will be checking out the first week I'm there.

I also asked the family about the RER/Metro and if I should get monthly passes or weekly passes, and how that worked. They told me that they would be taking care of that so I could visit the city as much as I want. Amazing! I had been researching the Metro pass prices, and a monthly pass could easily run €160 a month, and since what I will be making as an au pair is only double that amount (yes...you heard me correctly) I was wondering how on earth I'd be able to travel everywhere. But I don't have to worry about that! My little stipend doesn't go toward room, board, or transportation, so in reality, I only have to worry about expenses when I choose to eat out or visit the sites. I'm determined to live as frugally as possible and not tap into my savings, just to see how far I can stretch that little amount of pocket money.

I had a hunch that the family was pretty much ready to choose me already, but my company told me that nothing is final until after the Skype interview and the family telling their company that they officially want me. Right after the Skype meeting, they emailed their company and copied me in, saying that they were ready to move forward with me and want me as early in September as possible!

Yesterday, I did find out from my company's contact that once the placement is secured (done!), they will help me choose a language school where I will be taking French classes. After that happens, then I have to apply for the French student visa. Apparently, that involves actually going to the French consulate in DC, so I have no idea what to expect with that. The family would like me to come early September, but my contact Jodi told me that it will probably be a little bit later than that just because of the visa application process. That might be a blessing in disguise though, because I still need to secure renters for my house, and about a hundred other things. But I'm confident it will all fall into place when it is supposed to. My renewed passport arrived yesterday, so all of my original documents I needed are complete! Now, it's just the visa and an apostille for my birth certificate once I get the visa.

Thank you for all the prayers about finding a great family! I'll post more updates as I move along in this process!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2 weeks and 4 days...

...that is how long is has taken to go from my initial application to today. On Friday, my application packet was sent to the GeoVisions (the company I'm going with) partner company in France. Yesterday, I asked my contact how long it usually takes for placement with a host family. She told me at this time of year, usually just a couple of weeks. You can imagine my surprise and excitement, not to mention my terror and stress levels skyrocketing, at this revelation. Then came today. Today, I received an email from my point of contact Jodi (who has been incredible through this process), and she says "Well, a new record has been set, we have a family interested in you!" Umm....what?! "Here is their contact info, their host letter, and some pictures. Please email them today and let me know when you do." Here are some of the thoughts rolling through my head at this point:
1. oh my gosh....
2. OH....my gosh....
3. I can't read this letter, it's in French! Where's Mark?! (a guy I work with who knows French)
4. Where does this family live?
5. Oh their son is so cute!
6. Aww look at their family!
7. Only one son to care for, the oldest is 19...I hope he speaks a little English...
8. Oh, none of them speak English...
9. Oh look, this says they don't require any level of fluency in French
10. OH MY GOSH THEY LIVE RIGHT OUTSIDE OF PARIS
11. OH MY GOSH I COULD BE SPENDING THE NEXT YEAR OF MY LIFE IN PARIS!
12. oh my gosh they want me in September...

So yes...I truly cannot believe how quickly this has happened. I still have to interview with the family...via Skype...don't ask me how that is supposed to work with the language barrier, but I guess I'll find out. I seriously cannot believe how easily all of this has come together. There is only one explanation for it. God's has worked out every detail, even the details I'm not aware of yet. Renting my house, finishing up my Invisalign treatment, and about a hundred other things I now have to figure out. But I'm confident every single thing will be sorted out just in time, because...well let's face it. God likes to show off His abilities to orchestrate the things in our lives. I honestly can't explain how this experience...as short as it has been so far...has shown me that He truly does care and loves to make even the craziest of dreams into realities. If you were to tell me one month ago today as I was sitting on my parent's dock watching fireworks over our lake that I would be here...one month later... with the potential to spend the next year of my life in Paris, I'd say you were out of your mind. I guess nothing is too crazy or impossible for our God.

I sent an email to the family today, and I'm sure I will be hearing from them in the next day or too. Pray that if it's meant to be with this particular family, that it will fall into place quickly, and that the rest of the documents I'll need to get after securing a placement (a student visa and apostille for my birth certificate) will be obtained quickly. If this particular placement works out, I'll literally be able to metro in and out of Paris all the time. That would be amaaaaazing!

Thank you to everyone who has been so supportive and so excited for me. I'll be way more excited when my giant to-do list is complete, but still, thank you to everyone!