On June 8th I matched with my host family. Things started to get real. We agreed on me arriving at the beginning of September but later on changed the date to August 24th as it just worked better for them.
As this was in 2009 I can only give you tags of memories. I remember driving to Vienna with my dad to apply for the J1 visa. Even going to the capital city of my country was a big deal for me at that time. I actually had a grin on my face while writing this as later on, Vienna became my home and compared to New York and Paris it doesn’t seem big at all to me anymore.
The American consulate made a big deal out of the visa appointment. I had to go in there by myself, phones and other carry ons weren’t allowed and I had to go through a security check like at the airport. Gosh it felt momentous.
I also remember the look on my friends’ faces when I told them that I am going to au pair in the United States for a whole year. I think it was a mix of shock, disbelieve, jealousy and admiration. They were actually the ones talking about working in a foreign country and studying at Oxford University. In the end I was the one putting things into action.
I made sure that I visited all my doctors before heading to the country of wonky health care and started planing my goodbye party. After all I was about to head to a country 6.715,85 km away from my own and stay there for a whole year what seemed like an eternity at that point. My goodbye party was nice and some of my friends got me really lovely presents. For example, I got a hilarious photo album full of pictures and messages. Saying goodbye to my friends felt unreal. Even though we all claimed that we would Skype and stay in touch we knew that things would get different.
In my grandparents’ opinion I was about to risk my life. They were very old school and didn’t understand at all why someone would voluntarily leave our safe and cosy village. As grandma was sick we parted ways, not knowing if we would ever see each other again. (Sneak peak: My Oma stayed with us for another 5 years.)
Thankfully the agency provided me with a handbook and a ‘to do’ list. I kept reading it over and over again in order to not miss anything. So many things had to be done and planed and bought and organized.
As days went by I got more and more nervous and numb. Usually au pairs get excited, but for me, all kinds of feelings were piled onto my emotional scale.
My room was a mess. I bought two big suitcases and in retrospect, filled them with a lot of heavy and stupid stuff I shouldn’t have packed. I packed and unpacked, I reconsidered and packed again, I weighed my bags and frustratingly realized that it’s impossible to fit my whole life in two suitcases.
And then there was August 24th. I barely slept as anxiety kept me awake. My parents and I left quite early in order to avoid traffic and to have enough time to say our goodbyes. I remember the car ride to the airport. I was paralyzed and barely able to talk. “Am I really doing this?”, I kept asking myself. I knew that I would immediately burst into tears if I said a thing. Looking at my mum was impossible as I knew that she felt the exact same way.
As I walked into the departure hall suddenly two of my best friends were standing in front of me with a big ‘Goodbye Julia’ poster. I immediately started crying as I didn’t expect something like that at all. If possible my mental state got even worse. During the whole car ride I was holding back my tears but at the airport, all dams broke.
To make a long and tearful goodbye story short: Parting from my family and friends was very hard for me. Probably the hardest thing I ever had to do at this time. Thankfully three other au pairs departed with me. Their faces weren’t tear-stained at all, they were rather cheerful actually. “How can they not have cried?!”, I wondered. Their positive excitement was very helpful though as it dragged me all the way to New York.
From Vienna we flew to London and from there to New York. After hours and hours of waiting, flying and switching gates I finally hit firm ground again. Once we made it out of the plane a big ‘Welcome to New York’ sign saluted me. I really did it. My au pair journey began.
You wanna know what happened next? Au pair school