Little Hen

On Little Adeventures

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Au-Pair in Paris: New Beginnings

I’ve almost been here two weeks. In some ways I feel like I’ve been here a lot longer (apart from my french still being pretty rubbish), in other ways I can’t believe two weeks has gone so quickly.

I need to point out before anything else that I’m not an Au-Pair in a traditional sense. I don’t do any of the housework, and I don’t look after the children. You could think of it more like a paid student exchange. I speak English with them, and live with them. That’s it.

When I arrived a week ago at Gare du Nord my phone didn’t work and neither did the numbers for their phones. I spent about 40 minutes wondering around the station trying to work out how I was going to contact them until some tall, red haired man came up to me and said ‘Heni?’ Or it was more like ‘Eni?’ (Only the French can’t actually say my name). I assumed this was the father of the family, for all I know it could have been a random man that just happened to know my name.

For some reason I’d got it into my head that I was staying in Versailles. I’m not staying in Versailles. I’m staying in Triel sur Seine which is about the distance of Leighton Buzzard from London except it still counts as the île-de-France and Parisian suburbs… Even if no one in Paris has heard of it. I spend most of my time in Paris however which is about a 40 minute train journey - although I’ve had some pretty traumatic journeys to and from Paris which I will post separately.

It’s weird sharing a house with another family that you don’t know. I’m used to my family’s routines of when we eat, and who showers when, and all those small things you don’t normally think about. At home I will often drink tea (herbal or otherwise) in my room. Not only do they not really have a lot of tea, but I can’t drink or eat outside the kitchen. This is a very sensible idea but I can’t get used to it and desperately crave drinking tea in bed.

My French is okay. It’s getting better, I think. I still can’t understand a lot, and hate having to ask ten times for then to repeat, which makes it difficult to communicate. But I’ll get there.

I’m going skiing for a week now and might not have any internet. So I’ll have to do a series of catch up posts when I get back…. On meeting new people, hitch-hiking home, and cultural differences.

Filed under au pair experience gap year little adventures France paris language ski lost in translation

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Anonymous asked: Thank you so much, I think you've actually been the final thing that's convinced me that a gap year is what I need to do! I really admire what you've done over your gap year so far and the attitude that you can do whatever you want and make the most of it, so I'll use you for inspiration. If it's not too creepy I'm excited to see how uni goes for you as well, will you be blogging about it? And if you don't mind me asking, where do you plan to study?

That’s sweet thank you! No it’s not creepy, I’ll be going to Manchester hopefully, if not Manchester then Bristol. Yes I will be if I remember but I’m very bad at being up to date.

Good! You won’t regret it! I’m going away for a week where I might not have internet (crazy I know) but when I get back I can post a list of good websites for gap year information. I’d love to hear what you decide to do! Have you got any idea of things you want to do? X.

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Each year, around 15,000 migrant domestic workers arrive in the UK on short-term visas to work as cooks, cleaners, housekeepers and nannies for wealthy foreign families. Many of them are women from very poor backgrounds in countries like the Philippines, Morocco, India, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Employers are often drawn from Gulf states, and stay in some of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods. Yet new research published this week by Human Rights Watch shows these workers are being subjected to very serious abuses.

Theresa May Can Make History on Modern Slavery. Will She Go Far Enough?

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Anonymous asked: Hi :) I'm thinking about taking a gap year because I'm a little unsure about my course/uni choice, but I'm worried about being lonely and regretting it, because I am so so excited to go to uni and meet new people and fend for myself. I don't want to spend a year longing for uni, and living at home for most of a year is so unappealing. I'm just curious as to whether you felt like this and if you had any advice? Thanks!


Well firstly I would say don’t go to university if you’re having doubts about your choice. I was going to apply to English, but wasn’t sure, and now I’m going to do anthropology which I’m really passionate about. You’ve got to spend three years studying it so take time to make the right choice. I even ended up considering studying abroad which I wouldn’t have done had I gone to university last September.

Even though I wasn’t sure about choices I still really want to go to university. It was a bit hard during October when everyone first started because I did feel like I was missing out a bit. I didn’t really know anyone, and hadn’t started working at that point.

BUT I have met so many amazing and interesting people, and am always meeting more. I did a TEFL course and met people there, I met people doing Paines Plough, and I made friends with all the people I’m worked with. If you get involved with things you’ll make friends. I know a girl who sings so she joined a choir and made friends there. I’m in France at the moment and I wanted to meet people so put a post on a Facebook group and have consequently met loads of interesting people.

Have a plan. I was advised to do five things with my gap year: volunteer, develop a skill, do an internship, do paid work, and travel. You might be living at home but if you keep busy it won’t feel like you’re there a lot. Also consider looking for work abroad. Have a look at gap year sites, there are thousands of opportunities to work abroad. If you ski go and do a ski season. There are loads of jobs that give you accommodation and food and basic pay, you won’t earn enough to save but you won’t be at home.

Having a gap year is sort of an insight of what your life will be like after university, except without loads of debt. And if you use it wisely employers will even see you’ve had more life experience than those fresh out of university.

Overall I would definitely advise you to take a gap year. I’ve had such a good year. I don’t feel like I’ve missed out on university because I’ll go in September. I’ve enjoyed not having exam and essay stress. Being at home isn’t as bad as you think, especially if you keep busy. And you will meet people!

Hope that answers your question! If you have any more I’ll be happy to answer them. X

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Anonymous asked: who would you say were/are the most influential people you have met in your life?

That’s a big question.

Firstly let’s define influential person as someone that has profoundly impacted how I think about my life and how I act, which could either be positive or negative.

My parents undoubtedly have been very influential. They raised me, shaped my world views as a child, values, love, support, etc.

I used to be heavily influenced by my friends and romantic interests. I’d try and change bits of my personality to be more appealing to them. That didn’t work out too well, but I like who I am now so all things lead to a better end.

A couple of teachers have been pretty inspirational and influential. One teacher in particular who helped set up the school magazine of which I was deputy-editor-in-chief - she was always passionate about what she was doing and wouldn’t accept no for am answer.

More recently the team at Paines Plough. I really love seeing people passionate about what they do and everyone at Paines Plough was. It also seemed like ‘no’ wasn’t really a word for them that existed either. They had an idea of what they wanted to do, and they might compromise, but they’d never say no. It seemed like the perfect attitude you should have to work. They might have been stressing out but they could still have fun and love what they do.

I can’t really give you a specific person that has influenced me. The people that I aspire to are the ones that have passion and dreams. They don’t stop when faced with a problem and take every opportunity they get. They’re genuine, caring, and supportive. If I can be like them then I think I’ll be doing alright.

Hope that answers your question. X.

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Volunteering: why you should work for no money

A lot of my gap year has been spent doing work for no money. I worked voluntarily for Paines Plough as an archivist and also for my local primary school as a classroom assistant. The one thing that surprised me most during the time that I volunteered were people’s reactions.

Me: I volunteer at a primary school two mornings a week.
People: So you work and you don’t get paid?
Me: Yes, that is what volunteers do.
People: But why would you do that?

Well, here’s why…

1) Experience
The work that I did I wouldn’t have been able to do had I been demanding money. In particular the experiences I gained from Paines Plough, but I also gained a lot of experience from working with the primary school. There aren’t always paid jobs available in the work that you want to do because employers don’t have the money. There’s always that complaint by young people that they want a job but they can’t get a job because they don’t have experience, but they can’t get experience because they can’t get a job. It’s true that experience comes through working and doing things, but sometimes that work isn’t always going to be paid.

2) Flexibilty.
Since you’re not being paid you have more control over when you work. I balanced volunteering with a paid job. The paid job was always my first commitment because I had a contract and income from it, but volunteering was easily fitted around this. A lot of people say they don’t have the time to volunteer. One hour of your day is only 4% of your time. I decided how much I wanted to do and when I could do it. Being a classroom assistant I did six hours a week (two mornings a week), but for Paines Plough I did at least two full days a week and sometimes more. It is up to you how much you want to commit.

3) Personal reward
Perhaps this is a bit cliché but it is ultimately true: doing something you love is worthwhile regardless of being paid. I love helping people, but I also love arts and crafts and teaching, so when I was working with the primary school children it was rewarding to share that with them. Doing something you love and sharing it with people is proved to be psychologically beneficial.

4) Don’t be so self-centred.
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in a little bubble of me. What do I want? What do I need? Whilst the first three points were focused on this, a lot of volunteering is focussed on other people. There will be a limit to how much you can do for no money. I like doing arts and crafts with children but it is also incredibly annoying and trying. Sometimes I was left wondering whether the children were just thick and whether there was any hope for humanity. I could have quite happily quit and stayed in bed some mornings, but I know that my volunteering was helpful to that classroom.

Think about all the things you’ve done. A lot of those things couldn’t have happened without volunteers. It’s not a big thing, but it helps people have a better life.

That’s why I volunteer.

Filed under volunteer help people charity better world gap year benefit explanation classroom teaching bénévole