A Career Break Abroad!
Julia, from Duisburg in Germany, wanted to take time out from her job and was able to do so with Apex Professional Exchange in Sydney, Australia. She joined a family for 1 year and looked after their 2 children, bringing her experience as an educator into her role as a live-in carer.
Why were you looking for time away from your job?
My job as an educator in child and youth services was quite stressful, and after 9 years in the same role I wanted to experience something completely different. I looked at the options that were available for me to go abroad, and I soon realised that I was already too old for some countries, like for example the US. I checked out some church-affiliated programs, most of which ask for a huge financial investment, or they wanted to me to do a lot of advertising during and after the program. During my search, I stumbled upon Apex. I loved the premise of being able to work abroad in my profession.
Did you feel supported by Apex?
Apex has a great program, but it’s very much focused on America. However, it was clear from the start that I wanted to go to Australia, and in fact I was already too old for the USA anyway. It took me 2 years to decide if I should take this step. I received great support from the team, the most valuable insight came from the matching specialist based in Australia, because she was really able to go into detail around the Australian program.
During my time in Sydney I had a great area director who was very supportive. I knew that I could get in touch with her whenever I needed to. She always listened and offered practical advice.
In fact, I stayed with her and her family the last few days before I returned home.
What was your host family like? What did you learn in your time with them?
My host family was a really nice, albeit slightly chaotic family who lived in Sydney. I was responsible for managing the household and cared for their two children, 7-year old Isaac and 3-year old Piper. Isaac, who had recently been diagnosed with mild Asperger’s, initially found it really hard to accept me into the family. He kept reminding me that I wasn’t their first ‘au pair’.
I regularly had to find new ways for Isaac to be calm and collected in the way he behaved with me and around his little sister. I suggested a method of rewarding good behaviour, especially without temper tantrums. We collected Marbles in a big glass jar, which he could then redeem for favourite activities such as going on a hike or going to the beach.
One of the main things I learnt during my time with the family is how important it is to work closely with mum and dad to set goals, so that they could be achievable. One should be able to provide a point of view and follow through.
What are your favourite memories from your time in Sydney?
I was lucky to be able to find a wonderful parish right on my doorstep. I also got to know some of the other care professionals that were in Australia with Apex. Our area director organised a meet-up for us every month, which meant we saw each other regularly. We went to the Hunter Valley for a wine tour, went to Newcastle to celebrate my and another friend’s birthday and enjoyed food and each other’s company at quite a few picnics.
I became close friends with some of the other care professionals and we went on some amazing adventures, we were in Melbourne, hiking in the Blue Mountains or relaxing on the beach. Shortly before my return to Germany I visited Uluru with a friend. These are experiences that I will remember fondly for a long time to come.
I was lucky to be able to return to work with on of my previous employers. Part-time initially, which is great! I had already applied for my job from Australia. For this, I checked all my documents at an early stage and asked my host family for a reference. On 1st June I started working at the outpatient department for youth welfare, I am very excited for this new challenge. As the first few months in Sydney were a change for me, my return was a big change as well. Here I can, from my side, just give the following tip: Take your time. It took me a whole month to get back to Germany in peace. Of course, my friends and family were very happy to see me again. However, I have often found that very exhausting. Therefore, do what you feel like and find time for yourself to process the experiences of the past year. A certain “homesickness” in the acquired “home” is normal.
What are your top tips?
Be prepared! I wanted to know what I would be able to achieve in these twelve months. I really wanted to make sure I had picked the right family. When I was interviewing, I was speaking to quite a few different families and I knew I had to be really clear with myself to specify what I was looking for, e.g. where the family lived, I wanted to be close to the city and I didn’t want to be looking after children that needed a lot of care.
When you have found a family, think about what you want to experience or see. Australia is big and has many possibilities. In the end even, one year is too short and it would be a pity if you had not exhausted all possibilities.
Finally, I think it’s really important not to stress yourself, it all takes a bit of time to be settled and find a routine.
Looking for a wonderful care professional like Julia, why not register with us and look through our current list of candidates ready to come down under.