From the time that I was 5 or 6 years old, I wanted to live in France and learn French. During my last year of college, I was seriously trying to figure out how I could do that without having to take out a loan, when both my French and Russian teacher gave me an idea- to be a nanny. As a student just graduating, I was looking at programs costing thousands of dollars out of pocket because I missed the chance to study abroad while in school, but if I found a job as a nanny, I would not only not have any expenses, but would get paid to live in France!
Fast forward to the summer following graduation in 2012, when I was still finishing up a couple summer courses, and doing my typical procrastination style of planning by figuring out a way to get to France in August when it was already late June. Long story short, I got matched up with a family and got the paperwork done in record time; I was scared I wouldn’t have my visa ready by the date of my flight, but I got it 2 or 3 days before! (I really don’t know how procrastination keeps working out for me. Actually, I do. And I thank God for his grace.) And at no point during that process did I truly worry about my actual French-speaking abilities, even though I needed it for my job, because I had eight years of French behind me in school. That’s enough to jump into a French-speaking job in a country where I know absolutely no one, right?
Now in the story, I’m on the series of two planes getting me from Fort Worth, TX to Geneva, Switzerland (the family lived in a small town a 30 minute drive from the west side of Geneva, in France), and by some luck, I have a friend predestined for me. My “family” had friends down the street who were also expecting their new nanny on the exact same day, and as she was coming from Arizona, there was a high probability that we shared the same flight. We finally found each other while waiting in line for customs, and our luck of being neighbors got the two of us through some really muddy waters together during the next 11 months.
Right out of the gate, I met the mother and “my” two kids, who of course were too shy to even say hello. There was a 5 year-old girl and a 3 year-old boy (guess which one I quickly realized I would never learn how to deal with). Then we drove to my new home, right behind my new friend and her new “family.” The drive was a wonderland haze; all green grass, cozy cows, and quaint shops set in a valley hugged by the Alps and the Jura Mountains. I would live right at the base of the Jura. The first evening (having finally met the father) went by in an awkward, overwhelming rush, of course, and the next day I would be gently plunged into my new job. A job, which we “fille au pair”s (there’s actually a difference in an au pair and a nanny, but that’s not important right now) would soon find out was not in the least bit glamorous, no matter where we were living. Luckily, there was a maid/part-time nanny my mother’s age who was there to help me get settled in. But the bad news was… she didn’t speak a word of English. Neither did the children. Only the parents spoke my mother tongue. This, my friends, is how I really learned French.
(all photos courtesy of Chelsea)
Chelsea is a home-bred Texan currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and studying French at the University of Geneva, while living and working with a family as a part-time nanny. She has been living in the Geneva area since August 2012. You can follow more of her story on her blog http://parolepassport.blogspot.com/ and other social media sites.