Reflections on a summer of adventure & growth

My experience abroad as an au pair in Italy

Kaylee travelled across Europe while working as an au pair.

Last year, a friend reminded me that undergrad would likely be the only time in our lives when we get four-month summers. Having always wanted to travel, I decided it was time to take a leap and put my savings into action.

After speaking to friends who’d been au pairs before, I realized this was the best way for me to travel without breaking the bank. 

So, last May, I hopped on my first ever transatlantic flight and spent the summer working as an au pair in Torino, Italy. 

Over the course of three months, I lived, breathed and tasted Italian culture alongside my host family. I tutored children in English each day and they, in turn, taught me about their world—along with some Italian.

Prior to the trip, I’d only travelled to a handful of places in Canada and the US, and I’d never been away from home longer than a month. Traveling alone for the first time proved to be both terrifying and incredible. 

In exchange for childcare and English tutoring, I received free room and board with my au pair family and a small stipend for expenses. My hosts were incredibly welcoming and tried their best to make my experience—both as their au pair and guest in Italy—as positive as possible. 

They were generous, and gave me time off to explore the country. Using Torino as my home base, I visited several beautiful places in Italy and France. I explored Polignano a Mare, Monopoli, Alberobello, and 11 other European destinations.

I was frequently alone or with near strangers, thousands of miles away from Queen’s. I vividly remember stepping into my hostel room in Venice and immediately breaking into tears because it felt so wrong to be staying in an unfamiliar city where I knew absolutely no one. 

However, I was constantly humbled by the beautiful places I saw and the wonderful people I met along the way. 

During my most homesick moments in the summer, I’d remind myself this first step away from home would be hard no matter when or where it was.

Looking back at photos, videos and journal entries from the trip, it feels strange that it was really me on this trip. Reminiscing feels as though I’m watching a long-winded, emotional movie about a girl finding herself in Europe. 

I’ve been back in Kingston for six weeks since my travels, and when people ask how my summer was, I have to stop and think, “Did I really do that?” 

Still, I know I’d do it all again.

Travelling alone taught me that change is as worthwhile as it is scary. There’s always a hundred reasons not to do something—waiting for the perfect time to travel isn’t always realistic. 

Getting on that plane in May was a leap of faith. It was frightening and unnerving, but I’m so glad I pushed myself to do it. 

Whether it was discovering I have a reserve of strength and courage I didn’t think once I had, or knowing the fact that there’s no limit to the amount of parmigiano one can put on pasta, I’ll carry the countless lessons I learned along the way with me forever.

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