I arrived in New York on the 21st of August 2011 to start orientation on the 22nd. My roommates were both German, and both live about half an hour away now in Arlington, Virginia. Orientation was fun, I met a lot of cool people, and the highlight was of course the New York tour. I often comment to a friend of mine who is now living in New York that you never forget the first time you step out into the city – it is truly magical.
This is one of my favourite pictures from New York on the tour as it shows the craziness and business of times square. I absolutely fell in love with NYC that night and I love going back there.
I did rematch from my initial host family, and matched with another family in Northern Virginia, I live about a 30 minute metro ride from DC. My host parents are only 2 and 5 years older than me which is nice, and they have one daughter who is now 20 months old who I look after from 7:30-4:30 Monday through Friday which leaves my weekends free. They are really wonderful and kind people and I am so glad I have the opportunity to be their au pair.
My room is in the basement, and has two large windows so it is not dark, and I have a large walk in closet and my own bathroom. Our house is not huge, but it is 4 bedrooms and in a quiet cul-de-sac so it is nice and neighbourly. I attended a block party the night I arrived with the family!
I made friends with another New Zealander, Tina, through our NZ APIA page which was great as she showed me around and showed me the ropes. We initially met when she offered to take me to DC to sightsee for the day. DC is an amazing city – there are loads of free museums to look at as well as all the monuments. We spent 9 hours walking round and still I didn’t get to see everything.
At Zac Brown Band
I also got introduced to some pretty cool American country bands – the Zac Brown Band and Sonia Leigh, both of whose music I now really enjoy. We went to their concert at the Jiffy Lube Live in Virignia, which is a large outdoor arena where you can take a picnic blanket and lawn chairs and settle down and enjoy the music.
October brought my first experience of Halloween, American style! Also my first experience of falling snow, as I had previously only been snowboarding on settled snow in New Zealand.
For Halloween I dressed as little red riding hood, and took the baby trick or treating for a little bit – she was dressed as a pumpkin, and then drove to Tina’s and we went trick or treating in her neighbourhood and got loads of candy.
my car after it snowed
Also on Halloween weekend it snowed – in October – here. Not much but it was exciting. The picture below is in the falling snow, I had to crop the baby out as my host family do not want pictures of her on the internet.
My host family also took me on a drive on Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah national park to see the leaves change. The seasons here are incredible and so defined. Literally one day the leaves will be green, and a few days later they are beautiful gold, brown and orange leaves.
Breakfast at Baby's Table
We found out that the movie, Dirty Dancing, was filmed in Virginia at the Mountain Lake Hotel, about 4 hours drive from where we live. We found they offer themed weekends there where we ate breakfast at baby’s table, learned to dance, did karaoke, toured the grounds and saw the movie again.
Dirty Dancing Weekend
In order to get credits for the educational requirement, I did the New York class through the Borough of Manhattan Community College, which included three classes learning about New York and a weekend trip to New York. The weekend trip was very exciting, I went with a fellow APIA au pair from the Czech Republic and also with an Australian cultural care au pair. We did a tour on the Saturday, and then Saturday night and Sunday were free to explore the city. It was loads of fun and earned half of the required credits.
New York Study Trip
Also in December, we decided to go to Disney World and Universal Studios in Florida for Christmas and my birthday. We drove to Florida (14 hours straight) and it was incredible seeing the sun rise over the harbour when I drove into Florida state. We did six parks in five days, which was exhausting but loads of fun, although it is a really busy time to go with quite long waits at each park. It did make me feel better about Christmas and my birthday though as we were away and so busy it didn’t feel too bad not being home with family.
My Birthday at Universal Studios
I spent New Years with two German friends at Old Town Alexandria, where there was a disco set up in front of the monument and a New Years Countdown. It was a really different experience to any of my past New Years eves…
The countdown on the Momument
January was also the first and only big-ish snowfall I have had here in Virginia. The baby and I got to play for one day in the little bit that fell, which was fun.
playing in the snow
In February we hit the snow to go snowboarding and skiing. I have found I am much better at skiing than snowboarding! We went to Mt Liberty in Pennsylvania which is about 2 hours away.
I am much better at skiing than snowboarding!
We also caught a college basketball game in DC – American University v Lafayette University which we got tickets for $5 from groupon.
I also went to Baltimore with another Au Pair, and had a day looking around there. It is quite pretty on the waterfront, but you don’t really want to go wandering around further uptown….
I also travelled on the Megabus to Boston, which is an overnight 8 hour trip each way so we left Friday night and slept on the bus, spent Saturday in Boston and then came home and slept on the bus Saturday night to get back to DC Sunday. It was tiring, but I loved Boston and I got to go and see the Harvard Law School and also see lots of sights in Boston. We did bus tour which also included a water duck (bus that goes into the water and turns into a boat) to see the harbour.
A little different from Waikato Law School
In March, a German au pair and I did a one day trip to Toronto, in Canada for St Patricks Day by sleeping on the bus overnight Friday, spending Saturday in Toronto and then sleeping on the bus back overnight Saturday night. Its about 10 hours each way. Toronto is an amazing city, very arty and what I would compare to Wellington.
My first Guinness
In March I also visited some more DC museums – the American Indian Museum, the Botanical Gardens and the Art Galleries.
Tina and I went to see Winchester, a small town about an hour away which is famous for its apples, and is also the home town of country singer, Patsy Cline. We did a tour of her house, and then walked around the town and shopped in the small craft shops. It is a neat town and I hope to attend their Apple Blossom Festival next year.
Winchester, a small town about an hour away
We also went to the local University Mall Theatre to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show, they do a midnight showing where they also have actors that interact with the audience which was definitely an experience.
For Easter I spent the Sunday with my host family, and was most surprised to find that Good Friday and Easter Monday are not holidays here. We went to my host mum’s parents house and had a family lunch and the kids did an easter egg hunt. My host family also found me Cadbury chocolate for easter.
I also did another course to complete the educational requirement, this time it was the Amish and Philadelphia course. We did the tour, on the Saturday we toured an Amish farm house and then had an Amish style family lunch. We then went on to Philadelphia and did a mural tour, then had the evening free, and Sunday we did a historic tour and then had some free time.
Amish Tour in Pennsylvania
I just signed my extension papers last night and am really looking forward to another year here in the US. Upcoming trips we have planned include – New York, a Bahamas Cruise, British Colombia in Canada, the Outerbanks in North Carolina, Texas, Vegas and a cross-country tour for my travel month.
I just signed my extension papers last night and am really looking forward to another year here
This experience has been amazing and I would recommend it for anyone who wants to spend time getting to see the US, studying in the US, networking with people from many different countries and getting to know and care for an amazing host family and their children.