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Graduate life: an au pair abroad

Yesterday I walked in the wrong direction for half an hour, only to find the shop I was looking for was 30 yards from where I live. It was a health food shop. I was looking for tofu. Forgive me.

I only have to cook for myself at the moment, so I’ve decided to cook nice, healthy meals. But then absolutely everywhere there’s chocolate and chips and waffles and beer.

I’m an au pair living in Brussels, the capital of the European Union. I think it would have been a completely different adventure if I was doing it age 18 (by different I mean full of naivety and hangovers). Instead I’m doing it now, age 24 and equipped with a master’s in English literature and philosophy from UEA.

I felt that time was running out. I’m going to be 25 in a fortnight; I am painfully aware that I only know one language; I still can’t drive a car; I haven’t eaten moules marinières; I haven’t lived!

I came to Brussels to ease the burning realisation that after four years of education I still don’t know what I want from life. It’s also an interesting and exciting opportunity but that’s not such a poetic reason.

I moved away to avoid having to find an answer to various inquiries of what exactly I can do with my education (other than have the joy and dispensation of specialised knowledge). People always want definitive answers. “Surely you’re going to be a teacher?” they said. “What are you doing with that axe?” they said.

At the time of finishing my MA I was convinced that I would stay in Norwich and search for that elusive creature “the career”. Then I would settle down, buy a house and shop at John Lewis. But that didn’t happen.

Being an au pair is only for those who are happy to live in someone else’s home, to embrace cultural change, to meet new and interesting people, and for those who like children, obviously.

It’s good to get out of your comfort zone; it’s good to have new experiences, especially if you feel lost in your life or your career. By not following a set path, new opportunities might present themselves. For now, the real job can wait.

14/09/2012

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