Subscribe with an Agency: WEP

Susa: One day I was surfing the web and I saw that marty was part of a Facebook group called “Goodbye Mamma”. The group tells stories and experiences of people that live, or lived, abroad. Users are very active and therefore I really recommend you to go check it out, not only to have info as au pair, but also if you would like to know more about foreign countries.
I immediately requested to be part of the group and then, I asked info about the au pair program. Everybody suggested me to sign up with an agency and not use a random website. I only had some online profiles, because I was afraid of the costs an agency can have and since my parents were not going to pay anything I would have had to use my savings.
I checked all the different website and in the end I found WEP.wep
Their website is very well done, big words, lots of pics, colors and few easy buttons. The au pair section said the program was costing only 190€, so I got curious by the convenience and the fact that the agency was close to where I live and I decided to send an email.I asked more info about requirements, price and what was or wasn’t included. In couple of days V. replied with an email including all the info:

Dears Susanna,
The program is for girls whose age is between 18 and 26 years old and have at least 600 hours of experience with kids (baby-sitting, entertainment..)
You can decided when you want to leave, but the search of the family is pretty long and you have to be flexible about the departure date.
We need to receive your subscription at least 4 months prior the departure.
Here’s what marks this program:
Flight ticket: the round trip flight ticket to the USA is free for the participants. Departures are scheduled once a month.
Visa for the USA (j1): our USA partners are allowed by the American government to organize au pair programs and that means that you are going to enter the United States with a specific visa for au pair.
4 days of training: at your arrival in the USA you are going to take part of a training session held in one major American city (for example Washington). During this training you are going to familiarize with: cultural differences, American educational system, first aid performed with kids (infant/childcare safety) and all the possible situations an au pair can encounter. At the end of this 4 days of training you are going to meet the family you matched with. The transfer (only the outward) is organized by the American agency.
Local coordinator: the duties of the coordinators are: visit, interview and select host family, assist during the stay and organize activities with au pairs in the area.
Salary and vacation: for your job you earn about 190$ per week per 51 weeks and you get two weeks of paid vacation, Every week you have 1.5 day off and a full weekend off each month.
Classes: you get a 500$ contribution to sign up in a class of your choice in a local college for three hours per week, during the school period.
Grace period: if you wish, at the end of your au pair year, you can stay an extra month in the States to travel and discover this amazing country.
Safety and Insurance: our local coordinators make sure that the girls selected for the program are well trained and that APC’ coordinators give them the proper assistance. They also have a 24/7 emergency phone number.
If you want, we can schedule an appointment in our Turin’s offices.

Since I still had some doubts, I agreed and scheduled an appointment. The agency was very big (two floors), colorful and welcoming, not the classic boring offices.
At the meeting I met V. a fun, young and helpful girl. I told her all my doubts, in particular that the money were my savings and I wanted to know exactly what was or wasn’t included. She was really honest and told me that not included were: passport, visa, extra documents and some meals during my day at the training school in NYC (according to my math I should be able to do everything with 500€). I also told her my necessity to leave between February and March my contract was going to be over in December and I didn’t want to be home unemployed, otherwise my saving would have not being enough and I couldn’t use my “American saving” to renew the car insurance in march and neither a new bus subscription. She said there were no problems because it was end of September, and If I was going to pass the English test, everything would have depended on how long I take to create my online profile with their American partner AuPairCare.aupaircare
Another thing I was worried were the certified hours, 600 were a lot and I had no experience in baby-sitting one on one, except with my brother, but on the other side I had on my shoulders three years of experience as summer entertainer and all the activities I did with the Red Cross from 2006. She told me it was good enough if I was going to find somebody able to certify them since it was a fundamental requirement.
I thanked her and I told her I would have emailed her in case I would have decided to take part of the program and if I was going to find somebody able to certify my hours.

I spent the next hours wondering if signing up with an agency was the right choice and later I decided so. America is very far away and if I was going to get scammed with what money I was going to come back? With the agency I would have signed a contract. Sure it was binding for me, but they had to offer me some services as well.
If I have problems with the family who is gonna help me? They have a local coordinator in America, one in Turin and an emergency number.
If the family doesn’t treat me well, what am I going to do? Families that subscribe at the program are check just as much as us au pairs and in case of problems I can rematch and find a new family.
Is their partner reliable? Yes, they are an agency, and their partner AuPAirCare is a legal agency approved by the American government for this type of program.
And if it was all a scam? Yes, I thought about that too, but I also thought it was only 190€ so even if it was a scam I was not going to lose much money. Sure it would have been annoying since they were my savings, but if everything was going to be fine I would have been the one benefitting.
Sure about everything, the following day, I contacted my co-summer entertainers and I asked the Red Cross vice-inspector if they could certify my hours. After everybody agreed I emailed V. that I was ready to take part at the program.

She sent me a bank account number, and I made a 90€ deposit and right after I scheduled my English test because I couldn’t wait to start.
Now WEP was my agency!

Mapu: as soon as Susa told me that the agency costs were only 190€… I couldn’t believe it!! I love travelling and I luckily I could visit lots of places in Europe, but the United States are completely another thing! All the tv shows and movies I watch are filmed there and in one second I thought: “I HAVE TO GO”. Obviously there are lots of things to take into consideration before making this choice…. In my opinion the right questions to ask are:
Do I like kids?
Do I have experience?
Will I be Homesick
Can I adjust to a new family’s rules?
After thinking about it I told myself a big: YES! Therefore I immediately sent an email to WEP to schedule a first meeting (that was just like Susa’s) and right after the English test.

Nowadays we know that the requirements are a little bit different. So don’t be afraid to email the agency: http://www.wep.org/

Susa & Mapu

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