The Application Process – A Dream Come True
Seven years ago in August 2008, my journey to a whole new life began. A life dedicated to new experiences, new friends, and a new culture.
I took on a very personal challenge when I decided to move thousands of miles away from friends and family in Düsseldorf, Germany, to live a totally different life in Walnut Creek, California. I was ready for a change and wanted to explore a new culture. A new culture that has always fascinated me ever since a family vacation we had taken along the west coast of the USA back in the summer of 1998. After this trip, I knew I wanted to come back to the United States for longer than just a couple of weeks, but I was only 15-years-old and full of dreams. Little did I know that life had just that in mind for me!
With 25 years-of-age and a recently completed degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher, I decided it was time for a change. One evening, I sat in front of my computer and reflected on the idea of going back to the US. I asked myself, “What is the easiest way to combine my profession and my desire to move to the United States for a longer period of time?” Suddenly, the term ‘au pair’ crossed my mind, and I typed these two words into the Google search bar.
As one can imagine, this term brought up a wealth of information on au pair agencies and their services worldwide. On the spur of a moment I decided to click on the first name that popped up to see what they had to offer …and yes, I liked it! I clicked on the link provided to order an informational booklet about the application process and as soon as it arrived in the mail, I devoured its content. I quickly made myself familiar with the program and decided to apply. The application included a document with general information about me as well as my childcare experience. I also needed to include at least two references I had worked for in the past.
It took about two weeks until my application was approved and interested American families could start calling me. In the beginning, I was really nervous: What if the language barrier holds me back from finding the right family? Do they like what I have to say? However, all the nervousness faded away once I talked to interested parents on the phone. They were very welcoming and friendly and made me feel comfortable talking in a different language.
After all, I only talked to two families on the phone until I was matched with a wonderful family with three young children in the San Francisco Bay Area. I couldn’t wait for my departure ticket to arrive, but it would take about two more months until I was able to fly out to the United States. I had to attend an orientation in Cologne where I met other au pairs and actually made a great friend, who I soon would become very close with since we both were moving to the same area in northern California.
There was one more thing on my to-do list that I needed to check off before I could take off to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I needed to visit the Consulate General of the United States Frankfurt to apply for my J-1 visa. This type of visa offers cultural and educational exchange opportunities and grants access to live in the U.S. for at least one year. Since the Au Pair agency will not do the application for you, it is up to the future au pair to make it work and this was by far the scariest part of the application process. If the people at the Consulate General would turn down my application it would be a most definite “no” and my chances to enter the states would equal zero, so I was told. For that reason, I was very nervous on the day of my appointment. After a short but nerve-racking wait my visa was finally approved. I was overfilled with joy and couldn’t believe it, “Yes, America here I come!” my mind seemed to scream.
I still remember how relieved I was when leaving the Consulate that day. All my tension had vanished and made room for an ever growing excitement about my soon to begin American adventure. My passport with my visa arrived at my front door about a week later and I realized I finally would be living my own American Dream!
To be continued…
(Next Thursday: Read about Kathrin’s arrival in New Jersey for a one-week au pair orientation program.)
Image: Copyright ©Anne-Kathrin Schulte
Anne-Kathrin Schulte, is a contributor for CaliforniaGermans.com. She writes on her personal experience of the American Dream as well as on working as an au pair in CA. She was born and grew up in Düsseldorf, Germany, where she completed her degree as a state-approved Kindergarten teacher. After her au pair engagement in the US and a quick return to Germany she decided to attend university in California and moved back to the United States. She lives in Southern California since 2011.
If you would like to contact Anne-Kathrin, please send an email to californiagermans(at)gmail.com and place her name in the subject line.