Being an au pair in the east of France has been a transformational experience for Ellie Bambury and she wants to share it with every young person – and old – who is looking for a bit of adventure, travel while getting paid for it.
Ellie now visits high schools to present The Big Sister Project, a memoir about her good and bad experiences as an au pair in France.
Reflecting on her experience, the Howick resident says that the goal is to help others gain an insight into this work.
For the uninitiated, an au pair is a person who lives with an international family to help with childcare and possibly light housework, in exchange for full board, food and some pocket money.
Ellie says that an au pair is an equal. Like a big brother or sister. That’s how the title of the book originated.
“An au pair is like an older sibling and is part of a family. It’s a fun and an authentic way to get insights about a different culture in a safe environment.”
Having studied French for five years, an 18-year-old Ellie was very confident of being conversant in French when she first applied for the job.
“Though I’d learnt French at school, it wasn’t an immersive environment. It was only when I was trying to make conversation with my host family that I found I was scared to say things and would just let things slide in the beginning–it was both character-building and crushing at times,” she admits.
“If I’d known half the things I’ve written in the book, my experiences would be very different,” says Ellie,who is now a videographer and enjoys the art of story-telling.
She says that much as she loved six-year-old Antonin, her host brother, she gradually discovered that sometimes non-verbal communication could be more effective than words.
The young au pair also learnt not to be too hard on herself as she initially tried to impress her host family with her cooking skills.
“I am not exactly a Master Chef, but a discussion around expectations about cooking had me making a fool of myself because I was trying to be exactly like their previous au pair who was very good at baking,” she says.
From dealing with home sickness to actual sickness, developing patience, tolerance, confidence and friendship, Ellie says the life-changing journey has been priceless and has taught her more about herself than she could ever imagine. Now she wants to share it with everyone else.
She is also working on free interactive workshops that will cover childcare, language, personal development as well as the art of building relationships.
The Big Sister Project will be launched at Botany Library on Saturday, May 11 from 2pm-4pm.
Ellie will share her insightful story and the process of self-publishing. There will be travel-related giveaways and refreshments.