Friendships 

Hey 🙂 

So I’ve been here for 2 months now and it has been non stop. I’ve done and seen so much already. This past weekend two of my friends and I done a road trip to Tennessee and explored two beautiful places called Ruby Falls and Rock City which I would recommend to anyone who wants to see Tennessee. Rock City is such a cute place which takes about an hour to an hour and a half to explore. It has waterfalls and tunnels and caves to walk through that are breath taking. 

      
    
        
    
     

So once a month I try to visit a new state and next month I’m going to Chicago for 3 days. That’s one of the really cool things about America, some states are so close. It took about 2 and a half hours to get to Tennessee and as we all know it takes forever to go from one state to the other in Australia so there are so many opportunities to travel and experience new things here. 

I am starting to make some really good friends and have finally started meeting Americans my own age which is definitely something I have found hard. I am also experiencing culture shock and have had a few embarrassing moments when a word in Australia means something completely different here in America (a bit of advice, thongs are called flip flops here). 

I am so excited as I have my first week of holidays coming up at the start of December and I have decided to spend my week backpacking, camping and hiking. Coming from the outback living in a big city like Atlanta can be very overwhelming sometimes and I tend to feel very overcrowded, so I am looking forward to getting back to nature and hopefully seeing some breathtaking scenery. 

One thing I have learnt during my time here so far is that long distance is hard. Everyone knows long distance relationships are hard. What no one tells you before you pack up and move countries is that long distance friendships are hard. When you are living on different continents you don’t get the luxury of life chats with a glass of wine on a Friday night and you don’t get the same type of comfort through broken up skype calls as you do in person. You and your best friend lead very different lives in completely different time zones, so they aren’t always there when you need to talk to them and vice a versa. It can make it hard especially with social media sites showing you that they are still living their lives and you realise that not everything revolves around you and just like you they get busy and don’t always have the time to send a message or to check up on you. I often have to stop for a minute and remember to send all my loved ones a message. 

People say that traveling and living abroad change you and it really does. Everyday I am learning so much about myself and those around me and I can not wait for all the exciting adventures and opportunities the next 11 months has to offer. 
Stay safe,

Mara 

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One Month by Jacqui

Wow! I have now been in New York for one month! It all still feels very surreal to me. Although I feel I have adjusted well to my new home.

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My second week I was here, I had friends from home visiting so I got to see them twice in New York City and this week my best friend is in town. It is so amazing to meet up with friends from home in a new city! It definitely helps with handling home sickness and you can share the excitement of being somewhere new together!

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Some of the things I have done in New York so far include:

– Walked over the Brooklyn Bridge
– Went to Central Park
– Visited the September 11 memorial
– Went to the ‘Top of the Rock’
– Ate a burger and fries at ‘Shake Shack’
– Checked out ‘Little Italy’
– Ate breakfast at a Diner
– Drank black coffee
– Went shopping on ‘Madison Avenue’
– Stood in awe and looked up at Grand Central station
– Stayed out all night in New York city
– Went shopping at Macy’s
– Ate pizza for breakfast
– Drank Starbucks
– Went to Washington Square Park
– Visited the American Museum of Natural History
– Visited Harlem
– Saw a yellow school bus
– Shopped in Walmart
– Ate at Dunkins Donuts
– Caught the subway
– Went shopping in Chinatown
– Watched ‘Netflix’
– Visited ‘Times Square’ during the day and at night
– Caught a New York cab
– Ate a bagel
– Went on a NYC bus tour
– Ate pizza in Brooklyn
– Bought the ‘New York Times’
– Visited Bryant park
– Ate an ice-cream cookie sandwich

Despite this surprisingly long list, I still have quite a few things I would like to do. I’m planning to take a weekend trip to Boston and a weekend trip to Philadelphia soon. I’ll keep you posted on my adventures.

By Jacqui Campbell

One Month!!!! :)

Hey everyone,

So I have officially been in the U.S for one month (plus a few days) wooohooo!! It is so surreal to think that around this time last month I was in Sydney airport crying like a baby surrounded by my family and two best friends. The past month has gone by so fast and I have learned so much already.

One thing I want to mention is the amount of times people will ask me where I am from and of course I will say “ah I am from Australia” and they will respond with “oh G’day mate, throw another shrimp on the barbie” with the most horrific attempt at an Australian accent. It is the most frustrating thing and if its not that it is “I would never go to Australia you have too many deadly animals”, never mind the fact that in North America you can be trampled by a bison, mauled by wolves, coyotes, bears and mountain lions, attacked by sharks, in fact the USA  is the shark attack capitol of the world, accounting for nearly half the reported attacks globally.So I think its safe to say we aren’t the only dangerous country in the world!!!

Now, having grown up on property out in the middle of the bush I have a strong appreciation for country music and Luke Bryan is by far my favourite singer! I mean look at him, he is such a babe 😛

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Anyway Luke is actually from Georgia (yes I may have chosen my host family because they lived in the same state as him. Host dad/mum, if you read this I am just joking) and he had a concert about 3 weekends after my arrival and once I found out my host dad was kind enough and bought the ticket for me as I didn’t have an American bank account yet and my Australian account wasn’t working (tip: make sure you notify your bank about your travel plans before trying to use your card in another country otherwise they freeze your accounts and you have to go through the fraud squad to get them working again). So two weekends ago I got to see him perform and it was by far the best concert I have been to in my whole life, as well as it being a definite highlight of my time living here.

I also have started planning weekend trips for the weekend that I get off each month. My first trip is in October and I will be going to South Carolina and North Carolina and I plan on doing some horse back riding through some gorges. I definitely suggest if you are planning to do the whole aupair in America thing then you should have some idea of where you want to travel and start making a list of all the things you want to do in each place and that way you might be able to get more days off if you give your host parents enough notice.

So far I am adjusting fairly well to most American customs and the way they live and what food they eat but the one thing I am still not used to after a month is how sweet everything is. Even things that aren’t usually meant to taste sweet like bread. I bought a loaf of bread from a grocery store called Publix and it tasted so sweet, I think they put sugar in everything. Also I am yet to find just a normal supermarket like we have in Australia. The main supermarkets are places like Publix, Krogers and Costco and they are MASSIVE. I still find it so overwhelming, especially when I only want to grab one or two items.

But all in all I feel I am settling in well and I am so excited for what these next 12 moths have to bring.

Mara

Settling In by Jacqui

Hello,

It has been a while since I have posted as I’ve been super busy settling into my host family. It is a busy time as most kids are still on summer holidays. The first week with the host family is always the hardest as you are getting used to a new family, a new house and a new way of doing things. It is also the time when you feel the most homesick as you get used to your new environment. In my first week I pushed myself to go out and meet au pairs in the area. There are heaps of Facebook groups you can join that will assist you to find au pairs nearby. I also ensured I went to my first cluster meeting, introduced myself to my Local Community Counsellor and other au pairs in the cluster. They are a great way to meet other au pairs and enjoy a coffee and chat!

I tried to avoid going on social media a lot in my first week as I knew it would make me miss home more. I also avoided Skyping family and friends and sent short emails and texts instead. I stayed in contact but I tried to fully immerse myself in my new environment rather than focusing on the people back at home. I also walked around my area a lot and tried out the cafes and diners to try and find a favourite spot!

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I made sure I tried new foods including different things I wouldn’t usually eat at home. Trader Joe’s is a good healthy supermarket for fresh produce. I try to eat healthy where I can so I asked my host parents to get me fresh fruit and vegetables and greek unsweetened yoghurt.

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I made sure when I first got here that I made time to do the things I like to do as well as working. So I went for long walks, I went out for shopping, I made an effort to meet new people and I went out to eat. It’s important you make time for the things you enjoy and this will really help you have an enjoyable year overseas.

If you have any other tips for homesickness post them in the comments below.

Jacqui Campbell

Welcome to Georgia

Hello,

I haven’t been able to post since I left for America as it has been a crazy two and a half weeks settling in and exploring my new home.

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So I am now in Sandy Springs, Georgia with my new family and tomorrow will mark two weeks since I was picked up by my host dad at the Atlanta airport. My family are absolutely wonderful and I feel as though I definitely made the right choice by choosing them. My first weekend they took me to this really cool amusement park called Six Flags over Georgia and it was massive. We have two amusement parks in Sydney and they do not come close to the size of Six Flags and the roller coasters are so crazy!

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My host dad also had me driving the first day which was such a surreal and heart stoping experience. In Australia we drive on the other side of the road and on the opposite sides of the car so I was so fearful of the idea that I might forget which side I need to be on and cause an accident. And although I had driven for three days in a row with my host dad and he was confident that I could start driving on my own, I was not. I will admit though I am much worse with finding places than I am with the driving.

I have made a lot of friends already and was lucky enough on my second weekend to have been able to make a day trip out of state to Montgomery and Birmingham in Alabama. Montgomery is the capitol of Alabama and is a beautiful town with an exuberant amount of history with the focal key being the city’s role in the Civil War of the 1860s and the Civil Rights Movement that occurred nearly a century later. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in taking a trip back in time. Birmingham is huge and we didn’t have that much time to explore it as in depth as we would have liked (well the rest of the au pairs, I personally am still adjusting to big cities).

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Now, I have travelled a lot and spent a lot of time away from those I hold close to my heart and today driving through town I got lost, which is nothing major I have a GPS in my car and could have easily found my way back home again. But for some reason I couldn’t deal with it and became a mess. I was so emotional and cried that much that I needed to pull over and settle myself down before I could continue driving. I know a lot of au pairs get homesick and sometimes it hits you out of no where and you have this immense feeling to pack up and go home. I urge you to think twice, regroup and wait at least 48 hours before making any decisions. In most cases it passes after a few hours or within a day. I got over it after about 5 minutes, I realised that I had travelled to a whole other country on the other side of the world all by myself. No one held my hand or made any decisions for me, I did it on my own and if I could do that then I could sure as hell beat homesickness. Moving to another country is such a brave thing to do and most the time we don’t realise how strong we are by doing this. Just remember, your host family are there to help you and all the friends you make, especially au pairs, understand and have probably been through the same thing. You have a network of people supporting you, use that and have fun!

Mara

New York Tour by Jacqui

Hello,

I arrived in New York on Monday of this week. After a painful, long flight from Australia I settled into orientation pretty quickly. There were so many girls from all over the world so I was able to meet heaps of girls and exchange details to stay in contact.

On Tuesday night I did the New York City tour offered by Au Pair in America. We left the hotel at 4pm and we were given dinner on the bus. It took around an hour to drive into New York City and it was great to drive through different areas of New York on the way into the city. All the girls were so excited on the bus!

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Our first stop was ‘Top of the Rock.’ This building gives you the experience of seeing New York from 70 floors up! The view was so pretty and you can walk out onto the balcony and you have an amazing view of the city with Central Park in the middle. It’s busy but I was still able to take some great photos from the top. There is also the opportunity to purchase souvenirs inside.

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Going up in the elevator, to the top floor at Top of the Rock was exciting but scary as the elevator went fast and it’s crammed with people. There are beautiful lights and patterns when you look up. It’s fun to take selfies in the elevator on the way up!

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The next stop on the bus was Times Square. It was so crazy! So full of people and just the way I imagined but busier! It’s a must-see when you’re in New York. There’s also plenty of places here to buy souvenirs like ‘I LOVE NY’ T-shirts and Statue of Liberty figurines. You can take photos with cartoon characters like ‘Elmo’ and ‘Hello Kitty’ for a price- make sure you don’t pay too much though! A lot of the au pairs checked out M&M World as well.

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I also made sure when we hopped off the bus that I got some ‘Starbucks’! It is everywhere here and everyone drinks it. I ordered an ‘Iced coffee’. They serve it as black coffee over ice and you add your own milk and sugar to taste.

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I was able to take some great photos as we were driving around in the bus. The tour guide pointed out heaps of stores to visit including a 6 story Macy’s and some popular department stores.

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I loved seeing the Yellow cabs everywhere in the city!

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We also saw the Empire State Building on the tour. It looked beautiful in the light, late in the day.

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Our last stop on the tour was the Hudson river, where we can see the statue of Liberty in the distance. There was a beautiful sunset and I took some great photos. Including a great shot of all of the au pairs together. If you’re not sure about taking the New York tour on not, I would highly recommend it. You get to see some amazing parts of New York City and it helps you to get an idea of what you want to see in more detail, especially if you won’t be based in New York.

By Jacqui Campbell

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VISA Appointment by Jacqui

Hello,

This week on Wednesday morning I had my VISA appointment at the American Consulate in Melbourne. I was so nervous, I arrived a whole hour early for my appointment!

As soon as I walked in the staff immediately put my mind at ease, as they were all so easy going and friendly.

After lining up outside the consulate and getting let in, you then enter your details in a computer. Full name, phone number and passport or driver’s license number.

The first step was to leave your bags in a locker and only take your wallet and documents with you (no phones!).Your passport is checked and your items are scanned and you walk through a metal detector and are asked to empty your pockets.

You go up in the lift and your passport is checked upstairs, then you enter the waiting room for your interview. There are three steps to the interview, first they call you up to check you have all the required documents for the interview, make sure your forms are signed and scan your fingerprints. You are then called up again and they ask you a few questions and your fingerprints are checked again. And your passport is taken for processing.

The last step is you are called up again to pay the VISA fee (if you are successful) and then you’re out of there! Your passport is sent back to you but courier within 7 days.

You then exit downstairs via the lift, handover your key pass you were given and pick up your belongings. The whole process took around an hour and was a lot less scary than I thought it would be.

I received my flight details last night and I leave in 10 days! It is all feeling very real.

 

If you have any questions about the VISA process feel free to comment below.

 

Jacqui Campbell