Au Pair Reflections

By Christina Shak, Au Pair in Spain

Last year I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and decided to take a trip to Madrid, Spain. Little did I know, that trip would change my life forever. In just three days I fell in love with the culture, the people, but most importantly the food. After graduating from college in spring 2012, I decided to take a gap year between undergrad and grad school, and with my newfound travel bug, living in another country seemed to be the obvious solution. This is where Cultural Embrace comes into the story. Through a little something called the internet, I was introduced to cultural embrace, and worked with them to find a position as an au pair in Talavera de la Reina, Spain. I am now living out my last two weeks with the Asensios and though I am sad to leave, I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and to be able to tell people that I have family in Spain.

On August 31, 2012 I arrived at the Madrid Airport where, Carlos, Carmen, Marina (12), and Lucia (9) were eagerly awaiting my arrival. They each greeted me with two kisses on the cheek and whisked me away to their hometown of Talavera de la Reina, which is about an hour and fifteen minute drive west of Madrid. I quickly became accustomed to the Spanish lifestyle and tremendously improved on my Spanish, which was pretty nonexistent to begin with. It’s going to be strange going back home and not eating lunch at three and dinner at nine, or having a siesta every day after lunch. Perhaps, I’ll try to integrate it into my life at home.

Though Spanish life is very different, a family unit is very much the same. What I enjoy about this family, is how close-knit they are. Carlos, though he is a doctor, is able to come home every day to have lunch with the family, and takes time out of his busy schedule to sit down and help me with my Spanish. Carmen, works at home for an advertising company and is running a newly opened frozen yogurt business, but still has time to put meals on the table every day and teach me how to make paella. I spend most of my time with Marina and Lucia though. The main purpose of me being here is to help them improve on their English, which the past three au pairs have done an excellent job with. The girls and I do everything from reading to watching movies to cooking to playing games; pretty much anything that helps reinforce their English. One of my favorite memories is biking around the neighborhood with the girls and finding two snails, which we decided to make our pets. Louis and Muffin are now permanent members of the family and live in one of the girls’ old doll houses. They are definitely the best cared snails I have ever seen. The great thing about this job is that it does not feel like a job at all. I honestly feel like I am just living with my family.

Another great part about living in Europe is how accessible traveling is. I have been able to take short trips to Madrid and Toledo and a weekend trip to Stuttgart, Germany. There is so much history all around me, and sometimes rather than seeing museum after museum, I prefer to just wander along the old cobbled streets and soak up everything around me. I have truly loved my time here in Spain and am going to miss being able to pop into any cerveceria and order a one euro beer with free tapas. However, a comforting thought is that this will most definitely not be the last time I visit Spain. Hasta luego España.


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  1. Love it! Thanks for sharing, makes me want to be an Au Pair so much more!

  2. Hello 🙂
    I came across this post as I was googling about Talavera de la Reina!
    I am going there in June to work as an au pair and would find it so helpful if you could tell me a little bit about the area?
    Thank you so much,

  3. shauna kelly says

    I am going to Talavera de la Reina this summer to work as an au pair!
    Although I am very excited, I am a little apprehensive as I do not know any Spanish and this doesn’t seem to be an area of Spain with many english speaking people (from what I’ve googled anyways!!)
    I’m wondering if you could tell me a little about the area?
    Thank you,

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