I have spent the last three months au pairing and studying in Shenzhen, China through a LoPair programme. I have had some incredible experiences, and have been documenting my journey through the LoPair blog. LoPair is an established au pair agency with an extensive track record on au pair placements, arrival orientations and support care. If you are interested in finding out more about the company, go here. You can also find part one to this story, here, and part two here.
Little did I know, when I first came here, the effects this city would have on me. From the rising sun breaking into your window early in the morning to the clusters of palm trees splayed around blocks, it is not hard to close your eyes and imagine that you are in paradise.
Miles away from home, it can, at times, be difficult adjusting to the life here. The difference between British and Chinese culture is stark. But it is these differences that makes travelling worth pursuing. To share a meal with a new friend, to recognise words from a once unfamiliar language; these small pleasures are what makes journeys like these worth the time and effort.
The work we do here is by no means easy. Being an au pair is tiring – connecting with a child, opening their minds to all the possibilities of the world, being a friend as well as a mentor and a caregiver, these feats all take energy out of you. And whilst the whole journey could be described as wondrous, it is also important to take time for yourself, and proscribe some self-love and self-care. I have found pleasure in going for walks, reading, listening to music, drinking tea, and playing Chinese chequers with my host brother. There are so many things that are left needing to be seen and done. My time is fleeting and yet I know, I’ll be hard-pressed to find another opportunity like this.
Shenzhen – a place full of hidden wonders
Before I came here, I had hoped I would be able to develop further as a person. And I believe I have. It is in these trials that I have seen myself gain a new sense of independence and responsibility. No longer am I concerned only with myself but I have been given both the privilege and burden of moulding another person’s success and overseeing their safety, cultivating their sense of adventure as well as their mental acuity. This role is not for everyone. And that I can understand. But if you are up for the challenge, if you are capable of pursuing this opportunity, then I urge you to at least consider it. Because despite the difficulties and stress that comes with this position, being an au pair humbles you, and pushes you to look out into the future and see the world with new eyes.
There are many things here that I am proud of. It may be small and may even sound silly but I am proud of being able to combat Chinese traffic. Cars here don’t care about rules and green lights yet I have been able to tackle this and stand my ground from even the most stubborn vehicle. I have found a routine here; the familiar steps of getting ready, greeting the family and embarking on my duties, are a source of comfort for me. Making my 9ams (something which proves to be more of a challenge back home!) and taking an active role in my Mandarin classes has given me hope yet for my future as an academic student.
Every day I take the time to reflect on my experience here, to suss out the ups and downs, and make plans for the future. Writing is often a relief for me. Being able to put the words to my thoughts down a page for later examination and analysis helps steady me when I am feeling down, and ground me when I am feeling high.
There are many things I’ll miss about this place. The clean subway stations, the stylish clothes, the general way of living. It was in a tai chi class that I learned to find peace in my movements and thoughts. When I return home, I’ll face a new kind of pace, and trade excitement for consistency. My home, strong and steady, is a nice thought to return to when spending time here.
Nonetheless, I’ll be sorry to leave. It has been a marvellous experience, and I am happy to have spent at least some time here. I am sure this won’t be my last time here in Shenzhen or China but for now it is but a happy chapter in my life.
Learning the art of tai chi: a cultural class in the making
The original blog can be found here. If you have any tips or advice that you would like to share, or you have any questions, leave a comment down below.