Casey Talaric - 2014 Program Participant
Hiking the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi Coast in Italy
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I decided to apply for an international program because I knew that it would be one of my last opportunities to really get out and explore the world without the worries that the "real world" brings. I timed it so that I could leave right when I finished my undergraduate education and before I even started worrying about what kind of job I would get in the future, and that timing couldn't have been more perfect.
I learned so much about myself and what really inspires me, and those things will stay with me for the rest of my life, wherever that may take me.
Why did you choose GeoVisions?
Truth be told, I chose my specific program because it was the only one that offered the year long duration and cost the least amount of money. However, after completing it and seeing other programs that were offered, I can't imagine doing another program. It was truly a unique and fulfilling experience!
What was your favorite part about the Netherlands?
The Netherlands is such a great location because it's very central in Europe. I could get flights in and out of Amsterdam to almost an location that I desired. Not only was it great for air travel, but for train travel as well. Another thing I loved about my location was that I could use my bike to get almost anywhere I wanted to on a daily basis. The Netherlands is a very small country, so most people use bicycles as their main mode of transportation.
What aspects of your program made it unique?
Being an au pair is a pretty unique job. You are thrown into a new culture, with a foreign language, and new people. and have to adapt as quickly as possible. You have to live with the family, and if you want to have a comfortable year with them, you need to really make yourself feel at home. That means, not feeling strange when you open their fridge to make yourself a sandwich with their food after knowing them for only a few days! The amazing thing about it though is that it doesn't feel strange after a few weeks, and before you know it you will really think of them as your family away from home. I will always keep in touch with my host family and want to see pictures of the kids as they grow up, because I formed such a great relationship with them. How many jobs can you say that about?!
Me with my two boys on a sailing trip in Friesland
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
The local staff called me about once every two months to check in with how I was. I didn't really have too much interaction with them because I was happy with my family and my arrangements all year long!
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I would have practiced the language before arriving in the country. I was so busy with getting moved out of my house and packing up for my year abroad that I didn't really ever familiarize myself with the Dutch language. My first few weeks were pretty hard for that reason alone; I couldn't understand a single word of what anyone was saying around me, including the kids! I caught on very quickly, but still would have benefitted from learning the basics before my arrival in The Netherlands.
It doesn't get more Dutch than this!
Describe a day in the life of an au pair in the Netherlands.
A usual day for me was waking up at 7:30 a.m. and going downstairs to help the kids with their breakfast and prepare their snacks. I would then get their shoes and coats on and bike them to school in a cargo bike. I would take them each to their classrooms, where I would see that they greeted their teacher, and then go back home to tidy up breakfast.
I would then have about three hours to myself before I had to pick them up for lunch. I would usually exercise, read, or run errands if my host mom needed me to do anything. At noon, I would pick up the boys (and a friend usually) and bring them home for lunch. We would have sandwiches and they would jump on the trampoline for a bit. The older one would have to be back at school at 1:00 p.m., so I would drop him off then bring the younger one home to nap.
During this time I would read or do laundry. At 3:00 p.m. the younger one and I would go pick up his brother from school and go to the park if it was a nice day. At 5:00 p.m. I would begin making dinner, and it would usually be ready by the time my host parents got home. We would all eat together and then I was off for the day!
At night I would either watch movies at home or meet up with friends for coffee. I never had to work on weekends so I always had a packed schedule of exploring my surrounding cities or even traveling to other countries if time allowed!
We spent a day in the famous tulip fields of Holland
What was your favorite activity outside the normal day-to-day schedule of your program?
My favorite activity outside of my normal day-to-day schedule was travelling. Realistically, that is not possible to do every weekend though. The winters in The Netherlands are very cold and wet. Being from Colorado, I was used to the cold, but definitely not the rain. I made a lot of Canadian friends who felt the same way (surprisingly) and so we all decided to subscribe to an unlimited cinema card. For a small fee per month we could go see unlimited movies at the cinema, which became our favorite activity during those cold and long winter months!
What was your housing like? What did you like best about it?
I lived with my host family while I was in The Netherlands. It was the room on the top level and I had plenty of space for all of my stuff. I had a sink, a television, a couch, and a single bed. What I liked best about living with the family was hearing them speak Dutch all the time. It really sped up the process of learning Dutch for me. The kids couldn't speak or understand English when I got there so I really had to learn as much of their language as fast as I could!
Now that you're home, how has your time abroad impacted your life?
I feel like I have accomplished something big in this last year; I have learned a lot about the European culture and I try to spread the positive things from that to the people around me at home. I also have learned that in my young years, I never have to feel like I'm stuck in one place with a mediocre job. There are so many programs out there that focus on making travelling experiences available and affordable for people. I know that this has been one amazing year of many more to come, where I will let my wanderlust lead the way.