Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Dear Au Pairs,
Welcome to the USA and the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area! In this area you get three very different towns for the price of one. I have lived in Chapel Hill for the past five years, and I love it. The weather is mild, and the people are down home Southern friendly. There is always something going on and plenty to see and do.
Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina and the Tar Heels. UNC is a renowned university with an excellent medical system and hospital. Chapel Hill is a vibrant university community with just the right mix of a small town feel along with the diversity of the world. There are many shops, cafes, restaurants and night spots as well.
Right next to Chapel Hill is the town of Carrboro. Carrboro is a very ‘hip’ town that is artsy, and it is considered a part of the Chapel Hill community…so much so that the area is often referred to as “Chapelboro.” Every year in September, Carrboro has an amazing free music festival where you can wander the streets of the town and see many local musicians and bands perform…all for free!
Raleigh is home to the North Carolina State University Wolfpack. “State” is known for its veterinary school and engineering programs. Basketball reigns in this area, and there is an intense rivalry between all of the universities. Raleigh is the capital of North Carolina. In Raleigh, you will find the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, which has three theaters. It is also the home of the Carolina Ballet. Across from the performing arts center is one of Raleigh’s five entertainment districts, Fayetteville Street, with restaurants, shops and an ice skating rink. Raleigh is divided up into five different districts, each with it’s own unique flavor. In addition to Fayetteville Street, there is the Capital District (location of the state government and museums) Glenwood South (trendy restaurants) the quaint Moore Square (an historic area of Raleigh with shops and restaurants) and the Warehouse District (an entertainment complex).
Durham or “Durm” as it is pronounced (you will see bumper stickers around town instructing you on this fact) has an entirely different feel or vibe than Raleigh and Chapel Hill. While Chapel Hill/Carrboro is intellectual and artsy and Raleigh is sleek and upscale, Durham is edgy and trendy. It is home to the entertainment complex of the American Tobacco Campus, Durham Performing Arts Center and (of course) the Duke University Blue Devils. Duke is another world class university and medical institution and hospital system. You will also find Durham Bulls baseball here (and if you have ever watched the movie Bull Durham you will appreciate this). Also, not to be missed, is the beautiful and truly amazing, Duke Gardens, located on the Duke University campus.
Not only are there three well-known universities here, but there are also others you may or may not have heard of, such as Shaw University, Meredith College, St Augustine College, William Peace College, and North Carolina Central University. Durham Tech and Wake Tech are great community colleges that are good places for au pairs to take some of their courses. Durham tech offers free ESL courses that count for the 6 credits that au pairs must take for their J-1 program.
The Raleigh-Durham area is often referred to as the Triangle Area. This is because it is home to Research Triangle Park (RTP). RTP is a huge campus that houses a plethora of technology, science and biotech companies and other types of businesses, and as you might guess, is a major draw for employment in the area. RTP brings in people from all over the world to work in the various businesses and companies housed on its campus. It is literally shaped like a triangle and the cities of Raleigh and Durham and the town of Chapel Hill make up the points of the triangle.
Durham owes much of its wealth and history to tobacco. The city has since changed its motto from “City of Tobacco” to City of Medicine. Located halfway between the Blue Ridge Mountains and the pristine beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, both areas offer excellent opportunities to explore nature.
The museum of Life and Sciences has fascinating exhibits, where you can turn your motions into sounds, explore weather, design contraptions or flying objects, find creepy crawlies at the insectarium or get out into nature crossing rope bridges and exploring eight creative and unique tree houses.
There are so many events and festivals all around town that they are too numerous to list. Like I said in the beginning, there is always something going on, and nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina! You are going to love it here, start your application today.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2015
The city of Atlanta has endless energy, big-city sophistication and warm Southern hospitality. Atlanta is a favorite destination among au pairs, visitors and those who call it home. Atlanta invites you to indulge in International cuisine, sample some of the best shopping in the South, enjoy the ever-growing list of events and festivals and create a cultural experience while reliving history and so much more.
If you’re interested in drama, Atlanta offers amazing theaters that regularly premiere shows before they head to Broadway in New York City! If art is more your style, Atlanta has a list of incredible museums you’ll want to explore. You will even encounter vibrant murals throughout the neighborhoods. However, to really understand the magnitude of the Living Walls project, you’ll want to set out on a quest to find as many as you can.
The city has multiple pro sports teams who call Atlanta home. American sporting events are an exciting experience! You can even stay late for a beautiful fireworks show at the end of the baseball games!
Buford Highway has a 30 mile stretch where you can experience appetizing international cuisine ranging from Mexican taquerias; Sichuan, Cantonese, and other regional Chinese cuisines; Korean bakeries and barbecue joints; Vietnamese pho parlors; and introductions to Malaysian noodle dishes, Filipino fried chicken, and curry-like Indonesian beef rendang. You can also take a tour or attend events at the Coca-Cola factory!
Atlanta is full of family friendly fun as well! Take a visit to the amazing Atlanta Zoo or the Georgia Aquarium. If you prefer to experience something different, visit after hours for behind-the-scenes tours, music and adult beverages. The aquarium regularly schedules adult/family overnights.
Get out and explore the great outdoors. From parks and public spaces to nature preserves and river activities, there is plenty in Atlanta for the outdoor adventurer. Hike Stone Mountain, paddle down the Chattahoochee river, take the kids to Piedmont Park or take a run on the Atlanta BeltLine. Whatever your taste for adventure or nature, Atlanta has a smorgasbord of foods, cultural events and activities in the great outdoors. Start your application to enjoy Atlanta’s southern hospitality.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2015
GreatAuPair recently had four au pairs sign up to volunteer at the New York City Marathon on November 1st. They passed out water to the runners at the Mile Marker 17 fluid station, all while cheering on and encouraging the runners. When the event ended, they cleaned up the used cups, boxes and garbage. All volunteers were rewarded for a job well done with a jacket, hat and commemorative pin.
Volunteering at the event provided a meaningful and exciting cultural exchange experience that won’t soon be forgotten by these au pair participants. When asked about the experience the au pairs responded, “It was so exciting to see everyone together cheering for the runners. We experienced how energetic volunteers are and how nice the runners are. We got a lot of thank yous from the runners and that made us feel proud of what we did. We also got to meet a lot of new friends who were volunteering, not just au pairs. It was such a great day to be in NYC, we had never experienced something like that back home. There was so much energy! We were very happy to participate and we now have a great story to share.”
The feedback for this volunteer event was overwhelmingly positive. It was exciting for our au pairs to meet other exchange visitors while taking in the experience of such a big event in New York City. Hopefully, there will be more opportunities to follow in the near future!
If you’re interested in volunteer opportunities, contact your local childcare coordinator. You can also do some online research in your area of volunteer interest and bring your suggestions to your local childcare coordinator.
GreatAuPair is proud of the au pairs who volunteered for the New York City marathon. It’s events like these that provide opportunities for au pairs to get the most our of their au pair experience while making a difference in the lives of others in their community.
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Monday, November 23, 2015
As our children grow up in an increasingly global society, it is more crucial than ever to provide them with exposure to other languages and cultures. Although most of us do not have the means to travel with our children around the globe, we can bring a taste of the world into our homes. How is this possible? By hiring an au pair, you not only expand your family’s horizons, but you also provide a unique life-changing opportunity for a trained, qualified childcare provider, who is eager to experience life in the United States.
Meeting Your Family’s Needs
When responding to a research study I conducted to better understand what families valued most about hosting an au pair, 78% of host families responded that having an au pair met their needs for a flexible working schedule at an affordable price.
Unlike traditional childcare, the cost of an au pair is the same, regardless of the number of children you have. For families with more than one child, this presents significant savings. Au pairs also provide a greater degree of flexibility for working parents. While daycare centers operate during fixed hours and expect children to be picked up within a narrow window of time, an au pair can accommodate changing and flexible schedules without increasing the price.
How might an au pair meet your family’s needs? An au pair can help get children ready for school and drive them to school,
appointments, and activities (au pairs have an international driving license). They can prepare children’s meals, supervise homework, bathe, dress and put children to bed. They also can do children’s laundry and assist with light child-related household duties. An au pair’s responsibilities and schedule may vary to meet the unique needs of each individual family they serve.
Finding a Trustworthy Caregiver
As a parent, you know how crucial it is to select a childcare provider that you can trust, who will lovingly provide your children with safe, quality care. You want to make sure that the person who cares for your children is responsible, reliable, trained, and experienced. By using the services of a dependable, experienced au pair agency such as GreatAuPair, which offers carefully screened and trained au pairs, you are greatly increasing the chances of having a successful placement. GreatAuPair is dedicated to assisting families in finding the best live-in childcare, and will also be just as committed to helping the au pairs they place to succeed.
Selecting the Right Au Pair
Selecting an au pair who will fit in well with your family’s specific needs and home environment is important to the success of your au pair experience. GreatAuPair will provide the personal attention and support you need to choose the right au pair for your family. Often, technology plays an important role, by providing online matching and allowing families to see and interact with potential au pairs before choosing one. Making sure that all of your family members participate in the Skype video calls to your potential au pairs, gives everyone a chance to connect with the au pairs and weigh in on this important decision.
GreatAuPair Program Advisors are available to provide every family with personal attention, to ensure that they are selecting the best possible au pair. GreatAuPair Local Childcare Coordinators work locally with each individual family and they are committed to providing advice and support throughout the entire process.
Ongoing Support for Families and Au Pairs
After selecting your au pair and embarking upon this horizon-expanding experience, GreatAuPair will continue to provide you and your au pair with ongoing support and resources. This support includes orientation for newly arrived au pairs, monthly meetings and 24-hour emergency assistance, so families and au pairs can always contact a GreatAuPair representative when they need help. GreatAuPair program advisors and local childcare coordinators will offer the training, support and reassurance you need every step of the way. Through this wonderful experience your family and your au pair together will create lifetime memories and will be better prepared to engage in our increasingly interconnected world.
For more information about the GreatAuPair program J-1 visa, visit online at www.greataupairusa.com or call 800.604.2507 to speak with a GreatAuPair representative and request a free host family application.
Submitted by Dr. Barbara A. Manko, Penn State University/Beaver, PA
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Thursday, January 8, 2015
If you love the sun and want to live in the desert southwest, with year round sunshine, surrounded by some of the most spectacular natural wonders in the United States, then Arizona is the place to be.
Not only are Phoenix and Tucson packed with fun things to do with children, they’re filled with great young adult activities and incredible places to explore during your free time.
However, you need to be a good swimmer. Most households in Arizona have a pool to keep cool in the summer heat. If you’re comfortable in the water you’ll want to take the kids to some of these fabulous water parks: Big Surf, Flowrider, Grande Resort Oasis, Wet‘n’Wild, and Enchanted Island.
It would also be fun to take the children to explore local Museums, the Science Center, Puppet Theater or the Railroad Park. There are collections of handmade dolls and Native American crafts at the Heard Museum and pre 1940’s Navajo and Hopi textiles at the Tucson Desert Art Museum. You can take a ride on the Adobe Mountain Railroad. Visit the Science Center for interactive games and sports or for those under 8, visit Imagination Avenue, a kid sized town.
You could spend the day at the children’s museum and walk through the Noodle Forest or the Rock n Roll ball room, or head out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum to see a zoo, natural history museum, and botanical garden all in one. There are over 40,000 plants representing 1,200 species as well as a gem, mineral, and fossil collection.
Visit Rawhide Western Town for gun fights and stunt shows, or head to Tombstone southeast of Tucson, where some of the biggest legends of the Old West originated – Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and the gunfight at the OK Corral. You can stay at local hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, go on horseback, stagecoach and wagon train tours. There are gunfight shows, monuments, some intriguing museums and historic buildings to view.
The I.D.E.A. Museum has something for kids of every age, with interactive areas to learn and develop your creativity. Build something out of recycled materials or play in the glow in the dark blacklight room. For older kids, Airworx is a trampoline park that sponsors dodge ball tournaments. Xtreme Pursuit is a paintball facility where they can run off that extra energy or play laser tag at the Laser Quest facility. Your future firemen won’t want to miss the Hall of Fame Fire Museum and everyone will enjoy Out of Africa Wildlife Park.
In your free time, you’ll love the Music and art scene in Phoenix. From the Arizona Jazz Festival, Artwalk on Thursday evenings, the Musical Instrument museum to the Phoenix Art Museum, you’ll never run out of exciting outings. The world-class Jazz Festival is in Tucson in January, followed by the Folk Festival in May.
If you’re a fashionista or love to shop, there are outlet malls, Scottsdale fashion square, Kierland commons and the Biltmore Fashion Park. If your tastes are more eclectic and artsy, visit the American Park n’Swap, or Mesa Swap Meet. Those into food, art and wine will find unlimited year round events put on by the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance.
Phoenix and Tucson are surrounded by some of the most beautiful and unique country in the United States. Countless western films were shot in Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon in Flagstaff is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ is a natural slot canyon, and a photographer’s dream.
No trip to Arizona would be complete without visiting the red rocks in Sedona. Sedona is famous for its incredible hiking trails. You may want to visit Hoover dam at Lake Powell, rent a boat and paddle to the Rainbow Bridge, a natural rock arch. If you’re adventurous, take a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River.
Visit Anisazi cliff dwelling ruins at Mummy Cave in Canyon De Chelly, or head to the Chiricahua national monument south of Tucson to enjoy hiking and rock climbing.
Saguaro National Park is part of the Sonoran Desert, and extends east and west of Tucson. It features saguaro or candelabra cactuses, desert flora and fauna and hiking trails. There is so much more to do and see in Arizona, we just can’t list it all in a short post.
If you love the outdoors and are fascinated by art, photography, Native American culture, the Wild West and natural wonders, Arizona is a fabulous place to live and work as an au pair. Complete your application today, so you can be on your way to sunny Arizona.
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