Baubles hanging on a Christmas tree

America in 365 Days - Day 45

By Vivien Chung

Last updated: 25th December 2014

Vivian Chung, an Au Pair with Gap 360, uses Christmas Day to reflect on her time with her host family thus far.

Day 45

It’s been six weeks since I moved in with my host family, seven since I left my home of Manchester. It certainly feels longer – I’ve been to so many new places, met numerous new people – but in many ways I still feel new and naïve to my new home. America feels so much bigger, a vast and sprawling land. I can understand now why they travel everywhere by car, and the important role it plays in an American’s daily life. This is certainly the most interesting aspect for a Briton transplanting into American society; after all, both countries speak English as its first language, so the biggest adaptation is learning the differences of culture between the two countries, and it is fascinating to ingest. This year, my main goal is to travel as much as possible, and to explore the different cultures that America has to offer. Already I have plans to see Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans over New Year’s, and I’m going to Orlando in Florida at the end of January (where we’ll visit Disney World!), and my hope is to travel to a cheap destination every last weekend of each month.

I have a wonderful host family. There are four girls – aged 4, 5, 9 and 11 when I arrived – who each have their own sparkling personalities. They’re generally well-behaved and pleasant company. The host parents have been extremely generous – from daily use of the car to free gym membership and cell plan, from giving me my own Christmas tree to a bountiful of Christmas presents, they have been warm and welcoming since my arrival. It’s certainly challenging when you live in someone else’s home, to breathe their air and share their space. Of course there have been many moments when I worry about stepping on their toes or being a source of irritation through misunderstandings or impoliteness; but for the most part, I find that as long as I am open and honest, I can communicate really well with them, and I think that is key to a solid and trusting relationship between an au pair and their host family.

That said, there are bad days. There are always bad days, and there will always be bad days. I admit I struggle with homesickness and negativity on those darker days. Sometimes there’s nothing I want to do more than get on a plane and fly home, to say ‘I quit’ and give up. But each time I also tell myself that that feeling won’t last, and within 24 hours, I have a positive experience that I’m extremely grateful for. It’s always worth it in the end, through the good and the bad, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity I’m not letting go of until I’ve squeezed every amazing memory out of it. I made a commitment when I applied for this programme, and I am determined to see it through, because I have no doubt that that this will be a life-changing, priceless and unforgettable experience that I will treasure forever.

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