Finding Happiness outside my comfort zone

I had a bunch of preconceived ideas about the food and lifestyle I would be jumping into based on my previous vacations to the West Coast.

But I quickly found in my first few days that those assumptions were very much false. I have discovered that the people in Virginia are very kind and the culture here is very similar to that back at home in New Zealand!

Although my new hometown is a relatively large size town in comparison to what I am used to. It’s a very student-orientated city with the University of Virginia right here in Charlottesville!


Arriving here on day one was a real rollercoaster of emotions. I felt excited to start my journey with my new family. But I also felt very anxious: Will my family like me? Will the kids like me? Will I make any friends? What will the food be like? What if I don’t succeed?

All these things were playing on my mind in the few hours between Orientation and arriving at my family. All these worries were quickly diminished on day one when I realised I had nothing to worry about. My family had created a poster that was hung in the kitchen/dining area with lots of photos of me and my name so the younger children knew who I was when I arrived.

I think this was an amazing solution as it helped the children to not think of me as a stranger and have an idea of who I was before my arrival. The children all warmed to me very quickly and made my first week very welcoming. My host parents treated me like one of the family and made me feel included and comfortable in my home away from home.

Summer break meant that my schedule began a little crazy! My youngest host children both attended pre-school during the day. However, my oldest host kid was home all day. We had a lot of fun doing activities such as going to the cinema, building a paper mâché volcano, playing board games and having a movie day. The weather was mainly sunshine however we had a few days of heavy rain which flooded the pre-school one night really bad. It meant that my two youngest host children couldn’t attend pre-school during the day so we decided we would have lots of fun attending the Virginia Discovery Museum!

It’s an awesome place with lots of different activities for the children to experiment with all their senses.


Orientation was probably one of the best ways to settle into the US. It really helped me to get some ideas about how to entertain my host children. And also have me the opportunity to meet some other people from around the world who were also going to be taking part in their own au pair journey. Orientation consists of your first 3 or 4 days in America and takes place in New York.

There is the option to take part in a NYC Tour one evening. I would strongly suggest you take up this opportunity! It was so much fun, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat! During Orientation, we sat in on meetings that helped us to get a better idea of what exactly we were in for upon arriving at our host families’ homes. It also gave me the chance to catch my breath after flying halfway around the world. That way, I wasn’t such a zombie for meeting my host family for the first time!


Being away from home is a challenge for anybody. The challenge is taken up a notch when you make the decision to make halfway across the world! For me, the decision to become an Au Pair in America was an easy one. I decided to become an au pair for a bunch of different reasons. But a couple of the main ones were my love of children and to become more independent in myself.

Growing up, I am the second oldest of 18 cousins so I was always around my younger family members. And that was my happy place. I jumped at any opportunity to babysit and become a role model for younger children to look up to. But I felt like I relied too much on my comfort zone, and perhaps a little too much on my friends and family back home. Don’t get me wrong: They all support me and are all behind me 100%. But I can’t rely on them to guide me from halfway around the world. I am finding it amazing how quickly I have matured and grown as an individual in just a few months I have been in America. I have changed my lifestyle for the better. And I am a much happier, and healthier person because of it!

Au Pair in America is an amazing opportunity! I strongly suggest that you give it some serious consideration, because: “I’m not sure what the secret to happiness is, but I’m pretty sure it starts with going outside your comfort zone.”

Nicole Morgan

To find out more and to apply to be an Au Pair in America yourself, head to