Hello, my name is Lara and I am from Brazil. I work as a federal volunteer (in German Bundefreiwilligendienstleistende or Bufdi for short) at the Carl Duisberg Training Center in Munich. After finishing school I decided to spend some time in Germany. To learn the language better, I lived and worked in a German family as an au pair in Munich.
I have always been curious about the world and took every opportunity to learn about other cultures. After graduating from high school, it was clear to me that I wanted to learn or improve another language and even study abroad. My choice fell on Germany because of affordable exchange programs and great study opportunities. However, I needed some time to learn the language.
That is when I found out about the Au Pair program. According to aupair.com, au pair is an international cultural exchange that gives young people the opportunity to spend some time abroad, learn more about another culture, improve their skills in a foreign language, in exchange for help with tasks related to childcare.
In order to travel to Germany, I had to apply for an aupair visa. Some of the requirements were to present a certificate of the most basic German language skills (A1 level) and a signed contract with a German family who would welcome me into their home for cultural exchange. Learning German on my own was not a problem, nor was searching for a family online.
After I found the right family, filled out some forms and had the German certificate in my hands, I packed my bags and traveled all alone to Munich, one of the most beautiful and international cities in Germany.
Arriving in Germany was pretty cool. My host mom picked me up at the airport and we talked the whole time until we got home and had a very typical Bavarian dish for dinner: Weisswurst and pretzel.
That was the first, noticeable cultural difference for me. In Brazil, we usually eat something hot for lunch AND for dinner, like rice, beans, meat and salad or something similar. In my experience, in Germany it is quite common to have something more practical for dinner, like bread, cheese and raw vegetables.
I was also impressed by the fact that you can drink water directly from the tap here, which is very practical and you don't need a filter at home. However, it is still normal for many Germans to drink sparkling water at home or in restaurants and cafes, which I have not particularly accepted until today, because I prefer water without carbonation.
A word of warning here if you arrive in Germany on a Sunday: Nothing is open! Yep, you have to wait until the next day before you can go shopping at the market or any other store. In Brazil, it is common for some businesses to open at least until 1 p.m. on Sundays.
The everyday bureaucracy still surprises me the most. You have to make an appointment for everything and usually the bureaucratic processes depend on a lot of letters, which is not very sustainable or efficient. The rest of the world is digitized - but not the bureaucracy in Germany.
During the first weekend in Potato Land, my host family introduced me to another au pair. This is how I started to build and maintain new friendships. In this way, we started to learn German using the free materials available on the Internet, since it was not possible to enroll in a German language school on an au pair's salary.
Besides all the difficulties of being separated from my family and living a whole new routine in a completely different language, being an au pair allowed me to learn German, explore many new places such as Southern Bavaria, Austria and Italy and make friends for life.
The feeling of being able to achieve my goals in terms of German language, travel and friendships motivated me to stay a little longer and improve my learning and maybe even continue my studies here. And so I started to do a little more research about the next steps and found an opportunity for a social year at Carl Duisberg Centren. I heard only good things about this language school and so I applied for this position.