To China and back again

Jacques is a former engineering student from South Africa. For the past 2 years, he’s come to Beijing and spent his three months’ summer vacation as an au pair.  “It was so weird for me this year to not be getting ready to get on a plane” said Jacques.  Let’s find out how has the au pair program influenced his future career and life.

For the past two years I’ve had the privilege and honor of working with the amazing people from the Aupairia office, spending three months in China each year over the December holidays. It was an amazing experience where I made friends from all over the world that I’m still in contact with to this day. The experiences I gained from the exposure to the different culture and the language barrier was an eye-opener to me. It opened up a different world for me, new experiences that allowed me to form different perceptions and not just the limited perceptions from my well-known and ‘safe’ surroundings at home.

After the time I spent in China, my goals have undergone a radical change from what they were previously, now far removed from what I used to believe I was interested in. I’ve been focusing more on my time as a hockey coach and the influence that I have on the youth through this interaction with them. It has become a goal of mine to not just improve my players’ athleticism but to also teach them and widen their current views on life through our daily interactions. In the same vein, my future plans have also taken a bit of a turn; where I was initially planning on finishing my mechanical engineering degree and landing a good job that would sustain a comfortable living style, I have opted to start up my own business, coincidently not in the same field that I had studied previously, with a friend.  

During my time in China, I was able to observe how different families interacted with each other and this has made me realize just how important my own family is to me. Having seen these interactions, I’ve resolved to work on my own family ties and therefore these experiences have simply tightened the existing ties I had with my own family.

Although this year hasn’t been as eventful as previous years with my student life coming to an end and the startup of my own business, there were still quite a few highlights to fondly look back on. Amongst these I definitely have to say is that I was finally able to continue with my Mandarin studies which I had started in China. I am excitedly looking forward to taking further HSK exams in the upcoming years. Even though I am not taking any formal classes here in South Africa, it is always reassuring to know that I can contact Cicy, my Mandarin teacher that I met through Aupairia, anytime and she is always willing to help me out. Another highlight I must mention, is the achievements of the hockey team that I played for this year. It is a club side that consists of mostly high school boys and three senior players who fulfill the role of mentors, of which I am one.  Despite the youthfulness of the team, we were able to place second in the senior league we participated in. As a mentor, I was greatly invested in this achievement and proud of what we were able to achieve together.  

With all of that said, one of the things that I am missing this year, was that in November I didn’t start my preparation to go to China again. Normally by this time of the year, I would have already been talking to Candy, another one of the awesome ladies that work for Aupairia, preparing all the required documents for a return to China and all preparations surrounding that. Having done this for the last two years, it now feels as if I have forgotten to do something important, leaving me with a nagging feeling of loss.

Finally, I’d like to mention all the people who had a hand in making my time in China so memorable. To my host family, Richard, Vivian and William, and everyone from Auparia, those currently working there, those who have moved on and those still to come, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Tina, Cicy, Candy, Queena, Nancy, Neil, Jasmine and Paka, you guys are the best and keep doing what you’re doing.

For an unforgettable adventure, apply to become an au pair in China