From Ferndale to France

by Stephanie Bailey

Horizon Reporter

The city of Tours, France is home to a family of six who invited Ana Archer, a student from Ferndale High School, to live with them as an au pair for one year just after she graduated in June of 2009. Archer took three years of French classes at Ferndale High School and had wanted to visit France ever since. Then a friend told her about a Web site,, where she created a profile and began communicating with families.

     An au pair is similar to a nanny; they are usually foreign and are provided room and board in exchange for taking care of children and housework. Having wanted to go to France, Archer found this opportunity a good means to get there and indulge in the culture.

     After contacting the father of the family in Tours, she was told that they were deciding who they wanted to have stay with them and she decided that if they picked her she would go to France, but if not she would stay and go to school at Whatcom Community College.

     Once she found out that they had picked her, she used money that she had already saved along with graduation money to buy an $800 round-trip ticket to France. She spent most her days working with the family’s four children who were 3 months, 2, 5, and 8 years old. She looked after them and taught them English.

     Archer attended a French class that she went to twice a week but was able to go out at night. She found that on Tuesdays at a restaurant called Café Des Langues she could go “to meet people from all over the world,” Archer said “That was probably the coolest thing that I got to do over there”. She enjoyed the diversity of the people she met there and would like to see this type of place around here.

     This experience brought Archer out of her comfort zone. “As a whole, it made me stronger as a person,” she said. Learning to rely on herself has made her more independent, and the opportunity gave her more of an appreciation for mothers.

     In such a program, she explained that most families will pay their au pair each week, her salary was 70 Euros. The equivalent of this is roughly $95, so she was able to go to the cinema or bar in her free time. “The best place to meet actual French people was at the bars,” said Archer who enjoyed going to the Disco Tech, “Bars and festivals have an awesome atmosphere with tons of people, and it’s really exciting.”

     “Coming back here was a big disappointment,” Archer said, “Everything was so clean over there.” She recalled a festival of music where musicians played from balconies and the town was a huge mess afterwards, but the next day everything was spotless.

     For the first half of her stay, Archer spoke English with her host family but from January until she came home she spoke mostly French so that she could learn the language. “Learning French was my best accomplishment,” said Archer who feels she has retained most of what she learned. She recalled that the people of Tours have very little accent in comparison to other areas, which is good for learning. 

     Though the city of Tours is known for its castles and wine she was only able to visit only one castle during her stay because she was so busy with the four children.

     “If I were to do it again I would stay with maybe two kids,” she said, so she could have more time to sightsee. However, the last two days that she spent in France her mother came to visit, they went to Paris and were able to see the sights.

     Now back in Washington, Archer is taking classes at Whatcom and still working with children from Lummi Island at the Boys and Girls Club. From the au pair experience Archer said that she really grew to like children and now wants to teach English to foreign students.

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