Design Your Life


By Nia S. Vaughn


Studying abroad in Paris can be a magical experience, but that magic does not come cheap. The euro is currently the second highest ranked currency in the Western hemisphere after the British pound.

(Just a fun fact, the highest currency in the world is actually the Kuwaiti Dinar, which is almost five times the worth of one US dollar.)

If the exchange rate doesn’t tighten your budget, remember that most US banks (Bank of America and Wells Fargo), take 3% for every swipe and an additional $5.00 for every cash withdrawal at an ATM. Certainly there are ways to strategize with your bank, but without careful monitoring, your pockets will begin to deflate right before your eyes, or worse, behind your back. Although good banks will help you to preserve your money, they’re not replenishing it, and the less we swipe the black stallion (nick name for my credit card), the better.  One trick I discovered for managing  finances in Europe is by ‘talking’ your money back.

After living in France for barely two months, I was in a position that many non-English speaking immigrants in America probably face everyday. I felt overqualified and inapplicable at the same time.  After a few days of brainstorming online and countless waitress applications, I came across a friend who told me to look into babysitting.

I always noticed different advertisements for babysitting on the metro that read, “Garde D’Enfants” in bold letters, featuring an amusing photo of a young black girl feeding an irritated white baby. I always dismissed the image as demeaning, refusing to be the stereotypical ‘help’. Isn’t that why I’m in college in the first place?  Well that’s what I thought too, but something about getting your card declined in Zara truly gives you a fat slice of humble pie…ou ‘tarte’.

So the following Monday I went for a visit at the Alliance Français to check the bulletin board for possible work. I was amazed at all of the posts seeking English-speaking babysitters. Some adults were even seeking tutors for up to €20 an hour! Although the US does not have the most powerful currency, we do speak the dominant language of l’argent and I have been blessed with the gift of gab.

American parents would love for their children to learn a new language at home.  However, for most families, it’s still viewed as optional since English is already the leading language for business and entertainment.  In turn, this places an even higher demand for English speaking babysitters in Europe.

After just one day of phone calls and a quick interview over coffee, I was hired by a family to look after their 5-year-old daughter. For two hours a day, four days a week, I pick her up from school, teach her English, play at the park, and monitor her sugar intake at €11,00 ($15.00) an hour.  During my off day, I work for another family at the same price or tutor adults starting at €15,00.

Let’s do the math:

€11,00 x 2 hours/day x 5 days/week = €110,00/ $151.00 CASH (or more)

Of course, this is just my personal experience I was blessed to meet good families who had no problem paying in cash. If you plan on staying in Europe over six months and working, it may be easier to open up a bank account if you’re not into the ‘bandz’ look; it will be easier for online transactions and some families may prefer direct deposit.  Just keep in mind, the process of opening account takes about two weeks longer than the average process in the states so make it a priority as soon as you arrive!  Many of the families do not speak English well so I would recommend that only intermediate level French-speakers apply, but don’t let that discourage you, they need you for your English not your French!  Lastly, I will mention that some of my own family members were concerned if I was lowering myself to the black mammy role and if I would feel belittled.  I must admit this was my initial unease as well, but all of the families have been respectful and seemingly color blind.

Not everyone has the patience for children or teaching and if not there are certainly other ways to use your language skills to stay afloat during your Euro-trip. But if you are looking for a quick and reputable way to make consistent cash during your time in France, I suggest you learn to make your money talk.

Where to Start?

 Fondation Alliance Française, 101 boulevards Raspail. It is a school of French for foreigners, and they have a large board with a lot of ads (“petites annonces”) for babysitting, English teaching, tutoring, etc.

American Church of Paris, 65 Quai d’Orsay

FUSAC, a website aimed at the English-speaking community in Paris full of ads:

 If you want to work in a bar or café, you can just show up with your resume and your best smile! There are a lot of anglophone cafés in Paris, or places looking for someone who speaks fluent English and good French (comme toi!)

Travel Noire

Nia S. Vaughn

International Studies and Broadcast Media, fancy of way of saying I love to travel and share my experiences with you. Creating my own diaspora for us to share. Determined to change the single story. “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect... I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” (Anais Nin) Xx - @niasvaughn

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