When Aubrey Earl began applying to colleges during her senior year at Camas High School, the timing didn’t feel right.
“I kept dreaming of living in France,” the 19-year-old recalled. “My mom suggested I become an au pair, and after reading about it, I realized how perfect it was for me.”
A year later, Earl is living in Paris and watches three children, ages 4, 6 and 8, during the weekdays and explores the city on the weekends.
“This is an inexpensive way for me to learn French and see the world,” she said. “There is also a great au pair network in Paris. I now have close friends from England, Germany and Australia.”
It was a huge change going from Camas to Paris, where Earl would get nervous venturing into Portland on the MAX.
“I now take public transportation every day by myself,” she said. “I walk everywhere alone and am perfectly content doing so.”
Earl also noted that it was strange going from Camas, where there isn’t much racial or religious diversity, to Paris where it’s common to see hijabs and colorful African dresses and headwraps.
“Paris is absolutely full of different ethnicities, cultures and languages,” she said.
Being put in a caretaking role is also much different than going to school and participating in extracurricular activities.
“In Camas my worries were school or dance,” she said. “Now it’s like I’m a mother, constantly thinking about my three host kids. Just today I was worried about my 4-year-old, who bumped his head on the concrete after school.”
On Nov. 13, several sites in Paris were attacked by terrorists and more than 100 people were killed, and hundreds more were injured.
Earl pondered coming home to Camas, but ultimately decided to stay, although it’s been a challenge in several different ways.
“The feeling in Paris went from light to dark overnight,” she said. “Even though the streets and buildings are full of security guards and soldiers, I still feel quite vulnerable.
The night the attacks happened, Earl had pondered going shopping at an area 10 minutes away from the attacks, but changed her mind because she was tired.
“I am so very grateful that I didn’t go out,” she said. “It was just an utter shock. I couldn’t believe that such terrible things were happening so close by and in a place dear to my heart. I remember just lying in bed for five hours, crying while watching the news. It was awful.”
However, Earl is glad she chose to remain in the city that has become her home.
“I love my host kids and will miss them so much when I leave,” she said. “I am having the time of my life.”
After her job is finished this summer, Earl will come home to Camas, although she wants to return to Paris soon after.
“I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone told me, ‘you’re the last person I would have thought would move to Paris.’ Each time I heard that it motivated me. I wanted to prove that I, the introverted homebody, could take this giant leap. I am so glad I did. I’ve lived more these past four months in Paris than the previous four years at home.”
Earl’s future career plans are to teach French at a private elementary school.
“If I do one thing in my life, it will be to emphasize the importance of children learning languages at a very young age,” she said.