Young foreigners head for China on journey of a lifetime

By Tan Yingzi in Chongqing ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-09-10 07:18:00

Young foreigners head for China on journey of a lifetime

Isabell Rohde (left) on a trip with Pu Yongjian's family. [Provided by Pu Yongjian]

A program which originated in the Europe is now taking hold on the mainland.

Three-year-old Yoyo has a special friend in his home this summer.

Isabell Rohde, 18, from Spangenberg, a small town in central Germany, is spending six months as an au pair with Yoyo's family in southwest China's Chongqing.

Like many European peers, the young woman decided to take a gap year to experience some foreign culture before going to college.

"I was looking for an opportunity to experience a different culture after finishing high school," Rohde tells China Daily.

"It's my first time abroad."

At Yoyo's home, her main duty is to take care of the boy, play with him and teach him some English. She will also take some Chinese language courses every week and travel with the host family.

The au pair program originated in Europe after World War II to promote cultural exchanges among young Europeans.

Au Pair, a French term, means "at par" or "equal to", and indicates that the au pair is on par with other members of the family, rather than a traditional domestic help or nanny.

Au pairs live with their host families and look after the children. In return, they get an allowance and opportunities to study a foreign language.

Due to visa restrictions and limited demand, the au pair program was not introduced in China until the early 2000s.

At first, it was Chinese au pairs going out, mainly to the United States, as some American parents started to realize the importance of learning Chinese.

In 2006, Yu Hongbin, from Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang province, was the first Chinese au pair to land in the United States, according to the New York Times.

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