"When I first joined the program in 2012, my biggest dream was to travel across the United States and experience a whole new culture. I had been working with children and loved the joy they brought to my life, so I thought this was a great and affordable opportunity to get an experience I could carry with me for the rest of my life.
I think most people dream about becoming a family member to their host family, but what is it really like? When are you a family member to them and how do you know it? I had no doubt about what they meant to me. It was scary that someone who was completely strangers to you less that a year back suddenly could mean the world to you.
I experienced three days as an au pair where my youngest girl was sick. She felt terrible and only wanted to sleep and lay on the couch all day. This was the same girl who usually had more energy than a whole army – she did soccer, karate, gymnastics and softball but not these three days. I felt sick to my stomach and would have taken her illness on me if I could. Isn’t it crazy how you can feel sick when somebody you love feels bad? I felt what they felt. When my oldest girl did her gymnastics competitions and were on the balance beam doing flips, I would hold my breath until she was done and I knew she was safe. When they were happy I was happy and when they cried my heart could break into a million pieces. I felt loved and appreciated by these girls and by their parents too. When I picked them up from school and they came running into my arms. When they took my hand and begged me to never leave them. When I tugged them in at night and they would tell me secrets. When they had a family photo taken and wanted me to join in.
They brought me on vacations, I got to celebrate holidays with them, which were different from mine since they were Jewish and I’m Christian. They let me speak and be a part of the prayer around the table and introduced me to their religion. They celebrated my birthday like my friends and family would have done. The house was open for my friends to visit. When I felt sick and my host parents where out of town, the grandparents would take me into their house and treat me like the grandchild, trying to make me feel better. The grandparents addressed their messages ‘’Love Nana’’ and when I went back to visit them this summer 2014, the family picked me up in the airport, we drove to the aunt and uncles house to celebrate Father’s day and the they would introduce me as ‘’This is Camilla and she is a part of our family’’. Before I left the United States to go back to Denmark, they gave me a necklace – a key with a heart melted into it. On the side I found a note saying ‘’you have the key to our hearts and our home’’. And that’s when I for sure knew it was mine home to. This was my family – my second family."