Former German au pair Svenja Kluge recently submitted information for our “I love my state” campaign, and told us why she loved her home state of Connecticut. The information she shared about CT was interesting but not nearly as compelling as details about her personal journey to becoming an au pair. She joined the Clark family in March of 2014 and just returned home this past March. Her story—in her own words—is below.
I’m so thankful that Connecticut chose me, or the other way around. But it was meant to be. Beforehand I have to say, that my past was not that great. Ever since I can remember I was the bullied girl. It just happened through out all of my school years, or even in free time activities, people just couldn’t interact with me or respect me. I was a target for everyone.
This is Svenja…it’s hard to imagine this beautiful young woman was bullied as a teen.
Why was I bullied? I’m still asking myself the same question. But it was mostly about my appearance. I was a really skinny child, with braces and a “skin disease” called neurodermatitis. That’s enough for becoming a outsider. But I was also interested in different stuff than most other kids my age. I always searched for different things, because I didn’t want to stick to the pattern in our little village.
So how do you grow a healthy image of yourself, how do you develop self-confidence and become a lovable person? I didn’t know. It was always in my head to go away, because everything here seemed negative. I needed a reboot. I gained some confidence by being a cheerleading and through my job and then the biggest reason: I had my best friend Theresa. We always did everything together.
Svenja and her “soulmate” Theresa cheering on the Boston Red Sox.
My “soulmate” Theresa and I grew up together in our little village in Germany and we decided together to become au pairs and break through and make the last step towards being fully confident. She actually travelled one week later than me to the U.S. Her host family was in MA and mine was in CT.
So anyways, Connecticut was the place where I could finally be myself, leave the past behind and just be happy. I would have never dreamed this could happen, but the past year was such a success for my health, and I made connections that will last forever in my heart. I recorded a song, I met musicians, I met my best friend, and I met the most gorgeous host family I could ever wish for. I traveled the U.S. with my best friend, and I lived the way I wanted to live for one year. And everything stared in Connecticut.
Her year in America was a chance to build emotional strength and confidence.
Earlier this year, my host family and I were having a “Hello-Goodbye ” dinner, where we all went out together with the new au pair to welcome her and say goodbye to me. Before that I was searching for a Connecticut state flag and I asked my host dad for advice on where I could find one. His answer was kinda shady, which was weird, because he’s a perfectionist and knows almost everything. So I figured, I would just get one online when I moved back to Germany. Meanwhile at the dinner, my host dad was so excited to give me his goodbye gift. He said: “Thank you for the past year, we really enjoyed having you in our family and we’ll miss you, so open it up!” I did. And there was the CT flag in it, it was so mad cute! I cried and said a thousand times “Thank you!” I never even expected a present and not anything like this. But that was not everything… There was a story behind that one, special flag. He gave me an envelope and said “Read it.” So I read it out loud: “February 10, 2015. At the request of State Representative David Rutigliano of the 123rd District, the accompanying flag of the State of Connecticut was flown over the State Capitol on February 10th, 2015. The flag was flown in honor and recognition of Svenja Kluge.”
I had to read it twice… and then again. Tears just crushed down my cheeks and I couldn’t even hold them in. Never ever before, did someone thank me in such kind way. Never ever did someone honor me that much and or just be happy that I was there one year for their family. It was a special moment I’ll never forget my whole life. It tears me up every time I think about it. Life gave me the biggest present I could have ever received: true happiness. Connecticut is my second home and it’s a place that is like paradise for me because it holds so much good memories in it.
Svenja’s tattoo of the state of Connecticut is a constant reminder of her time as an au pair and a source of strength.
Before I left, I had an idea. Because I knew, when the day arrived to go back to Germany, there would be rainy days where you just want to go back and be free again. So the outline of the State of Connection is now tattooed on my left wrist, right next to the side of my body where my heart is. If there’s a day when I’m anxious, not confident about myself or I just lose track I look at my CT tattoo and remind myself of what I’m able to do in life and where I was the best of myself and happy. It gives me back my strength and the feeling that I’m great how I am, and that everything will be alright.
Now that I’m home in Germany, I just got my part time job with Cultural Care! I’m now a regional leader for my hometown Freiburg. And I’m so happy to be there for all of the others who want to become an au pair. I’m currently applying for my studies as a social worker, and I’m also doing a music project with a great connection I’ve made with a street musician. We’ll soon play a gig and I’m still into my work as an graphic designer. To sum up, I can say that I’m happy for all the experience I’ve had even as a child, teenager, etc. but especially for the time I spent as an au pair, because it was worth it. It made me a really kind and sensitive person, who’s able to understand others a lot better and to find out where I belong.
To hear some of Svenja’s music, watch her YouTube video, recorded with a friend in CT. She is so talented and we thank her for sharing this beautiful story with us. If you also have an interesting tale to tell, we invite you to share your story with us.