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Student Voice

15 January 2018



When recently retired Austrian woman Milana Jobbagy discovered Granny Au Pair, she was over the moon.

“People think only young girls can live with a family in a new country. Granny Au Pair is a great opportunity.”

This adventurous 65-year-old left Vienna for Tauranga in July 2017 to spend several months studying English and working as an au pair for a family in Papamoa. Four months in, we decided to check in on how Milana is getting on.

The lovely Milana met us at the Mount Maunganui Language School, looking like a local in jeans and a Mount Maunganui Rip Curl surfer’s tee. Tauranga seems to be fitting her like a glove!

Growing Up in Czechoslovakia

Milana was born in a country that no longer exists. She left Czechoslovakia at seventeen years old to study hotel management in Vienna, Austria. When she came back home, her country was under Russian military occupation.

“I left my country in ’69; two months later the border was closed. I didn’t see my family for fourteen years.”

Having previously spent a two-month practicum at the Imperial Hotel – Austria’s best hotel which hosts notable guests like Queen Elizabeth – Milana was fortunately able to get a visa and stay in Vienna. The city has been home ever since.

Why New Zealand?

Even decades ago New Zealand had a reputation for being clean, green and offering a slower pace of life. When Czech friends of Milana’s moved to New Zealand 33 years ago, she sent her husband down here to scope the country out.

“At the time, my eldest was twelve, my second son was seven and my daughter was only two. My husband came to New Zealand and spent six weeks in Hamilton.”

With three young kids in tow, the timing wasn’t right, but her desire to experience New Zealand never faded.

The Golden Years Spent Travelling and Learning

Milana is well-travelled and independent, having visited America, French Polynesia, Bora Bora, Africa, Asia and Europe on her own. But these trips were all holidays; when Milana retired from her administration job at a European freight company, she felt it was high time to stay somewhere for a little longer.

“My agent Doris is an au pair and English study agent at Seven Seas Cultural Exchange. I wanted to go to New Zealand, and Doris’ organisation set up the program for me. I’ve always wanted to study English, now I have the time!”

Life as a Granny Au Pair

Milana lives with her host family in Papamoa. She looks after two children, Amelie, nine, and Sebastian, eleven. Milana’s duties include helping the busy family look after the kids, prepare their lunches and keep them entertained (and off the iPad!) each afternoon.

While Milana has cooked a couple European dishes for the family – like goulash and wiener schnitzel with potato salad – she’s lucky to live with a family where the father is an avid cook.

As a grandmother to three boys back home, Milana’s role as Granny au pair comes naturally but the children certainly put her English skills to the test.

“They speak so quickly, the children! It’s like another language.”

English: Study at School, Practice at Home

English is Milana’s fifth language, which explains why her communication is so advanced after only four months.

“I speak Czech, Slovak, German, Russian and now English. Speaking German made it easier to learn English, it’s a similar language.”

After getting the kids off to school, Milana heads up the coast each day to study English at the Mount Maunganui Language Centre. Unlike many of the school’s pupils, she’s not studying for career prospects; for Milana, it’s a personal goal and a skill that will come in handy during her travels.

“I try to speak more and more. Sure, I make some mistakes, but never mind! I understand people and people understand me.”

Life in Modern New Zealand a Little Different to Historic Vienna

“In Vienna, there are historic buildings, opera houses, theatre shops, restaurants, European coffee houses. It’s another feeling. Everything in New Zealand is very new, modern. In Austria things are often more than 1000 years old.”

The food preferences of Kiwis are also quite eye-opening to Milana.

“My host family eats meat every day! I like more vegetables, but it’s expensive. In July, one cucumber was $6.”

While there are some significant differences, Milana can draw some similarities between the two countries as well.

“In Austria, there’s nice nature. That’s similar. Before I visited, I only saw pictures of Queenstown – it looks similar to our mountains.”

Favourite Activities in Tauranga

Milana is a fit and healthy 65-year-old, putting people half her age to shame! She loves to walk on the beach and regularly climbs to the Mount summit. If she walks around the Mount, she’ll do two or three circuits at a time.

“I like the Strand and McLarens Falls, near to Tauranga. I love seeing dolphins in the harbour. I plan to go to Karangahake Gorge this Sunday.”

Some Mother-Daughter Time

In early January, once her au pair and English classes have ended, Milana’s flight attendant daughter will join her mum for a Kiwi holiday. The pair will rent a campervan and travel the North Island before flying down to Queenstown and Milford Sound. She’s excited to make use of her new English skills when her daughter arrives.

“When I travel, I need to speak English. Anywhere in the world, you need English.”

And it sounds like her daughter is pretty darn proud of mum:

“My daughter told her friends, ‘my Mum is going to New Zealand to study English and live.’ They said, ‘that’s so brave! It’s so beautiful there’.”

Future Plans – Another New Zealand Visit?

Milana’s seven months are up in February, but she’s already planning her next trip down under. Her agent, Doris, has host families and English language schools in Queenstown, and she hopes to come back as soon as November 2018.

“I will do four months school in Queenstown then two months in Tauranga. The Bay of Plenty is a very nice place.”

Final Thoughts

Milana wants other seniors to know about the opportunities that come with the Granny Au Pair program. For Milana, the program ticks all the boxes: she lives with a local family, earns an income and studies English, all while exploring a country she’s wanted to see for thirty years.

Want to learn more about studying in tauranga?


Join us on Facebook and contact Regional Relationship Manager Melissa Gillingham for more information:

Melissa Gillingham

 Regional Relationship Manager

 Education Tauranga

 Tel: +64 7 571 1401 ext. 707 | Mob: +64 21 724 272    
 Address: Private Bag 13057, Tauranga 3141, New Zealand  
 Email me