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How My Gap Year Working Abroad in Customer Service Changed My Life

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How My Gap Year Working Abroad in Customer Service Changed My Life

You’re probably wondering who’s sharing this story. I’m Melanie, a German 25-year-old who loves adventures, travelling, meeting new people and experiencing other cultures. So it’s pretty obvious that living abroad was always a dream of mine. 

Why I wanted to work abroad

After finishing high school, I knew I needed more than just a visit to the next big city. Coming from a small village in Germany, I always felt there was more out there waiting for me. Many of my friends were also taking time off to explore the world, working as au pairs, or, like me, looking for real jobs that would give us a taste of real life.

Where should I go for my gap year? 

I knew English would not be a problem for me and, of course, German. But did that mean I was limited to English-speaking countries? London was tempting, but what I was really looking for was sunshine, holiday vibes, and a laid-back lifestyle—basically, the opposite of Germany! Southern Europe seemed perfect: close enough to home in case anything went wrong and culturally quite fascinating. With a bit of research, I found that there were customer service and content moderation jobs in Portugal, Greece and Spain for German speakers. And so the application process began!

Application process and preparations

Creating a CV and sending out applications was a first for me! Thankfully, there’s a ton of info and tips online to help you build a great CV and prepare for interviews. I found many German-speaking jobs abroad, which made me feel better about the language barrier. Most of the positions I applied for were in customer service, technical support, content moderation, tourism, or back-end support. I tried to keep my options open knowing that these positions would not give me deep experience in let’s say Marketing, Finance or HR. But the experience of 8-hour office days, using different softwares and learning to prioritise tasks was good enough for me and in my opinion way more valuable than babysitting or working on a farm.

Long story short, after a few interviews, I landed a job as a Customer Service Agent in Portugal for a tech project. They provided accommodation in a shared flat and even reimbursed my flight tickets. The salary was decent, allowing me to enjoy the local food, culture, and nightlife since I didn’t have to worry about rent. And two weeks after my final interview, I was on a plane to Lisbon.

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My first impressions of working in Customer Support

I won’t lie—it took some getting used to. Working eight hours a day in an office is more tiring than you’d think. The job was okay, not my dream job, but it was fascinating to interact with so many customers. Helping someone solve a problem gave me a rush, and hearing their gratitude made it all worth it. Of course, not all customers were pleasant, but I learned that it’s all about how you react. If you keep on smiling and using a friendly voice and understanding tone even unhappy customers can turn their attitudes around. Plus, I met some amazing colleagues from various backgrounds who were in the same boat as me. Finding other Germans also helped with my homesickness.

My life in Lisbon

After work, we often went out for drinks, hit the beach, and explored nearby towns on weekends. I joined international Facebook and Erasmus groups to stay busy and meet new people. Some were like me, on gap years; others were au pairs or settling down in Lisbon. By summer, I was completely settled and enjoyed the best summer of my life—beach parties, beach hopping, and beach volleyball (did I mention that I went to the beach?). I also used the weekends to travel to Porto and went to some fantastic festivals!

Will I come back?

Absolutely. Lisbon has a special place in my heart. My time here taught me so much and helped me grow in so many ways. The friendships I made and the different perspectives I found opened my eyes to what I want for my future. I’ve decided to start an International Business degree that includes several semesters abroad because it’s clear to me that living abroad is one of the greatest experiences you can have. With this degree, I hope to keep my options open for maybe moving abroad permanently someday.

Do you also want to experience the rush Melanie felt during her gap year? Then have a look at our job openings you might just find a great adventure waiting for you!

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