Behrens makes her way in NYC
Emily Behrens has always loved to travel. From a young age, the Red Wing native spent plenty of time away from her hometown.
"I've never been the kid who is homesick," Behrens said.
From third grade through 10th grade, Behrens spent weeks each summer at Concordia Language Camp in Bemidji, Minn., learning German. She even reached near-fluency in that language.
"Just being there and meeting kids from all over the world and being able to speak a language and knowing I was able to communicate in a different area, it intrigued me. It really did," Behrens said.
As an eighth-grader, Behrens traveled to Japan as part of an exchange program. She had also been to China and traveled extensively with her parents on family vacations.
"I've always been the person who wants to travel and be immersed in the culture," Behrens added.
So it's no surprise that after she graduated from Red Wing High School in 2006, Behrens decided it was time leave her hometown. Still, she made sure that she kept her roots in Minnesota.
"I love Red Wing; it's an amazing town. The people are great," Behrens said. "Red Wing is always going to be there for me. It's always going to be my home."
That, Behrens said, is why she feels now is the time to travel, live new places and "embrace every opportunity I can," she said. She knows she will always be able to come back to Red Wing.
"It's always going to have a place in my heart," Behrens said.
Behrens enrolled at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla., where she studied communications. Even while in school, Behrens found opportunity to travel. She studied abroad twice - once in London and once in Paris, spending a month in each city.
"It was just awesome," Behrens said.
After graduating from college in 2010, Behrens came back to Red Wing and began applying for jobs.
"My focus was New York," she said, adding that she had fallen in love with the city as a high school student when she traveled there with her mother.
"I just loved it," she said. "Coming from a small town and trying to tackle one of the biggest ... If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. The amount of opportunities that are here are countless."
After several months of sending out applications but not landing a job, Behrens' parents, Wendy and Bob, stepped in.
"My parents finally said to me, 'You know what, you can't apply for a job (while you're) here. If you're going to do it, you need to be there,'" Behrens said.
As Behrens was preparing to move, she got a callback about a public relations internship with New York design firm Isaac Mizrahi. A couple of phone interviews later, Behrens was offered the position.
Behrens moved in with one of her college friends in Long Island began her internship in January 2011. Behrens wasn't sure how permanent her move would be.
"I literally came here ... for this internship thinking there's a possibility I'd be back in Red Wing in three months," she said. "I came with one large suitcase and a carry on and that was it."
Because her internship was located close to Times Square, Behrens commuted by train every day. At first, she said she was nervous.
"I was scared out of my mind," Behrens said. "I was afraid of being mugged, stabbing, guns. You hear all these crazy stories about New York. In reality, I haven't seen anything like that."
While at Isaac Mizrahi, Behrens helped plan for Fashion Week. She said she helped with model sittings, made invitations and worked with celebrity cake decorator Buddy Valastro - of TLC's "Cake Boss" - to recreate cake versions of some of Mizrahi's clothing pieces.
"That's a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Behrens said. "It was a ton of hard work. You have to put the time in in order to gain from the experience. But I would give my left arm to do it again."
But as Behrens settled into her internship, she said she had a harder time settling into New York itself.
"I honestly didn't even like it here until about a year later. It took an extremely long time," she said.
Part of the problem, Behrens said, was that she knew no one in New York except for the friend she was staying with.
"New Yorkers are notoriously are strong boned. It's hard to make those friendships and relationships," she said.
After her four-month internship ended and it was clear that it wouldn't turn into a full-time job, Behrens said she began her job hunt again. She said to fill in the gap, she ended up waitressing and working for a catering company at night and went on job interviews during the day.
Behrens was about to book her plane ticket back to Red Wing when she got a call from her current company, Aon Risk Solutions, an insurance brokerage firm. She began working there as an executive assistant; eight months ago, she took a position as a marketing specialist with the company.
"I help plan events, which I love. I help develop content and layout for brochures, help develop sell sheets and advertisements," Behrens said of her current job.
Behrens said she has settled in to New York more as well, and has made friends. She also moved into her own apartment, which she said is "a pretty good size. I don't feel cramped."
In addition, Behrens said her apartment building allows her to be surrounded with the cultures that she was fascinated by as a child.
"(In my building) I hear on a regular basis five different languages," she said. "It's just amazing. I don't know how to describe it."
In her spare time, Behrens said she loves exploring the city and visiting museums. One of her favorite places in New York, though, is Central park.
"I look out my window and I see nothing but buildings," she said. "When I'm in a park, it grounds me. It reminds me of being back in the Midwest."