Welcome to the fourth installment of my personal profile feature in my 25 to 25 series celebrating the age of 25. Over the next year of 25, I will be featuring a few people who I personally know and admire for their accomplishments. Each person has chosen a somewhat different path in life, and I’d like to highlight people that I think “have it together” by 25 – whether it’s professionally, academically, or in their personal/family lives. These people are currently 25 or turning 25 this year.
Meet Alicia Mierzwa
I met Alicia Mierzwa when we were both in our last year of our undergraduate public relations studies at Towson University in Baltimore, Md. While we had both been attending TU for the past few years in the same program, we did not cross paths until we both interned in Fall 2011 in the social media department of MGH, a modern marketing, advertising, and public relations firm. Immediately, we connected and realized we were two ambitious, hard working girls, with similar life goals. We both wanted to move to new cities after graduation and pursue PR agency careers, eventually opening up shop with our own PR agencies. I also thought that Alicia was one of the best dressed people I knew, always following the latest fashions, and dressing nicely for class (even when most everyone else in Baltimore looked like bums in their sweatpants.) I always looked forward to seeing what new outfit Alicia would put together for work or school. It was no surprise when I found out she wanted to pursue fashion PR in NYC. It’s absolutely where she belongs and will succeed.
Alicia Mierzwa was born in Methler, Germany, a small town that is over 1,100 years old in Northwest Germany. She experienced a dream German childhood, the kind you would read in fairytales – playing in the forest, building tree houses, and selling flower braids from the fields to neighbors for money to buy candy. After high school, she moved to Düsseldorf, a larger city in Germany to work in retail and search for a university to study fashion journalism. Eventually, she realized that she needed to do something more meaningful with her life, and she was drawn to the American dream. Soon, she was on a plane heading to New York City. For her first two years living in the United States, she worked as an au pair for a family in Annapolis, Md., and began studying part-time at Anne Arundel Community College. After two years, she left her au pair position and transferred full-time to Towson University. She graduated with a Bachelor’s in Mass Communication and moved to New York City only a month after graduation. She is currently a freelance publicist and social media consultant and lives with her finacé in Manhattan.
Alicia sat down to share a little more insight about how she got to where she is now, why she’s chosen this particular path, the challenges she’s faced, and where she hopes to be in the future.
As a child, how did you imagine your life would be at 25?
To be honest, I thought I was going to be famous. I always wanted to be an actress, and by the time I was 25, I pictured myself to be a successful Oscar-nominee (okay, let’s stay a little realistic here), dating Leonardo Dicaprio and living in a mansion in L.A., with a duplex (4 bedroom/2 bathroom) in New York as a second home. But yeah… That didn’t quite work out the way I planned it.
When did you first visit NYC? And at what point did you make the decision that you wanted to move there?
The first time I visited NYC was with my au pair class. That’s right, au pair class! We actually go to school for a week (before being dropped off with our host families) to learn important things like, “Don’t shake a baby,” or “Don’t leave a child alone in the car.” It’s funny how a country like the USA has laws like this. I remember thinking, “Duh… That’s so obvious,” but then you hear these horror stories of how children died in situations like that, and you begin to reevaluate your preconceived opinions.
To answer the second part of your question, I knew that I wanted to live in America when I was really young. I was always amazed by the U.S. culture and how it’s depicted in movies. It fascinated me and I always thought that I belonged there. My mom recently sent me pictures of my old diary that I wrote when I was about 10 years old. The pages are full of I <3 NY, songs about becoming famous, and moving to America.
What do most Germans think of America and the American lifestyle?
Germany is really split, I think. There are some people that are obsessed with American culture and want to mimic the U.S. lifestyle. But then you have the critics, who are really anti-America. The overall picture of America is Hollywood – the rich and famous with big cars and ridiculously huge houses. But then you also have the negative part of America that is commonly known, like the obesity, the lack of government support, and the gap between rich and poor.
What were your friends and family’s reaction to finding out you wanted to move to America?
My family always knew I was going to go somewhere other than Germany. They were really proud that I was making such a big step and just decided to move across the sea to live in a different country. Granted, we all thought it was just for one year, but surprisingly none of my family members or friends ever said anything negative about my decision to stay longer. They are all just really proud of me. The visiting helps, of course. And the social media! I miss my friends and family back home, but I don’t feel that we are disconnected through the distance. Quite the opposite – my mom always says that I talk more to her than my oldest brother who lives just three hours away from her.
What has been the biggest obstacle you’ve faced in coming to America?
Staying in America has been the biggest obstacle. You guys are really tough with the visas. I mean, I get it, but from a European point of view, I don’t understand why there are regulations that prevent me from staying here when I can actually benefit the country with my knowledge, language, and work ethic. In Europe, we all have the EU passports, so we can move wherever we want to (within Europe). That sense of freedom is the most amazing feeling, and I wish we could have that anywhere in the world. In my opinion, we should all be global citizens. I understand that it’s kind of impossible, but if you think about the concept that you “belong” where you were born into, you realize how unfair that really is!
What advice do you have for other non-Americans who have NYC dreams?
Just do it! Don’t give up because authorities are making it hard for you. There’s always a way. Things always work out. That’s kind of my life philosophy. I’ve faced the “impossible” countless times in the past five years and yet, things always worked out for me. You just have to believe in the positive.
Why do you have a passion for fashion?
I’m not really sure as to why I have a passion for fashion; it’s just always been a part of me. I love clothes, I love design, I love the industry (in this sentence I should also say that I’d love to change the industry!) Fashion fascinates me, it always has. When you look through the pages of a book from the ‘20s, ‘40s or ‘60s, you can see how fashion influenced society – and vice versa. That’s what inspires me the most. How we dress is a reflection of what we are currently experiencing in life, what a society as a whole is experiencing. Don’t you think that’s fascinating?
What would be your dream job?
Having my own PR firm that supports up-and-coming international designers. That’d be my dream job. I’m working on it!
What is a common misconception non-New Yorkers have about NYC?
That people are unfriendly. I really don’t know where that came from. I think New Yorkers are the friendliest people in the world. In what other city would a busy Wall Street CEO stop and help you with directions just because you look lost? That’s like the nicest thing ever.
Where do you hope to see yourself at 30?
Well, that’s sooner than you think, unfortunately. I’m turning 26 in September, so that gives me about four more years to make things happen. But honestly, I see myself working in a career that I love, with people that I enjoy working with. We only have this one life, and I really don’t want to waste time doing something that I’m not passionate about, or that I don’t 100% believe in. This is kind of the goal of my entire life, but I want to be in the right direction when I’m 30.
If you’re just as inspired by Alicia as I am, continue to follow her NYC adventures and fashion PR journey and connect with Alicia on Twitter: @AliciaMierzwa.