By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — On Emil Friedman’s first day back at Niskayuna High School after February vacation, he sported a faint sunburn from a tropical cruise with his sister, grandparents and cousins.
“Our flights were canceled both ways,” he said, shaking his head.
For Friedman, a junior who lives on Fernwood Drive with his parents and younger sister, Johanne, travel woes are more than just a nuisance or a topic for small talk. They’re a glimpse into the kinds of problems he hopes to solve someday by forging a career in airlines and travel.
“I’ve always been very interested in the travel industry,” Friedman said.
He’s been exposed to it since he was young. Friedman was born in Denmark, where his mother’s family still lives, and moved to the United States when his parents got jobs side-by-side teaching math at Union College. He was 4 years old at the time. Since then, the family has traveled constantly, visiting Denmark at least every other year, and exploring Europe while there.
“I used to want to be a pilot,” Friedman said. “There’s something about flying that was interesting, and it still is.”
He said the experience of traveling by air has always captured his imagination.
“I’ve realized it has to mean something if I’ve been interested in this naturally for such a long time,” he said.
Over time, though, his interest has evolved to focus on the business side of airlines. He hopes to work as a business management consultant after college, then find a place in the corporate world of airlines.
There’s more information out there about the industry than most people realize, Friedman said, although he knows he’s probably one of the youngest people to reach for it. (He jokes that his parents tell him he was born 30 years old and has aged from there.)
“I read trip reports online. There are websites devoted to the airline industry,” he said. “I love all that kind of stuff.”
Friedman, who is in the beginning stages of looking at colleges, hopes to dive into the fast-paced industry before graduating high school. He’s considering a couple of different internships over the summer, working on the corporate aspects of air travel.
Even when flying to a leisurely destination like a tropical cruise with family, Friedman said he can’t help but process his travel experiences through the lens of his professional interest. When his flight home from his most recent vacation was canceled and he was trying to sleep on the floor of the Philadelphia airport (all the nearby hotels were full), his mind was on the ways he hopes to keep other travelers from having to go through the same thing.
“It made me see new things,” he said. “Like, there have to be better ways to deal with [cancelled flights].”
Looking forward, as usual, Friedman said he’s already hard at work preparing for college applications. He daydreams about walking through campus at Harvard or Yale, but said he’s mostly excited for any new experience he can get. “There are so many places I’d be happy,” he said.
He hopes his interests outside of the travel industry, including piano and viola, Model UN, Youth Court, where he’s on the board of directors, and the school newspaper, where he acts as opinion editor, will help him with admission to the schools he admires.
But mostly, he’s hungry to learn and experience everything he can. “I’m ready to branch out,” Friedman said.