Name: Shannon Culhane

Home university: Fashion Institute of Technology (New York)

Internship placement: Te Rākau theatre

“We were able to travel the whole country and simply just work and live in the capital city! Could anything be any cooler? The perspective that I gained in life was something that I could never learn any other way.”

Shannon with fellow Te Rākau intern, Erin, enjoying Wellingtonian life at sunset on Mt. Victoria.

What is your favourite NZ memory?

This question is honestly very hard to answer considering that there were so many incredibly amazing moments throughout my time there! I’m going to attempt to answer with two memories.. Throughout the expedition, my favorite memory was definitely our stop at Lake Tekapo in the South Island. The lake was so gorgeous and breathtaking that I will remember that exhilarating feeling for the rest of my life! Favorite Wellington/Internship moment.. I think one of my favorite moments was a night where I was walking to meet our group down by the night market (an amazing international food market on Friday nights in town!) when I saw that they were all standing by watching salsa dancers in the middle of Cuba street. In the middle of the street! I just handed off my bag and asked a random Wellingtonian to dance. It was extremely liberating and we all laughed about it for the rest of the trip! It was fantastic.

Biggest accomplishment since NE&I?

I would say my biggest accomplishment has been landing an internship with a huge residential/set design firm in the city. I enjoyed my time with Te Rākau in New Zealand so much that I decided I could not stay away from the theatre world anymore! I finally joined passions with Interior Design and Film and decided that set design was the route for me. Getting an internship in that direction was so rewarding!

What are you doing now in your degree/career?

I am in my third year at FIT for Interior Design with a minor in Film Studies. I am also currently interning with Marks and Frantz Interiors in the city. On top of that, I have also just signed up to begin taking improv acting courses at the Upright Citizens Brigade theatre. Never a dull moment!

What impact has your internship experience had on your personal and professional journeys?

My experience honestly changed my life. Working with the people within my theatre company was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Te Rākau focuses so strongly on the education of New Zealand’s history through their plays and they also cherish the education of Māori culture as well. Being exposed to that and the kindness of everyone there really changed my entire career path. Before the internship, I was hoping to design museums in New York City. Afterwards, I found my experience so rewarding that I decided to steer towards set design in hopes of working with plays that had such deep historical and psychological values as the ones we were lucky enough to read. I am also hoping to begin my career after school back in Wellington, it really impacted me that deeply! The joy that I felt going to work daily was unlike anything I had experienced before.

What were the biggest highlights of your Massey National Expedition Experience?

There were numerous highlights. I think the greatest for me was simply living completely in another place. We experienced the culture as residents and the lifestyle as if we genuinely lived there and I fell in love with it! I found it most exciting to really get the chance to experience the people. Everyone that I met was so kind and the conversations that I had, both in my group and with natives to NZ, were so fantastic and often hilarious! It was so fantastic to get to experience the whole country. It is more gorgeous than I could even imagine.

What was the biggest challenge of working in NZ? 

The fact that I was not a resident and knew I had to leave at some point……

Why would you recommend NE&I to future students?

It was something that was so culturally involved that I feel you could not get this experience any other way. We were able to travel the whole country and simply just work and live in the capital city! Could anything be any cooler? The perspective that I gained in life was something that I could never learn any other way. I have created lifelong friends from this experience and the best memories of my entire life. Also, I would highly recommend it because I miss the breakfast wraps at Panama Cafe so badly. Trust me on this, you will not regret going in the first place, but especially not if you get one of those wraps.


Shannon was part of the 2016 pilot cohort of the Communication & Marketing track of Massey University’s National Expedition & Internship, and the recipient of the 2016 Communication & Marketing Explore New Zealand scholarship. We are accepting applications for Summer 2018 until March 15th 2018 – or until spaces fill up! Visit our website for more information on how to apply and don’t miss out on applying for the 2018 Explore New Zealand scholarship (one awarded in each NE&I track).  Scholarship application deadline March 1st 2018!