Capital culture a welcome shock for new American kids on the block

United States exchange students Amanda White, Erin Mellor and Shannon Culhane are getting used to life in Wellington.
KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

United States exchange students Amanda White, Erin Mellor and Shannon Culhane are getting used to life in Wellington.

If you see an American crossing the street in Wellington, take extra care - they could be new to town.

United States exchange student Shannon Culhane​ says navigating the capital's roads gave her double vision at first.

"People drive on the opposite side here - I had to look the other way."

It is the little adjustments that have made her time here special.

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Culhane is one of nine communication and marketing students involved in a pilot exchange programme through Massey University.

As well as an internship at a Wellington organisation, students get to travel around the country and gain academic credits towards US-based courses.

Culhane and Erin Mellor, who are from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology and Furman University respectively, are both interns with Te Rakau Theatre.

Through web design and social media, they are helping to market a four-play series about life in Wellington after the Treaty of Waitangi.

They want the quartet of plays, which includes the critically-acclaimed Dog and Bone, to start a community dialogue.

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"They [Te Rakau] were excited to know that someone with a completely outside perspective understood exactly what they were going for," Culhane says.

"In the US you're helping with a little piece of the company. Here I feel like we actually have an impact."

An avid improviser back in New York, Culhane was inspired by Flight of the Conchords to make the trip to New Zealand.

It is also intern Amanda White's first time down under.

She is learning about non-hierarchical business and storytelling for consultancy at Enspiral Dev Academy.

"My supervisor has asked me to come to work with questions. That's very different for me."

Massey University professor Frank Sligo says the host organisation and the student get a fresh take on things.

"Typically, it's on their bucket list to come here. Now they have the double benefit of visiting and getting course work done."

American businesses tend to focus on squeezing financial return, he says.

"Here, it's not a case of dog eat dog, [but] working together. The students email me every day - quite a few are in culture shock but they are loving it."

 - Stuff

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