Acting on a whim, Paesha Tuttle applied for the New Zealand Public Affairs internship just hours before the deadline. Her spontaneous decision was rewarded with invaluable cultural insights and a dream communications experience.
Tuttle, originally from Rochester, New York, was ecstatic when the public affairs office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints selected her for its New Zealand internship. Tuttle described the creative liberty given to her as one of the greatest benefits of the experience. “Rich Hunter, the director, gave me a lot of freedom,” Tuttle said. “He told me I could focus on whatever I wanted to, so I chose video.”
From May through August 2017, Tuttle worked as a digital media intern for a small public affairs team consisting of the director and two senior volunteer couples. The team worked together to publish stories for Mormon Newsroom Pacific.
Some communications students begin summer internships with enthusiasm only to find out they will be doing grunt work, but Tuttle’s experience was quite the opposite. Her boss gave her free reign to capture compelling stories throughout New Zealand and Fiji.
This freedom gave Tuttle confidence in her ability to work in the communications field after graduation. She learned how to build professional relationships as she interacted with prime ministers, royalty and notable Church leaders. “President Eyring came to dedicate some historical buildings … I got to follow him around all day with a camera. It’s crazy how much trust they place in the intern.”
With that trust, Tuttle traveled to Fiji to create a documentary about diabetes. The experience humbled her as she witnessed the island’s extreme poverty – a contrast to the exotic resort she previously pictured. “I’m not a medical person but I had to film doctors and amputee patients … it was sobering,” Tuttle said. “That’s the stuff you can’t learn in the textbooks; you have to be there to experience it.”
Another of Tuttle’s assignments included traveling to Church groups around the country to teach groups of young adults how to spread truthful and uplifting messages through social media. This training stems from a nationwide social media campaign by the Church with the hashtag #ShareGoodness. Tuttle said presenting to these large groups strengthened her public speaking skills and helped her build relationships with New Zealand natives.
“[New Zealand culture] is extremely chill and laid back, and natives will drop anything to show a foreigner around their country. Unlike in America, random strangers become your best friends,” Tuttle said.
Regarding international internships, communications professor Clark Callahan said that living in New Zealand gives students “an opportunity to be an outsider and a minority,” which enables them to adapt to different cultures in the workplace.
The internship began as a result of connections professors Callahan and Steve Thomsen made with LDS Public Affairs when they led communications students on a study abroad to New Zealand in the winter of 2016.
Tuttle was the second intern to complete the internship. “Even if you don’t know how to do something you just have to fake it until you make it because they trust you to get a story done,” Tuttle said.
Overall, Tuttle felt that the writing, social media and video skills she gained prepared her to enter the workforce. She is now working for the communications department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an opportunity she would not have been prepared for prior to her internship.
Writer: Becca Pearson