Emily - Photo courtesy of Emily Whittingham.

A behind-the-scenes shot of Emily creating her one of her imaginative puppets. Photo courtesy of Emily Whittingham. 

Puppet Love: Pulling on NYC’s Heartstrings

An Interview with J-1 Intern Emily Whittingham

Emily Whittingham’s unique internship experience is a fantastic example of the opportunities available through the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program! Challenging the stereotypical idea of an internship, Emily used the opportunity to follow her dream of becoming a puppet maker and hone her craft in New York. She landed an apprenticeship with Puppet Kitchen Productions and spent this past winter working alongside some of the best puppet makers in the business.

Each apprentice at Puppet Kitchen Productions also has the opportunity to work on a project of their own during their program. For her project, Emily created a puppet of the Carpenter from Lewis Carroll’s poem The Walrus and the Carpenter. After hearing more about her time in New York, we can’t help but compare her J-1 experience to a Wonderland-like experience!

What impact has your J-1 experience had on your life and your career?

It’s been a life-long dream to live and work in the United States. I adore the variety of culture, environments, people (and food!) that America has, and the animation and puppetry scene is incredible. My J-1 experience has given me the chance to taste both life and work as a puppet maker in New York City, one of the most famous and bustling cities in the world! I have learnt so much in both puppet making and living in a new country, and I feel I am ready to take on the world!

Carpenter - Photo courtesy of the Puppet Kitchen.

Emily’s personal project, a puppet of The Carpenter, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the CarpenterPhoto courtesy of Emily Whittingham. 

What is your favorite memory from your J-1 program?

In December, I helped at a sock reindeer workshop in Bryant Park. It was so amazing to see the amount of people eager and excited to make reindeers, even the freezing cold didn’t stop us from having a great morning! And to add to that, my mum visited that week and she made a reindeer too!

What was your favorite cultural activity to do in New York? 

New York City is a world of its own, and it’s so diverse with so much to offer, especially at Christmas, where everywhere is lit up and decorated so beautifully! I love just being able to step outside and find something new each day. Particular highlights for me have been the American Museum of Natural History, ice skating in Bryant Park on Christmas Eve and seeing the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade first hand!

What advice can you offer to future exchange visitors coming to the United States? 

Don’t hesitate and just go for it! You won’t regret it.

What does cultural exchange mean to you? 

To me, cultural exchange means taking the step outside of your own home and culture to live in a new land and experience a new culture. And with somewhere as diverse as New York City, I feel that cultural exchanges happen almost every day!

To see more of Emily’s incredible work, check out her website, connect with her on Twitter, or follow her on Instagram!