Missy Molloy at Victoria University of Wellington in Kelburn overlooking Wellington city.

Missy Molloy, a single mother originally from the US, moved to Wellington with her son for a dream job and an adventure. It is everything she’d hoped for. In 2017, Missy and son Leo — who was nearly nine then and is nearly 16 now — moved to Wellington for work. She took up a job as a lecturer in the film studies department at Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington.

Missy really wanted the job, which aligned perfectly with her specialisations and interests, but thought that not being a New Zealander might count against her. That wasn’t the case. After an online interview, she was offered the job, and has since been promoted to Film Programme Director and Senior Lecturer.

Missy already knew a fair bit about the country, having a love for New Zealand cinema. Of course, she did her research before accepting the job.

Two people are siting at a table talking on the set of UNESCO Diverse Voices.

Missy Molloy at work, on the set of UNESCO Diverse Voices.


“Reading about Wellington, I liked that it’s a small capital city that has a distinctive natural environment: the coastline, the mountains, the sea.”

Originally from Philadelphia, Missy has lived in different US states including Florida and Maine. She’s also lived in Vermont, and has spent stints in Europe. She and Leo were comfortable with travelling between and living in different places. “So, we had no problem with re-rooting or rerouting. Coming to the other end of the planet was exciting. It was an adventure, particularly for Leo, with the novelty of new people, a new accent, new scenery, new foods.”

The transition was easy. Missy soon made friends through colleagues, neighbours, her landlord, and the yoga studio she goes to. Leo made friends at school and now attends a central city high school. Missy can walk or run down the hill from the university to the city centre. Walking from her office to Cuba Street — Wellington’s cultural heart — takes 15 minutes.

People walking down Cuba Street, past the Bucket Fountain, an iconic kinetic sculpture.

The Bucket Fountain, an iconic kinetic sculpture in Cuba Mall on Cuba Street.

Having lived in both big cities and rural towns, Missy thinks Wellington has the best of both worlds: it’s compact enough to feel like a community, while also hosting plenty of high-quality cultural events. Also, it has a less humid climate than other places where she’s lived and has easy access to nature. Living in the seaside suburb of Lyall Bay, Missy does a lot of walks on the coastal roads and trails between different parts of the city.

Being a film buff, she has a busy time during the New Zealand International Film Festival and likes the foreign-film festivals. She’s also a big fan of Wellington’s contemporary-art gallery City Gallery and its live-music evenings.   

Birds eye view of Tarakena Bay looking south towards the Cook Strait.

Eastern Walkway, on the south coast of Wellington.

Now a permanent resident, Missy couldn’t visit her parents and four sisters in the US for two years because of the pandemic. But she and Leo are back to visiting twice a year. Like many other people who have family elsewhere, she feels she has multiple homes. Wellington is one of them now.

Missy reckons Wellington has a sophistication that many other small cities don’t. “Like me, Wellingtonians who are working for governments, embassies, ministries, universities, in the film industry, and in the arts are ‘transplants and migrants’ from different countries. That gives Wellington a global outlook.”