18 August 2022

Student stranded by pandemic celebrates top A-level grades

18 August 2022

An overseas A-level student who was stranded in the UK for two years during the coronavirus pandemic has achieved an outstanding set of exam results.

Promising swimmer Nellie Clark did not see her family during her two years in Millfield School’s sixth form because she could not fly back to Whangarei in New Zealand due to Covid-19 travel restrictions.

The 18-year-old is now celebrating at home with her family and twin brother after getting two A*s and an A in drama, psychology and physical education.

The teenager joined the Somerset school in August 2020, thinking the worst of the pandemic restrictions were over.

But as further lockdowns were imposed, she had to remain in the UK, staying with host families or friends and relying on Facetime to speak to her family regularly.

Nellie Clark has returned to New Zealand after studying in the UK and being away from her family due to the pandemic (Millfield School/PA)

When she was finally able to fly back to New Zealand, she said the reunion was “emotional”.

“It was really great to see my family after two years as I missed them heaps,” she said.

“Obviously, it was quite emotional when I finally returned, especially as I had a super-long flight from Europe to New Zealand – it was almost 36 hours including stopovers.

“I have especially enjoyed spending time with my twin brother.”

It was Miss Clark’s first time living away from home and she was occasionally able to visit her UK-based grandparents when restrictions allowed.

During lockdown she stayed at the school, swam by herself and kept up her fitness by cycling, doing plyometrics and running.

Millfield’s swimming coaches shared online live workouts and she was able to interact virtually with her swimming peers.

Alongside her academic studies, she swam eight times a week as well as three gym sessions.

She has won an academic and sports scholarship to study psychology at Bryant University in the US and hopes to pursue a career in sport psychology.

Her goal remains to represent New Zealand in swimming – racing at home or in the UK.

“I’ve really enjoyed being at Millfield. It is so busy, it’s hard to feel homesick because you’re doing everything all the time,” she said.

“I got stuck in straight away and it felt like normal life. My houseparent, Miss Garcia, has been really supportive, emailing my parents and keeping them up to date with how I am.

“Most students at Millfield are from Europe and Asia but people from New Zealand and Australia are missing out.

“It was a great transitioning experience entering into sixth form as we were allowed some independence but were also looked after by our houseparents.”

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