An A level student from down under who was stranded in the UK for two years during the pandemic has achieved an outstanding A* A* A in her exams.
Nellie Clark didn’t see her family, from Whangarei, New Zealand, during her entire Sixth Form at Millfield, in Somerset, as she could not fly home due to Covid travel restrictions.
Today, the 18-year-old all-rounder scholar celebrates her results in Drama, Psychology and PE, back home with her family and twin brother.
Nellie joined Millfield in August 2020, thinking that pandemic lockdowns were behind us. But as Government lockdowns continued to come thick and fast, she remained in the UK, staying with host families or friends, relying on Facetime to speak to her family regularly.
Nellie said it was an emotional reunion when she finally arrived back home. “It was really great to see my family after two years as I missed them heaps! Obviously, it was quite emotional when I finally returned especially as I had a super long flight from Europe to NZ. It was almost 36 hours including stopovers! I have especially enjoyed spending time with my twin brother.”
Her first time living away from home, she was occasionally able to visit her grandparents living in the UK, when restrictions allowed.
During lockdown Nellie stayed onsite, 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, Nellie swam eight times and did three gym sessions per week. She was a school prefect and a member of the United Nations’ “17 Goals for Sustainability” project, spreading the word on global impact. She also featured in drama performances, supporting with play rehearsals and practicing theatre techniques.
Nellie found Millfield by doing her own research and with her Mum’s knowledge of the school from growing up in the UK. During a visit to the UK in 2019, Nellie toured the school with her family and swam with the squad for a couple of days before deciding it was the place for her.
Nellie has an academic and sports scholarship to study Psychology at Bryant University, Rhode Island, USA, to pursue a career in sport psychology. Her goal remains to represent New Zealand in swimming, racing at home or in the UK.
For some the thought of boarding so far from home would be nerve wracking but Nellie took it in her stride and thrived on independence.
Nellie said, “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. I got stuck in straight away and it felt like normal life. My Housemistress 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 house parents.”
On what it’s like to board at Millfield, Nellie added, “Someone said to me it’s like having a massive sleepover and I agree with that. In my boarding house I’ve got really good friends and you can call someone, ask for help or just relax with them. It’s been really fun.”
Nellie’s Housemistress Cristina Garcia, said, “The past two years have not been the easiest for any of us and yet Nellie showed incredible resilience, maturity and strength. When everyone was going home for holiday breaks she would be going to a host family or friends so she could continue swimming on campus. I am delighted that she will be able to return home this summer and spend time with her loved ones at last.”