Returning student happy with coffee and company

A US international student, returning at last to Dunedin, is unlikely to forget the taste of her first cup of coffee after release from two weeks in managed isolation.

"The emotional aspect of it brought that experience to a whole new level," University of Otago PhD student Hannah Mello said yesterday.

"While it was probably not the literal ‘best’ coffee I’ve ever had, my first cuppa in a cafe after my stay in MIQ was made all the more sweet by the sour moments of the previous year," she said.

Miss Mello (29) was the first Otago PhD student to return from abroad under an earlier Government scheme to allow up to 250 overseas PhD students to return to complete their studies in New Zealand, the university confirmed.

She flew into Auckland Airport last month after spending about 10 months in the US waiting to return to compete her marine science studies.

She was then flown to Christchurch to undertake two weeks of managed isolation,

Afterwards, on January 1, she hired a rental car, went to a Christchurch cafe for a coffee and drove to Dunedin.

US-born doctoral student Hannah Mello and her Labrador-cattle dog cross Quercus are reunited in...
US-born doctoral student Hannah Mello and her Labrador-cattle dog cross Quercus are reunited in Dunedin after Miss Mello was stranded overseas by Covid-19 border restrictions. PHOTOS: CHRISTINE O’CONNOR

She left the country in early March last year to visit the United States but had found herself stranded.

It was "really powerful and exciting" to be able to complete her thesis and to be reunited with friends, academic colleagues and her Labrador-cattle dog cross Quercus.

Asked about the pandemic in the US, she said the politicising of the Covid outbreak and "putting money over people" there had caused "unnecessary harm to US citizens, particularly for people of colour and individuals already burdened by the US healthcare and economic system".

She was "angry, sad and ashamed" by some actions at the US Capitol during the January 6 insurrection, but not surprised.

She was, however, very proud of the "strength and persistence of individuals who push for equity for all people".

Ms Mello is studying bryozoan colonies off the Otago coast.
Ms Mello is studying bryozoan colonies off the Otago coast.

She had been grateful to be with family in the US in these unprecedented times, but had "missed the home I had built in New Zealand".

Her final year of studies is focused on the conservation of marine bryozoans, "tiny invertebrates that grow together and make habitat for animals around New Zealand, including many species off the Otago Peninsula".

It was "also amazing" to be reunited with her dog.

"He’s family, and whether I’m hiking mountains or writing my thesis, he’s along for the ride.

"These days I don’t take for granted the love and comedic relief he provides, and I can’t even complain when he demands to go on a run on those wet, Dunedin mornings."

■ The number of inbound travellers who have passed through New Zealand’s managed isolation and quarantine facilities has topped 100,000, The New Zealand Herald reported.

The milestone was confirmed on the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment’s website yesterday.

The total number of people who have undergone two weeks in MIQ facilities since March 26 is now 100,220.

Currently, 5668 people are in the 154 MIQ facilities.

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