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Source: Massey University

Manawatū based PhD student Haroon Qazi

What began as a month-long holiday to Pakistan for his younger brother’s wedding ended up being more than a year-long stay back home for Massey University PhD student Haroon Qazi.

Mr Qazi’s PhD is looking at the gastrointestinal behavior of complex food systems containing bioactive compounds. He’e been at Massey University since 2018 and is based within the Riddet Institute at Massey University’s Turitea campus in Palmerston North.

Not long after leaving New Zealand, COVID-19 locked the world down, and Mr Qazi and his wife and son were stuck in Pakistan and unsure when, if ever, they would be able to return to Mr Qazi’s studies and their lives in New Zealand.

Mr Qazi says he remained in contact with his supervisors, and took initial advice not to suspend his scholarship, instead becoming a work-from-home student like most other Massey students at the time.

However, having to share a computer and being in lockdown with a full household made it difficult to get any work done. As a result, Mr Qazi made the decision to apply for a three-month suspension, which he ended up doing three times in total.

“It was a very stressful time as we were stuck at home, unable to work, and policies affecting us being able to return home were changing frequently,” says Mr Qazi.

It was over a year before all the processes and steps were in line for the family to return to New Zealand.

Mr Qazi says he felt very fortunate to have such support from his colleagues back home, and for the opportunity to apply for and receive a bursary for students adversely affected by COVID-19. He says this went towards the costs of getting himself and his family back on a filght to New Zealand.

“My supervisors and colleagues from Massey were very supportive throughout my time stuck in Pakistan, and while it was difficult to get back here, knowing that things would be ok once I got back really helped,” says Mr Qazi.

Mr Qazi’s wife also gave birth to a daughter while over in Pakistan. Mr Qazi says having to go to hospital during a pandemic was scary as there was an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Mr Qazi and his family are now safely back in New Zealand and acclimating back to their New Zealand life. Mr Qazi says he hopes to complete his PhD within the next year-and-a-half.

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