Yale’s Office of Career Strategy released its annual summer activities report in late October, showing how undergraduates spent their summers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s report differs starkly from previous years’ due to the irregular nature of this past summer.
In light of the pandemic, Yale College did not sponsor any international travel this summer. As a result, only 8.1 percent of survey respondents said that they spent their summer abroad — a sharp dip from the previous five summers, during which an average of 27.8 percent of students spent the summer abroad, according to past summer reports. The percentage of students who participated in language study and field research also fell, while the number of students who engaged in non-language academic studies rose to 17.6 percent from a previous five-year average of 11.2 percent. 3,639 students completed the survey.
“Summer 2020 was very complicated,” Jeanine Dames, director of OCS and associate dean of Yale College, told the News. “We had a lot of interactions with students who were pivoting and brainstorming and changing what they were going to be doing for a variety of reasons. But it wasn’t until we got the report that we knew holistically what happened to the whole group. And I have to say, across the board, this summer worked out much better than it could have.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic developed over the spring, many students had to reschedule their plans, according to Dames. This is indicated in the survey, as 36 percent of respondents shared that they made their summer plans in May or later — a major increase from the previous two years, when on average only 21 percent of students made their summer plans that late.
The activities hit hardest by the pandemic were language study and any other field research or internships abroad, as the University canceled all sponsorships and funding of international activities. According to Dean of International and Professional Experience Jane Edwards, this decision was met with a significant increase in interest in Yale Summer Session, which was entirely remote this year. As students’ summer plans were in flux, YSS increased its offerings, and Yale allowed students on financial aid to use the Domestic Summer Award to fund YSS. Enrollment of Yale College students in YSS increased by 67 percent this year, according to Edwards.
“I have to say, we found that students were exceptionally flexible, resilient and sensible in planning for a very different summer in 2020,” Edwards wrote in an email to the News.
Although students were unable to spend time abroad this past summer, some found ways to carry out their programs domestically. Dames told the News that OCS was very impressed with how many international programs “honored their commitment to students” and rescheduled programs remotely instead of cancelling them outright.
Monique Nikolov ’23 planned to study abroad in Shanghai over the summer as a recipient of the Richard U. Light Fellowship, an award that provides funding for East Asian language study. When Yale announced its ban on study abroad, Light Fellows were given the opportunity to reallocate their funding to a remote language study program. Nikolov ended up studying Mandarin through one such program from her home in Connecticut.
Nikolov said that although she was not in China, her language skills “definitely” improved, as her online program was rigorous. Since she was not engaging in other social activities during the pandemic, Nikolov said she was able to direct all her efforts toward her studies.
“Everyone had their own bummers over the summer, and I feel like I was lucky to be able to have my online classes funded by Yale, and to be able to do something, because I know that a lot of people were struggling with finding anything to do given the special circumstances of this summer,” Nikolov said.
Many students with international internships or jobs also had to change their plans this summer.
Marco Marsans ’24 — a sophomore who is currently on a gap year — was planning to intern this past summer at Worldpay, a London-based payment processing firm. He obtained the internship in September of his first year and was planning to spend time with friends in London. But due to the pandemic, his internship became entirely remote, and he conducted it from New York City.
“I thought it was just going to be a surreal college summer,” Marsans said. “I do feel like I missed out on a very unique experience.”
Marsans told the News that now that he is on a gap year and will have an additional summer before he begins his sophomore year, he is less disappointed that his internship this past summer was remote.
Yale has not yet announced whether it will sponsor international travel during summer 2021.
Amelia Davidson | firstname.lastname@example.org