Courtesy of Lucy Harvey

When Yale announced its plan for the fall semester to be fully online, many students made the difficult decision to take a gap semester and, in some cases, an entire gap year. One such student was Lucy Harvey ’24, a sophomore in Grace Hopper College from Vancouver, Canada, who initially chose to take the fall semester off.

Having experienced remote learning for the second half of the spring 2020 semester, Harvey said the prospect of online classes was unappealing. Like many other students studying remotely in the spring, she found it challenging to remain motivated in her classes, especially with the lack of in-person interactions with professors and TAs.

Furthermore, Yale did not offer on-campus housing to sophomores for the fall semester — another factor that pushed Harvey to take the semester off. Having taken a gap year before her first year at Yale, Harvey knew that she could use the time off to pursue other opportunities, rather than taking online classes from her bedroom. More recently, Harvey decided to also take the spring semester off, which she said was a more difficult decision.

“I just couldn’t imagine being at Yale when it isn’t Yale,” Harvey said. “There are other things that I want to pursue, and why not take the time off now to do those things. School will always be there.”

While Harvey is originally from Canada, she planned to spend the fall semester in Los Angeles with a friend — another Yalie taking a gap year — to pursue her acting career. However, as COVID-19 continued to worsen in California, along with the surge of wildfires in the state, her travel plans soon changed. As a result, she decided to live in Washington, D.C., at a family friend’s apartment.

In Washington, D.C., she has worked remotely for the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control as the social media manager for a peer-to-peer program that addresses the opioid crisis in Vancouver. 

As COVID-19 restrictions have worsened, drug overdose deaths in Vancouver have skyrocketed, according to Harvey. The crisis has worsened especially in a neighborhood of Vancouver called the Downtown Eastside, which is plagued by high levels of drug use, homelessness, poverty, crime and mental illness. Due to the pandemic, resources usually available to those in need have been cut off without any alternatives offered, exacerbating the opioid epidemic in the city.

“The peer-to-peer program essentially places a peer worker, who has experience using drugs in the past, to accompany users,” Harvey said. “This helps prevent deaths that are caused by overdoses, as the peer will be available to administer aid or call 911 in emergency situations.”

This cause is highly meaningful to Harvey not only because of her connection to Vancouver but also because of her studies in global health. In fact, one of her aspirations is to get a master’s degree in global health from the University of California, Berkeley.

Outside of work, Harvey has been able to make the most of her time away from campus, traveling to New York a couple of times to meet friends and working minimum wage jobs to fill her time — something that she has done since age 16. While she also had plans to visit classmates in New Haven, the increasing number of cases on campus caused her to cancel those plans.

On finding internships and jobs during the pandemic, Harvey expressed the difficulty of the process due to the high number of applicants for each position.

“With COVID and everything being remote, rather than a specific pool of people applying to internships, now you’re competing with every college student who can do a remote internship in the world,” Harvey said. “When you’re competing for jobs like this, connections are everything, and the likelihood that someone knows someone at the organization and will get the job is pretty high. I’ve been saying that 2020 is the year of rejection.”

Nevertheless, Harvey remains hopeful that she will land an internship next semester. She is currently waiting to hear back from a number of positions that she has applied to, but she also plans to sign with an agency in Vancouver to further her acting career, audit an intro biology course at the University of California, Los Angeles, and take an acting class during the spring semester.

Harvey said that she does not regret having taken a gap semester this fall.

“I think it was definitely the right choice for me,” she said. “It’s still hard because of course I want to be at school with my friends, as I’m sure everyone else does. But for me personally, I think being in school during this would not have been productive.”

Although she describes herself as having “no clue what [her] future will look like” — a sentiment shared by many Yale students — she is excited to pursue her passions and find her own path to success.

Veronica Lee | veronica.lee@yale.edu