My school requires an 18-week Externship, and they have rather rigorous requirements for a site to be accepted in the program. Rather than an unpaid Internship, CIA has paid Externship sites where the student is treated like any other employee in the respect of wages. Or, that's the way it's supposed to work. The CIA does allow a few sites to have non-paid externships, but they are rare and the CIA has extra requirements to hold them to.
Now, unlike many of the young turks here at the school, I'm not interested in a Line position (the most active station of the kitchen), I'm not interested in handling hundreds of covers (orders) a night, and I'm not interested in following in the shadow of one of the greats in the Culinary Field. I would like something less stressful (and less stress on my health), preferably with a personable chef I won't feel intimidated by. But once you cross off hotels and casinos from the list (two of the three top type-establishments in the program and both are high-volume, high-stress), you're left with restaurants, catering, and the fringe sites in interesting specialties (R&D or Publishing, for example) of which there are perhaps 2 or 3 of any given catagory.
As a career changing older person who doesn't have parents paying for college, I don't have the luxury of looking through the international sites (although I dreamed of going to Japan). Heck, I've had to give up on even getting back out to California or Florida. I have to stick to local sites.
To make matters worse, I've been so busy being nose-deep in my daily studies, I've lapsed on researching and nailing down an externship site in a timely manner. The deadline on turning in signed contracts to the school is this Wednesday.
...Which is also the day I'm assigned to take my Culinary Practical Skills Assessment test, the dreaded "2nd Term practical" that haunts all CIA students, as you must cook from one of six menus (each menu having an entree with a sauce, a starch, a soup, and two vegetables. The menus are listed for students in advance as we must write out our recipe cards, but we don't know until the day of the test which of the 6 we will cook, as it's drawn at random). There is also an oral test by the chef, who can ask 10 questions from a bank of 300 questions (also available for students to study, yay). The chef and the student sit down to eat what the student had cooked, so the critique is up front and in your face. Oh, and did I mention you have to do all this in 2.5 hours? No stress here, nope.
But back to externship sites... Just before I returned to school, there was a Career Fair here that I attended, just to try nailing down an externship site as early as possible. I interviewed with Walt Disney World and handed my resume to a few other sites, one of which seemed too good to be true as it was a mere 20 minutes from my house. When they expressed interest in having me come down and trail the chef, I jumped at the chance... only, the earliest the chef could see me was this last weekend, 4 days from the deadline. I did indeed spend a day (8 hours) trailing the chef and found the place cozy but energetic, small but obviously well liked (it's rather expensive, as in you can typically see a $200 bill for 2 people kind of expensive, and yet there's a steady clientele). And the end of the evening, I filled out my end of the contract with much enthusiasm and talked to the chef about getting the rest filled out. Then the shoe fell. One of the fields to be filled in the contract is an agreement on what the employer will pay the extern. The site I've spent 8 hours at turns out to be one where the owners refuse to pay for interns/externs. The chef honestly didn't know that the CIA strongly prefers paid sites and tried to persuade the owners, but from the phonecall I got this evening it was clear they won't budge.
Now, I had worked at a site approved for externships while I was on leave: the big disadvantage of the beautiful Pen Ryn Mansion was its location, 90 minutes of commute into Philly.
So, here I am, trying to study for my Practical while also doing my class homework (which is intense) AND come to grips with the devil's choice: do I accept the non-paid site and remain a burden on my family as a broke student, or do I accept the paid site and deal with the stress of an insane commute or become the burden of a friend should any of my Philly friends agree to put up with me for the duration of the externship.
*sigh* And, of course, there's no time to look into other options. Everything falls at once.