Thesis: Italy Culinary Students Learn Their Craft

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Italy

Culinary students learn their craft through extensive hands-off instruction and practice. Great food is a global phenomenon, however, and today's culinary instruction reflects the wide variety of techniques and ingredients in modern cooking. Yet there is something to be said for becoming completely immersed in the world's greatest culinary traditions. One of those can be found in Italy, where a number of culinary internships are available. This paper will explore the possibility of culinary school internships in Italy. First the case will be made for undertaking a culinary internship in general, followed by specific arguments in favor of Italy. Following that, the paper will investigate the preparation and paperwork necessary to undertake an internship and outline some of the programs available.

Overseas internships are beneficial to students for a number of reasons. One of the most important of these reasons is that such an internship exposes you to new ideas and ways of thinking. When exposed to new ideas, students are forced out of their comfort zone. Their beliefs are challenged, which broadens their knowledge and skill level. In some situations, the knowledge that can be acquired is at a higher level than what would be acquired back home. Although the standard of culinary education is very high in the United States, there is little doubt that students of Italian cooking will receive better training in that particular field if they go to Italy.

By taking the student out of his or her comfort zone, the overseas internship will also test the student on a personal level (no author, 2010). There are unique challenges associated with overseas internships, such as being away from friends and family, and having to adjust to a new culture and a new language. These adjustments provide the student with a much broader experience than would be acquired with a domestic internship, where such considerations do not exist. Additionally, the overseas internship signals to prospective employers that the student is willing and able to deal with adversity in order to improve themselves (Curran, 2009). In a kitchen, the ability to handle problems with enthusiasm and patience is a highly regarded virtue. Lastly, the overseas internship has the benefit of helping the student to build an international network of colleagues and friends. These relationships can be life long, and contribute to a better quality of life and often to some significant career opportunities.

There are also several advantages that are distinct to a culinary internship in Italy. For Italians, food is a powerful expression of their culture. Indeed, Italian culture can scarcely exist without food. Each region has its own traditional cuisine, many of which have become influential around the world, and all of which are highly revered by gourmands. Food in Italy is so fascinating in part because it is integral to the Italian outlook on life. This is very distinct from the way that most Americans view food. It is from this passion that the beauty of Italian cuisine originates, and this is likely the same passion that drives students to the culinary arts in the first place. The experience of being in a country where everybody shares in the passion for food -- where food is a part of everyday culture -- is an experience that one can only get from traveling to Italy itself.

The first advantage is that the student will gain direct and specific knowledge of Italian culinary tradition. This knowledge is unadulterated and cannot be replicated in an American kitchen, no matter how it strives to capture Italian authenticity. The markets and access to ingredients alone will be inherently superior. With regards to region-specific cooking, there is no substitute for being there. The second advantage is that food is an integral part of Italian culture. As such, it will be difficult to learn about Italian food without some degree of immersion in Italian culture. Understanding the nuances of Italian culture and the ways in which food relates to that is best done in Italy, interacting with both Italian chefs and Italian diners (De Sanctis, 2006). This combination is not available through domestic internships.

Additionally, Italy has a wealth of culinary programs from which to choose. These programs span cooking styles, geographic regions and levels of sophistication. There are a number of high quality options that specifically cater to the needs of culinary students. Some of these options can be done even without Italian language knowledge, but for those students with a working knowledge of Italian, the variety of opportunities becomes that much larger.

In order to prepare for an internship abroad, there are a number of key steps that must be undertaken. The first of these is the research phase. The student must analyze his or her own needs and attempt to find the program that best matches those needs. This will require not only extensive research but also careful self-examination as well. A student with in-depth knowledge of Tuscan cuisine, for example, may decide that the best internship is in another part of Italy, in order to broaden his or her experience. There are so many programs available, each one best suited to specific types of interns, that only careful research will narrow the programs down to a suitably small list for application. The purpose of the internship is not just to visit Italy, but to improve one's culinary knowledge and career, so it is imperative that the right programs be identified that will meet this objective.

The second step in preparing for an internship comes after an internship has been granted. There is a substantial amount of work involved. For example, the student may need to improve his or her Italian skills, if they are to be working in an Italian-language kitchen. Communication with teammates is essential for the internship to succeed, and for the student to gain the most from the experience. Preparation must be made to deal with the cultural elements of the trip as well. Background information needs to be acquired with respect to Italian culture and what the student can expect from life in Italy.

There is also a wide range of practical considerations as well. The student will be living overseas and all the minor elements of overseas life will need to be dealt with, from visa paperwork to money to health coverage and any number of other such considerations. Although Italy is a developed nation with all of the creature comforts of home, it can be a very different culture and the student should be prepared for that. This involves not only reading about the different cultural quirks and anomalies that the student is likely to encounter, but also talking to chefs who have undertaken such an experience in the past. If the student's home culinary institute has an organized internship program, they should be able to help provide such testimonials or interviews to help the student prepare for the internship by speaking with somebody who has had that experience already.

The paperwork needed to undertake a culinary internship in Italy is another matter entirely. There are a number of different types of paperwork that must be completed, but the most important is the student visa. Italy has a number of requirements for its student visas, which must be acquired prior to arrival in Italy. Students going to Italy will need to have a student visa in order to gain entry into the country, or even the Schengen Zone, of which Italy is a part. To acquire a student visa for Italy, the following documents must be prepared: an application form, a letter from your culinary school confirming attendance, a letter of acceptance from the student's home institution confirming the study abroad program, an affidavit of insurance, a declaration of the availability in Italy of appropriate lodgings, a letter of acceptance from the host, a letter addressed to the Italian consulate, stating means of support, and a letter from your bank indicating financial means of support (Consulate General of Italy in New York, 2010). The applicant will also require a passport that is valid for at least three months beyond the end date of travel.

The student's home culinary school should be able to help with much of this paperwork. There should even be options for culinary internship programs abroad that run through the school, which could be used as a starting point in the information gathering phase. If the student's home university does not have an office that will help with the preparation of the paperwork, or does not have a specific internship set up in Italy, the student will need to conduct the bulk of the research and paperwork his or herself. To do this, the student must take a few extra steps. The first step is setting a reasonable time frame. The process not only for information gathering but also for acquiring all of the necessary paperwork will be measured in months. It is imperative that the student leave enough time for this process to be conducted thoroughly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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