While many of her peers headed off for fun in the sun or simply went home to catch up on sleep, Barbara Yu ’04 woke up at 6 a.m. every day for a week during her spring break. As a participant in the externship program, Yu shadowed a lawyer who works with victims of domestic abuse in New York City. Since she couldn’t find housing in New York, she had to commute from New Haven every day.

This year, about 150 students participated in the externship program over spring break. The Association of Yale Alumni runs the program with the intention of helping students become familiar with fields they think might interest them before they must decide on a career path.

Despite the inconvenience of having to commute each day, Yu said her externship was “wonderful” overall and that she got to see “the human side of law” as she attended trials and heard stories of abuse.

“I felt like I was on an episode of ‘The Practice,'” she said.

In many externships, students watch rather than participate in what their hosts do. Marissa Cohler ’06 spent a week shadowing a plastic surgeon who works with burn victims. She said the experience, particularly getting to observe surgery, was exciting, but there were occasional obstacles for the externs.

“Since the hospital’s so busy, it’s really hard not to get in people’s way since we’re not really helping,” she said.

Students with one-week externships like Cohler’s still had a chance to enjoy part of their spring break, but others, like Todd Higgerson ’04, spent the entire two weeks as externs. Higgerson worked at PepsiCo until about 6 p.m. every day. He was involved with financial planning and analysis but also got to see other divisions of the company, meet the president and CFO, and go along on a Frito Lay delivery route.

“I gained a lot of experience and a lot of contacts too, so it isn’t so bad. It is a bit of a sacrifice, so maybe I wouldn’t do it every year,” he said.

But not all externships are spreadsheets and court cases. Joel Resnicow ’03 helped write pilots and develop ideas at a production company that sends shows to MTV and VH1. During Resnicow’s externship, former MTV VJ Karen Duffy, who is now an actress and model, brought fresh-baked cookies when she came in to pitch ideas to the company.

“It wasn’t just a work experience, it was a social experience,” Resnicow said.

Resnicow is a former scene editor.

Some students may see the sacrifice as too large, but Amy Wang ’03, who worked with Random House, said the externship was valuable to her because it helped her decide that publishing is something she wants to do.

“The only bad thing, maybe, was that I didn’t write a single page of my senior essay,” she said. “I have no regrets at all.”