In the culinary world, there's a kind of intern/volunteer hybrid known as a stage (rhymes with entourage). It's often the foot in the door, but basically what happens is you arrange for a day/week where you work for free. Sometimes you get the menial repetitive tasks (like picking herbs!) but most of the time you learn a lot and get a feel for the operation.
Having no formal experience in restaurants or bakeries (besides the hostessing gig last year), I decided to also use my free time this summer to stage. Since I didn't know many people who work in bakeries, I wrote a cover letter + resume and approached a slew of bakeries. Some were too busy, or never got back to me, but in the end I was able to stage with two bakeries, one or two days a week.
Both of these were small places, mostly breakfast pastries, but I was able to build on the skills I'd learned in culinary school. Mixing doughs, piping, pate a choux, puff pastry, etc. I want to do as much as I can before the semester starts and my schedule is once again inundated with school and work.
I was even able to stage for a day at a fine dining restaurant. Even though fine dining seems to be the pinnacle achievement in the culinary world, I never fancied myself in that type of environment. Too adrenaline-fueled and too exacting, I thought. But it was a different story once I got on the line. I found the pressure exciting and the detail work very appealing. I naturally like to work fast, and clean, and pretty.
To apply that back to baking/pastry, I think I would love to work for a bakery that assembly-lines cakes/desserts like no other. Maybe I will find some of that in my internship this coming semester, working in a hotel pastry department!