Summer Institute FAQ
- Are the Summer Institutes only for engineers?
The Summer Institutes are designed for anyone from early university through early professionals in STEM fields with an interest in learning and applying hands-on troubleshooting skills in a high need, but very low resource setting. If you have fulfilled all of the academic requirements, it's okay if you're not an engineer. We’ve hosted participants with a wide variety of academic backgrounds, and non-engineering majors have proven equally capable at troubleshooting in these settings with the proper training.
What are the academic requirements for the application?
To be eligible for the program, you must have taken two semesters of physics and two semesters of calculus OR have relevant technical experience/course work (circuits course/lab, hands-on work or project experience, etc.). AP credit is acceptable for these requirements.
Are the Summer Institutes only for undergraduates?
The Summer Institutes are open to undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals who fulfill the program requirements. While most of our accepted applicants are enrolled in undergraduate programs, about 10-15% are graduate students or professionals.
What is EWH looking for in a participant? How do GPA and academic background factor into the selection process?
Because the Institutes are such unique programs situated in challenging, cross-cultural contexts, GPA will not be a major consideration. We are most interested in participants who are mature, dedicated problem solvers, and who are able to work in dynamic group settings.
I will not have completed the requirements at the time of application, but I will have completed them by the start of the program. Can I still apply?
Yes! You just need to indicate this on your application or submit a transcript that shows your upcoming classes.
What is the difference between the Summer Institutes and the Campus to Country Programs?
Summer Institute programs are open to all eligible applicants from any university around the world, while participants in Campus to Country Programs must be enrolled at a partner university. See the Campus to Country Programs webpage for more details.
Are the Institutes supervised? Will I be traveling alone?
Participants in the Institutes are fully supported, but not directly supervised on a day-to-day basis. During the training period, you will learn together as one group. During your hospital placement, it will only be you and your assigned small group, though you will be visited periodically by your On-the-Ground-Coordinators (OTGCs). You will have contacts in the hospital where you work; however, these contacts are not supervisors. Depending on your hospital, you may be working closely with a technician, or you may work mostly just with your small group. Once on site, you and your group will be expected to be self-directed, to arrive at work each day on time, and to talk with the hospital staff to identify out of service equipment. Using this information, you will have to prioritize your time to complete your primary responsibilities. While EWH staff (both in-country and at our home office in the USA) are always available by phone and email to help you, it is important to be aware that the Institutes require a significant level of independence.
- Do I work in the hospital everyday?
Hospitals are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they use their equipment all of that time. Nevertheless, it is very rare to need to work on Sunday. It is unusual to work on Saturday, but this does happen. Typical work schedules for technical staff vary from country to country, but at a minimum you should expect to work 8 hours per day, 5 days per week. Participants often complete large projects on the weekends or stay late to complete essential repairs. Keeping in mind the importance of prioritizing your work, you will undoubtedly have free time to explore your program country.
What will I be doing in the hospital each day?
On any given day you may be calibrating instruments, taking equipment inventory, mapping hospital equipment, interviewing for hospital needs, repairing broken equipment, training the staff, conducting preventative maintenance, or dealing with equipment emergencies. Some days may be filled with equipment crises that need your immediate attention, while on other days you may have to search out equipment that needs preventative maintenance, or even start building some equipment from local materials. You will learn about all of these activities during your training. You will also need to spend some time integrating into the hospital community by joining staff meetings, interacting with staff outside the hospital setting, and other activities that will help build trust and partnerships to succeed in the hospital. It takes time to form relationships at your hospital placement; this is normal. Remember to stay patient, flexible, and open-minded.
Am I going to be responsible for repairing equipment that someone’s life will depend on?
Absolutely. During your training, you will learn how to ensure that the device you repaired is working properly (using calibration procedures). After every repair, you will perform the calibration procedure you learned for that piece of equipment. You will work with the hospital staff to determine if the equipment is operating properly and safe to return to service.
However, there is also some equipment you will not be able (or are not permitted) to fix, because you lack the parts or more advanced skills, or because the machine is simply too far gone. You will be taught to know the difference between what you can allow back in service, what you should not, and what you are not permitted to work on (i.e. high voltage equipment).
Everyone in the hospital will know what I need to do, right?
No! Hospitals are large, complex organizations. Some people will know that you are coming and what you will be doing, but others won’t. Some will remember groups from previous and be very happy to see you. Regardless, it is absolutely critical that you introduce yourself and properly explain your reason for being there to everyone that you meet. You should expect to have to do this repeatedly. Often, these are great opportunities to ask about that person’s background and role in the hospital. You may start a lifelong friendship this way! It is also an excellent opportunity to practice local language skills, which usually impresses hospital staff.
Will everyone speak English?
Everyone does not speak English in the hospitals where you are going. You may find a few people who do, but very few. You are genuinely expected to learn a substantial amount of the local language and use it. Some people find it quite advantageous to start studying as soon as they are accepted into the program. This is especially important for programs located in Spanish-speaking countries, where English is rarely (if at all) spoken. Often your level of enjoyment of the summer and your acceptance at the hospital will depend on your mastery of the local language.
Specific notes: In Uganda, English is widely spoken, and the program includes just a few lectures on the local language of Luganda. In Guatemala, there is almost no English spoken. This is a challenging but rewarding opportunity that many students enjoy.
My living conditions will be pretty close to what I'm used to, right?
No (depending on where you're coming from, of course). Living and working in low resource environment can be quite difficult. You should expect to find significant challenges in the simple tasks of your daily living (including such basics as laundry, bathing, and communication) and at work. You should also be prepared to use public transportation. Temperatures above 100°F/37°C in some areas of the hospital are not unusual in many settings, while at night temperatures can drop drastically. Buildings and student accommodation rarely have climate control (i.e. air conditioning or heating).
Do participants get to pick which country they work in or is it assigned?
For the open enrollment Summer Institutes, you can apply to one or both program countries. When filling out the application, you can indicate which program you prefer or require. In most cases, participants are selected for the program for which they indicated preference. If we have an abundance of applicants for one country, we may ask if applicants would consider a different placement.
I am not attending a university in the United States. Can I still apply? Will I still be eligible for financial aid?
Yes! The Summer Institutes are open to students from all universities and, in fact, all countries of the world. In the past, we’ve had participants from Denmark, India, Mexico, Australia, China, South Africa, Spain, and many others! Check the visa requirements for the country to which you are applying. Some nationalities require several months to acquire a visa. International participants are fully eligible for financial aid.
- I won’t be able to participate in some of the program because I have a family commitment. Is that okay?
Probably not. We may grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis, but bear in mind that you will likely miss valuable time in training or in the hospital. In addition, no partial tuition reimbursement will be granted and you may incur additional costs for transportation outside of the program start and end dates.
- Can I receive financial aid for the deposit?
Financial aid is not available for the program deposit.