Frequently Asked Questions

Summer Institute FAQ

  • What about COVID-19?

EWH successfully operated international, in-person Institutes in 2022 and fully anticipate being able to do so again in 2023. We will continue to monitor all circumstances surrounding COVID-19 and international travel and keep all applicants apprised of any changes in programming.

  • 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 course 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.

  • 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 15-20% are graduate students or professionals.

  • 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.

  • 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 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?

Absolutely! 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 Institutes?

Summer Institute programs are open to all eligible applicants, while participants in Campus to Country programs must be enrolled at a partner university. See the Campus to Country Programs page for more details.

  • Are EWH Institute programs supervised? Will I be traveling alone?

Participants in EWH programs are fully supported, but not directly supervised on a day-to-day basis. During the training period you will learn together as a group and with your assigned partner(s) in lab. During your hospital placement, it will only be you and your assigned small group, though you will be assisted periodically and/or when necessary by your On-the-Ground-Coordinators (OTGCs). You will work, study, and travel with your small group. 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 doctors and nurses to identify equipment which is not working. Using this information, you will have to prioritize your time to complete your primary responsibilities and help with the equipment. Of course, EWH staff in the program country and in the USA are always available by phone and e-mail to help with problems if they arise.

  • Will I get to pick my program partner?

EWH will pair you with a partner. We use specific indicators from your application to create compatible, strong teams with complementary skills.

  • Do I work in the hospital every day?

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/day, 5 days/week. Participants often complete large projects on the weekends or stay late to complete essential repairs. Note: the work week in Nepal runs from Sunday until Friday.

  • 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 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. However, it is difficult to predict your activities on a day-to-day basis.

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.

  • 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 on site, you will perform the calibration procedure you learned for that equipment. You will work with the hospital staff to determine if the equipment is operating properly and safe to return to service.

There is also some equipment you will not be able 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.  

  • Everyone in the hospital will know what I need to do, right?

Probably not. 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 happy, but surprised you are here now. You should expect to have to repeatedly introduce yourself and explain your purpose there. Often, these are great opportunities to ask about that person’s background and purpose in the hospital. You may start a lifelong friendship this way! It is also an excellent opportunity to practice local language skills, which usually impress hospital staff.

  • Almost everyone speaks English. So, will I really need to struggle in a foreign language?

Everyone does not speak English in the hospitals where you are going. You may find a few people who do, but very few. In Africa, more English is spoken, but your success depends on your mastery of introductory Swahili, or Kinyarwanda and French. 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. Note: English is widely spoken in Uganda and the program includes several short lectures on the local language.

  • I realize there's a lot of poverty in low-income countries, but my living conditions will be pretty close to what I'm used to, right?

No. Living and working in the developing world 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 using public transportation) and at work. 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 Summer Institutes, you can apply to 1 or all of the programs. 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 call applicants and ask if they 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 the UK, Denmark, India, Mexico, Australia, China, South Africa, 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. In addition to the EWH Financial Aid program, you should also check out our Fundraising Tips page.

  • What are the dates for this year’s program?

The exact dates of the Summer Institutes vary each year. For this year’s dates, check each country’s webpage.  

  • I won’t be able to participate in some of the program because I have a family commitment. Is that OK?

Probably not. We may grant exceptions on a case-by-case basis, but bear in mind that that no partial tuition reimbursement will be granted and you may incur additional costs for transportation outside of the program start and end dates.

  • Do I need to be a member of an EWH university chapter to apply?

No. Chapter members get a small “boost” in their application, but the majority of applicants are not members of chapters.

  • Can I receive financial aid for the deposit?

Financial aid is not available for the program deposit.