Frequently Asked Questions

Summer Institute FAQ

  • What about COVID-19?

While EWH is proceeding as though we will be able to run the Summer Institute in 2022, COVID-19 conditions will ultimately dictate whether it is possible and safe for us to place students in any of our partner countries. In consideration of the ongoing pandemic, EWH will not require payment for the program until we can confirm the program will proceed. We plan to make a final decision by March 1, 2022, at the latest.

  • Are the Institutes only for engineers?

The EWH Institute programs are designed for anyone from early university through current 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 OK 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 25% 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 relevant technical experience/course work (circuits course/lab, hands on work or project experience, etc...). AP credit is acceptable for these requirements. Additionally, at least two years of high school-level or one semester of college-level foreign language is strongly preferred.

  • 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, able to work in dynamic group settings, and dedicated problem solvers.

  • 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 spring 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 our partner universities. 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 hospital placements it will only be you and a partner or two for the summer and you will be assisted periodically and when necessary by your On the Ground Coordinators (OTGCs) and Instructor. You will work, study, and travel with your partner. 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 partner. Once on site, you and your partner 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 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?

No, 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?

It is not possible to predict your activities on a day-to-day basis. In some cases, the OTGC or last year’s team will have mapped out some specific needs of the hospital or clinic. You will know before you start your trip what your goals will be in general. However, 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.

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 can’t even 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 the group from the previous year, 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 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 is quite difficult. You should expect to find significant challenges in the simple tasks of your daily living (including such basics as drinking water, bathing and going to the bathroom) 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, especially during our winter program in Nepal. Buildings and homestays rarely have climate control.

  • Do participants get to pick which country they work in or is it assigned?

For the Summer Institutes (Central America/Tanzania/Rwanda), you can apply to 1, 2, or all 3 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. Chinese nationals, for example, require at least 4 months advance notice for a Nicaraguan visa.

International participants are fully eligible for financial aid. All applicants are asked to fill out a relatively simple financial aid form, and most applicants receive some 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 vary each year. For this year’s dates, check each country’s Summer Institute page.  Campus to Country programs run during both the winter and summer, and you can view details here.

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

No. If you cannot be part of the program from the first day to the last, then you cannot participate.

  • 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?


Duke Engage students: you do not need to pay the deposit. Duke Engage takes care of this for you.

  • What expenses will I be responsible for beyond the EWH fee?

This varies by program. Please see the sample Terms and Conditions in the Application Packet for what is covered by each program fee. You will need to pay for airfare to and from your program country. For most programs, you will need to pay any entrance and exit fees required by the country to which you are traveling. In most programs, you will receive some meals from your homestay during your trip. You will be responsible for paying for your remaining meals (but they are typically very inexpensive). You will need to travel to and from work and classes each day, which will cost you between $1 and $2 US dollars per day. You may also need to spend money on longer trips to find parts and supplies. You will have a $100 USD budget to spend on parts and supplies for your hospital. EWH will reimburse this cost via Paypal after the program ends and once you have submitted receipts documenting your expenditures. Typically there will be one EWH-organized social-cultural activity during the program. Outside of this activity, you will be responsible for any expenses associated with social activities, and how much you spend is thus up to you. Overall spending in country varies between programs and participants.

  • I've been accepted! How can I find out more about where I am going?

Once all acceptances have been sent out, you will receive a "Prep Packet" of detailed information about your program. About one month before the program starts, you will receive a "Go Packet" with more details. Until then, you can look through the past participants' blogs. If you are going to Nicaragua or Tanzania, we also have some video clips of a Q&A panel. And of course you can do your own research at your local library or on websites like wikipedia and to learn more about the history, culture and healthcare system of the country.