Summer Institute FAQ

Check out our Webinars -- virtual info sessions to learn about the SI:

1. What are the academic requirements for the application?

To be eligible for the program you should have taken two semesters of physics and calculus. AP credit is acceptable for these requirements. Also, either one year of high school or one semester of college-level foreign language is strongly preferred.

2. I will not have completed the requirements at the time of application, but I will have completed them by the start of the Summer Institute. Can I still apply?

Absolutely! You just need to indicate this on your application, or, better yet, submit a transcript that shows your spring classes.

3. Is the Summer Institute only for undergraduates?

The Summer Institute is open to undergraduates, graduate students, professionals, and anyone else in between who fulfills the program requirements. While most of our accepted applicants are enrolled in undergraduate programs, about 20% are graduate students or professionals.

4. Are Duke University or Texas A&M University students preferred?

Neither Duke nor Texas A&M students are preferred. The program is open to all! These students simply participate in the Summer Institute as part of a partnership with their school. Texas A&M students receive course credit for completing the program. 

Exception for DukeEngage Uganda program: this new program is currently only open to DukeEngage students.

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

Through the Nicaragua/Tanzania/Rwanda SI application, 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. For the other programs, you must be either a student of a specific school or an EWH alumni to attend.

6. 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.

7. What is EWH looking for in a participant? How does GPA and academic background factor into the selection process?

Because the Summer & January Institutes are such a unique program situated in challenging, cross-cultural contexts, GPA will not be the biggest indicator of success. Other factors, including maturity and flexibility, play an integral role in one’s success, more so than simply good grades or even one’s chosen academic discipline.

8. Is the Summer/January Institute only for engineers?

If you fulfill all of the course requirements, it does not  matter if you are an engineer. We have had participants who are not engineers actually be more successful than the engineers themselves! Do not let the fact that you’re not an engineer dissuade you from applying!

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

No. Chapter members who qualify for chapter-sponsored fellowships get priority, but the majority of applicants are not members of chapters.

10. 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 Institute is a great program 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, and South Africa, among others!

Check the visa requirements for the country you are applying to. 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 also eligible for financial aid and most applicants receive aid of some sort. In addition to the EWH Financial Aid program, you should also check out our Fundraising Tips page.

11. Can I get financial aid for the deposit?


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

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

You will be receiving most  meals at your home stays during your trip. Which meals and when varies between programs. You will be responsible for paying for the remaining meals. You will need to get back and forth to work and classes each day, which will cost you between $1 and $2 US dollars per day. You will need to pay for your transport back to the End of Program Conference from your host hospital. There will be one organized social activity during the summer. Outside of this activity, you will be responsible for any expenses associated with social activities. This varies widely depending on the amount of money you spend on social activities. You will need to pay entrance and exit fees for each country you visit.

13. What are the dates for this year’s program?

The dates are different each year. For this year’s dates, check each country (Schedules and Costs) at the top right of this page.

14. Do I work 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. When you are off, plan on taking trips around the country to learn and see more.

15. Are EWH trips supervised? Will I be traveling alone?

EWH trips are not supervised. You will be assigned a partner for the summer and will be assisted periodically or 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 (more likely in Nicaragua and Rwanda), but you may work mostly just with your partner. Once on site, you and your partner will be expected to act in a self-directed manner, 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 responsibility and help with the equipment. Of course, EWH staff in the US is always available by phone and e-mail to help with problems as they arise, as are your OTGC and Instructor. But, you will not be supervised.

16. 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, hospital equipment mapping, 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 need to search out equipment needing preventative maintenance, or even start building some equipment from local materials. You will learn about all of these activities during your training. Don’t forget to spend some days talking to the local staff and learning about their lives and culture!

17. Am I going to be responsible for repairing equipment that someone’s life will depend on?

Yes and no.

Yes. Some equipment will break and will be brought off line for you to work on. In that case, the equipment should not return to service if it does not work properly. During your training, you will learn how to ensure that the device you repaired is working properly (minimal calibration procedures). After every repair on site, you will perform the minimal calibration procedure you learned for that equipment. In this way, you can be certain that someone’s life can depend on your work.

No.  However, there is 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, and what you should not.  

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

Wrong! Even in the developed world, hospitals are large, complex organizations. Some people will know that you are coming and what you will be doing and others won’t. 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!

19. 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 foreign language and use it. Some people find it quite advantageous to start studying as soon as they are accepted into the program. Often your level of enjoyment of the summer and your acceptance at the hospital will depend on your mastery of the foreign language.

Exception for the Uganda DukeEngage program: English is commonly spoken and you will not be studying Luganda past a brief introductory lesson.

20. I know that it is poor in the developing world, but my living conditions will be pretty close to what I am 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 (working temperatures above 100°F/37°C in some areas of the hospital are not unusual).

21. After I get my acceptance letter I’m in, right?

Not so fast. You also need to 1) read and sign the terms and conditions, 2) pass a physical examination and provide proof of medical insurance, 3) obtain any required visas, 4) possess a passport with an expiration date of at least 6 months after the last day of the program, and 5) pay a $1,000 deposit within ten days of receiving your acceptance. If you do not pay the deposit on time, you will be placed on a waitlist. After you’ve provided proof of these items, then you’re really in! In other words, acceptance is contingent upon these items.

22. 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 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 of former participants that you can check out.

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