Summer Internships in South Africa - On Site

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South Africa — Healthcare Challenges

Since the fall of Apartheid, South Africa has taken great strides to bridge the wide economic and social gap that was left with Apartheid. Infrastructure, education, healthcare services and economic opportunities have grown. The majority black population had limited or non-existent healthcare until the 1990s and today South Africa’s healthcare system provides free or low cost care to most of its population. Yet, besides these great strides, South Africa was one of the hardest hit countries by one of the worst pandemics in recent history, overburdening a fledgling system that was just starting to provide basic services to the majority of the population who had little to no access to them. In the wake of the Apartheid, poverty, continuing inequality, misconceptions about HIV/AIDS, and other factors, influence South Africa’s healthcare system today.

Students will live with local families in the Cape Flats area, a racially diverse great urban expanse behind Table Mountain, populated by forced government relocations during the Apartheid era.


Homestays are located in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town, in a residential neighborhood called Vanguard Estates. This area is usually not visited by most tourists, as it is where most “non-white” Capetonians live. The neighborhood is considered middle class and most families are racially mixed. There are usually two students per homestay, each student with his/her own room. Personal transportation is not very reliable. However, there is a mall about five blocks away where students may pick up personal supplies as needed (clothes, internet, coffee shops, haircut, laundry, etc.).


2 meals a day plus a snack provided for lunch.


Students must fly into the City of Cape Town. Onsite, the program offers private daily transportation between the homestay and clinical rotations Monday through Friday. Students are picked up by a driver in the morning and picked up from their clinical rotations at 3pm.

Clinical Rotations

Sample Schedule

The first couple of days at the program site will be devoted to orienting you to the city, clinical sites, transportation, and other logistical matters. Clinical rotations will usually take place during the day for 6 to 8 hours, five days a week, generally from 8 am to 4pm. Private transportation will be provided to and from clinical sites, both in Cape Town, as well as the rural rotation outside of Cape Town. Clinical rotation sites may include:

Elgin Learning Foundation (Rural Site)

CFHI Students will be placed at Elgin for 2 weeks, giving them a great rural comparison perspective. This opportunity will expose them to community-based health initiatives within a rural farming population. They will experience public and clinical health through rotations at a home based health care project, a step-down facility for the terminal ill, a home for children infected and affected with HIV and AIDS, and a health care clinic for workers:

Secondary Teaching Hospital (Victoria Hospital)

The hospital falls under the Provincial Health Department and the University of Cape Town; provides health services to insured and uninsured patients. The HIV clinics are run in surrounding community health centers and follow-up treatment or continued care happens at the regional hospitals. Participants will rotate in general surgery, pediatrics, casualty, general medicine, and in the HIV clinics. Each department has a head physician who will act as preceptors for the program.

Children’s Hospital (Trauma Unit)

Provides care to the children of Cape Town and serves as a regional and national referral base for many specialties. There are two operating theatres and three outpatient theatres. Participants will learn the various medical techniques used in pediatric trauma: radiological imaging, total body digital imaging, emergency ultrasound and abdominal sonography for trauma, and many others.

Excursions and Day Trips

Short excursions and day trips will be included during orientation week.

Orientation Week Sample Schedule:

  • Welcome barbecue (Braai)
  • Orientation Tour Cape Town- Township- District 6 Museum
  • Community Service Project
  • Site visit to local hospitals and meet and greet with preceptors
  • Tour of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held prisoner
  • Visit to Table Mountain
  • Peninsula Tour
  • Optional additional cost tour: Garden Route 

Program Alumni Video Project - Camerin Rencken (Garden Route)

Study Abroad Advisory of Student Risk

Participation in this UC Davis Study Abroad program requires travel to and extended living in a foreign location(s) abroad. UC Davis Study Abroad endeavors to reduce and mitigate risk wherever possible.  However, the environments and risks associated with living in these locations are substantially different than those found during a regular course of study at UC Davis. All participants must download and review the following information prior to departure. Any questions should be directed to the Program Coordinator.

Study Abroad General Risk Advisory

Program Specific Risk Advisories (PDF)

About South Africa

South African Currency: Rand

Language Spoken: In Cape Town the languages are generally Africaans and English (click here for a full list South Africa's eleven official languages)

Weather and Climate

Research Your Destination

Keeping in Touch

Since communication options can vary dramatically from country to country, Summer Abroad advises checking with the instructor or the Program Specific Guide for advice about what might be the best option for your particular program.

Calling the U.S. from Abroad

Many U.S.-based long distance phone companies provide special services that make it easy for you to phone home from abroad. Some provide toll-free access numbers that connect with an operator in the U.S. Some provide the means to charge long distance calls to a credit card or to a third party. Some provide better long distance rates. Others provide access to emergency, medical, legal, translation, and entertainment information. Students are encouraged to investigate these options before departure and to shop for the best services and rates.

Global Cell Phones

Most cell phone companies can sell you a special global cell phone with the option to add more minutes as needed. Also, most cell phone companies can unlock your cell phone for global use, but this requires a trip to a provider at your destination who will give you a SIM card and sell you minutes. Check with your cell phone provider for more information. Global cell phones are also available through travel agencies and online. Be sure to check the policies for both incoming and outgoing calls and text messages.

Cell Phone Rental

Some students choose to rent a cell phone that works at their destination. Some companies will ship the phone directly to the student in advance of the program dates—and include a packet for sending the phone back when they return. Interested students can locate service providers via the Internet.

Phone Cards

Many travel agencies and specific phone providers carry great options for phone cards. Check the rates available from your long distance provider. You can often buy phone cards on site.


Skype is a computer program that you can download for free that allows you to talk (for free) on the phone over the Internet with anyone else who has Skype. Go to to download the program. For an extra fee (as low as .02 cents/minute) you can enable your Skype to call land lines instead of just other computers. You will need a microphone and headset so that you can talk to the person on the other line. Skype also includes a chat option for instant messaging.

Instant Messaging Systems

Instant messaging systems are also a great free way to communicate with people back in the states. There are numerous options for messaging systems from AOL Instant Messenger to Yahoo Messenger. Just about every messaging program can be downloaded for free online.

Internet Access

Computer and internet access varies by program. Information for your site will be listed in your Program Specific Guide.

Internet access is offered in all the countries we go to, but the reliability of it differs from program to program. Internet can be accessed through internet cafes. Some programs also offer access through the dorms or on-campus computer labs. Internet cafes are very reasonably priced and often times have various instant messaging programs installed and headphones available to chat with loved ones. Relying on internet cafes may reduce worry of bringing your own laptop with you. You can upload pictures at most internet cafes, but remember due to the speed of some connections, it may be a better idea just to bring multiple memory cards to avoid spending your whole day on the computer.

Cultural Learning

Living in a new culture can be exhilarating, rewarding, and stimulating. It can also be frustrating. It is one thing to tour a country, but it is quite another to live and function according to different norms. It is important to be open toward a new culture, to try to discard stereotypes, and to learn as much as possible about the culture before departure. If you educate yourself about the country you will be visiting, you will better understand and appreciate your new surroundings!

Even with preparation it is likely that you will experience "culture shock." Recent studies show that there are distinct stages of culture shock. Some of these stages include: awareness of the host culture and preparation, initial euphoria and excitement, irritability phase during acclimation, gradual adjustment, and adaptation to culture. Upon return to the United States, many students face "reverse culture shock."

There are some things you can do to minimize your cultural adjustment. Keep a sense of humor! Treat yourself to an occasional U.S. indulgence like a favorite food, or purchase a U.S. magazine or newspaper. Avoid other Americans who are overly negative or who complain a lot. Keep healthy. Above all, don't be afraid to try new activities!

Resources for Further Study

Ethical Considerations in Study Abroad