Summer Internships in South Africa - On Site

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South Africa—Hospital Medicine & Infectious Disease

Experience Durban, the heart of Kwa-Zulu Natal province in South Africa, and the heartland of Zulu culture. This dynamic city of over three-million people is South Africa’s second most populous city, as well as the preferred destination for warm subtropical weather and beaches. South Africa has made great strides towards improving the lives of the black population by focusing funds and effort on improving sanitation, education, employment and access to quality healthcare. Despite great efforts, the repressive legacy of Apartheid and the HIV/AIDS and TB pandemics have continued to overburden the fledging healthcare system.

Globally, of the 35 million people currently living with HIV, a daunting 71% are in Sub-Saharan Africa. South Africa has the world’s largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS, and the Kwa-Zulu Natal province was the epicenter of this epidemic. Adding to the clinical activities, students will become immersed in the local culture by living with local homestay families and learn more about the vibrant Zulu culture.


Participants will be placed with a South African family in a middle class suburban neighborhood in Durban about a 20 minute drive from downtown. Most homestays are Zulu and this will allow for a deeper immersion into the culture and a better understanding of South Africa. Participants will be sharing housing with another student in the program.

All homestays are located within walking distance to one another and there are several stores and a minimarket offering Internet, laundry and basic goods within 10 minute walking distance.


2 meals a day.


Students must fly into Durban, South Africa. On-site, 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 2 or 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 4 to 6 hours, five days a week, generally from 8 am to 2 pm. Clinical rotations will start after the first week of orientation. For 3 weeks, participants will split their time between a local state hospital and a non-profit missionary hospital in a semi-rural area of Durban. For 1 week, participants will rotate at a local hospice, a primary health clinic and the ARV clinic at a local non-profit facility. Clinical rotation sites include: 

Tertiary Public Hospital

The oldest and second largest hospital in South Africa and is the main teaching hospital for the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Nelson Mandela Medical School. Services include pediatrics, neonatal ICU, general surgery, emergency and trauma units, and an ARV clinic.

Parochial Hospital

Located in a semi-rural area of Durban, the hospital was established by Trappist monks who had previously operated out of mud huts. The hospital provides primary health care, OB/GYN, and comprehensive treatment for HIV/AIDS patients.


The facility offers respite care for those in the final stages of chronic disease. It has an eight bed in-care center, home based caretakers, and a day care center for adults and children; mainly serves an Indian population consisting of low and middle income patients. Students will learn alongside nurses providing home based care and gain insight to understanding how to provide effective patient care for those facing life limiting or life threatening illnesses.

HIV Clinic

Is a not for profit care center that provides antiretroviral treatment, psychosocial support, legal advice, meal services, and prevention through outreach touching upon substance abuse, nutrition programs, and youth development. Students will learn about a holistic approach to care through observation in the clinic, as well as home care visits and participation in outreach programs

Excursions and Day Trips

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

Orientation Week Sample Schedule

  • Tour of clinics and hospitals where students will be rotating
  • Double Decker Durban City Tour Visit to valley of a thousand hills, includes visit to a traditional Zulu village where students can witness traditional Zulu dance and learn more about ancient rites.
  • Full day Safari
  • Cat Rehab Center: An up close and personal tour to learn more about South Africa’s endangered wildcat species
  • Hippo & Croc Boat Cruise safari in St. Lucia to observe hippos, Nile crocodiles and hundreds of bird species.
  • Umlazi Township, including a visit to orphanage that takes care of children who were orphaned as a result of the parents dying from HIV/AIDS
  • Orientation Dinner

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 Durban, the languages are generally Zulu 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