Summer Abroad Internships in California - On Site

UC Davis Study Abroad, Summer Internship Abroad USA, Immigrant and Refugee Health California Program, Header Image

USA—Immigrant and Refugee Health in California

This program offers unique insight into the intersections of health, health policy, civil society, and advocacy as they relate to vulnerable populations in the Bay Area and Central Valley. Students will broaden their understanding of determinants of health and develop competencies in health and public health, all while immersing in our local communities and learning from inspiring local efforts to address pressing health and socioeconomic challenges.

In the Bay Area, students will explore health and health services for vulnerable populations through visits, discussions, and community-engagement activities that include an introduction to the social model of health and an overview of vulnerable populations in the Bay Area with emphasis on services and programs for immigrant and refugee communities. Students will also explore human rights, health policy, and social justice through engagement with organizations focused on advocacy and social change through art, and legal and research centers focused on these issues.

In the Central Valley, students will focus on themes of health services for migrant communities and health policy, as well as sexual and reproductive health, vulnerable youth, and trafficking. Students will learn from engagement with local community health workers and promotoras in community-based and educational settings.


Bay Area: students are responsible for their own housing during the 2-week Bay Area portion of the program. Students will be responsible for arriving at a designated meeting point each morning to begin daily activities.

Central Valley: students will stay in a local home or guesthouse in the Fresno area for 10-12 nights and will stay at a small Inn in the town of Firebaugh for the concluding 2-4 nights of the program.


Bay Area: students are responsible for their own meals during the 2-week Bay Area portion of the program. CFHI will organize and provide one weekly reflection meal per week.

Central Valley: two meals or meal stipends per day will be provided during this portion of the program.

Sample Schedule

Public Health, relevant cultural/historical site visits and activities, and NGO/school placements and site visits will start on Monday after arrival (orientation sessions take place on Sunday after arrival) and usually take place in the mornings for 4 to 6 hours on Monday through Friday for the remaining four weeks. Some activities will take the full day, and activities will occasionally be scheduled on weekends.

Once per week, students will meet with the Program Coordinators to discuss their experiences. A lecture on a health related topics will also be provided by the Coordinator or arranged with other local experts. Students can use this time to discuss particular issues of interest, review their progress or bring up any concerns they may have.

Program sites include but are not limited to the following activities. Note that due to patient confidentiality laws, interaction with health facilities may consist of site visits, tours, on-site discussion, and/or observational shadowing:

State and NGO funded clinics serving refugees and immigrants

Various clinics providing affordable medical care and health education and affiliate services  for immigrants, asylees, refugees, and victims of trafficking. Additional programs offer free and low-cost healthcare services specifically to uninsured individuals.

Day Labor Programs

Offering services and advocacy/organizing support to ensure fair pay and treatment for immigrant workers.

Legal services network & Law Clinics

A network of partnering organizations that represent immigrants, offering free legal assistance and community education to low-income families.

Human Service Agencies, Department of Public Health

Offering public health services, job training, food, cash assistance, protection and safety from abuse, childcare, housing/shelter, health insurance, and other care/support for families and individuals lacking economic security.

Refugee Resettlement Programs
Assisting refugee families to become self-sufficient through services centered around developing life, job, English, and other skills.

University-based policy and research centers

San Francisco based institutions of higher education research, apply, and evaluate solutions to public health challenges. The focus is on strong community partnerships and connecting academic research, health policy, and community interventions.

Street revitalization projects, family-centered NGOs

Endeavoring to revitalize neighborhoods with high concentration of poverty through engagement with youth and families, create reproductive justice, food security, address teen pregnancy, and end sex trafficking. These NGOs offer health education, counseling, and support services for vulnerable populations. 

Rape Counseling Center

Offers 24/7 rape crisis response for low-income and primarily LatinX survivors of sexual violence.

Public High School

Serving a small, primarily LatinX town, this high school is a hub for community engagement, with teachers and administrators focused on educational opportunities (especially higher education) for students, and includes a newly-launched school clinic. 

Promotoras networks

Promotoras offer primary care as well as key information and insight to LatinX communities in the greater Fresno area. They are trusted community members and often do health promotion work as volunteers. In addition to offering health information, Promotoras offer a crucial support service to inform community members about how to navigate the healthcare system with medical/medicare, no insurance, and other scenarios. 

Excursions and Day Trips

Short excursions and day trips will be included throughout the program, integrated within the program to highlight the linkages between health, determinants of health, policy, art, advocacy, and more.

  • Welcome dinner at local restaurant
  • Food security activities (urban/rural comparative)
  • Tour and discussion of “Precita Eyes” mural
  • Dance class
  • Glide Memorial celebration and service learning activity
  • Site visits, lectures, discussions, and service-learning/community engagement activities at over 15 nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, clinics/hospitals, government offices, and more in the Bay Area and Central Valley
  • Weekly journal club meeting and discussion
  • Weekly “team” reflection meeting

About California

Bay Area: The San Francisco Bay Area encompasses a bonanza of natural vistas and wildlife. Cross the Golden Gate Bridge into Marin County and visit wizened ancient redwoods body-blocking the sun and herds of elegant tule elk prancing along the bluffs of Tomales Bay. Gray whales show some fluke off the cape of the wind-scoured Point Reyes peninsula, while hawks surf the skies in the shaggy hills of the Marin Headlands. Source: Lonely Planet.

Central Valley: The Central Valley is visible from space – a vast expanse of green between the Sierra Nevada and Pacific Ocean. The area is divided in two parts: the Sacramento Valley in the north and the San Joaquin Valley in the south. For millennia, the rivers cutting through these valleys flooded seasonally, creating extremely fertile soil. Today, those waterways are tamed by mighty public works projects that support massive agricultural endeavors. Half the produce in the US is grown in these valleys – including almost every almond, olive and bulb of garlic. Source: Lonely Planet.

Northern California Video

Weather and Climate

Weather - California

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