Summer Internship in Hawaii - On Site

UC Davis Study Abroad, Summer Internship Abroad USA, Community Health & Native Healing in Hawaii Program, Header Image, On Site Page

USA—Holistic Healing in Hawaii

The Island of Hawai‘i is home to approximately 189,000 inhabitants. The biggest island of the archipelago state of Hawaii, it is also known as the “Big Island”. The great king Kamehameha, who united most of the Hawaiian Islands under his rule in 1795, hails from Hawaii, giving the island chain its name. Most of the island’s economy is based on tourism, mostly based on the western coast, or agriculture.

According to the Hawai‘i Island Beacon Community Report, “Access to healthcare services is limited by geography, lack of comprehensive public transportation and critical health shortages.” The Big Island’s population has the highest cardiovascular death rates in the state. It also has higher obesity and smoking rates and more adults suffering from diabetic complications than in the rest of the state. Lack of access to jobs for young people has led to a high rate of involvement in the drug trade.


Participants will be lodged at a local home or guest house in Waimea. Lodging is chosen and screened by the CFHI Local Coordinator. Please note that the accommodations may or may not include facilities such as air conditioning, and internet. UC Davis reserves the right to change the accommodation location. Should this be necessary, we will arrange comparable lodging. 


2 meals a day are included on this 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.

Students present their work and experiences at a closing meeting attended by community members and others at the end of the program.

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:

Keakelahe High School

Kealakehe High opened its doors in August 1997, welcoming its first 9th grade class (class of 2001), with a student enrollment of 407 students. Currently, the enrollment hovers around 1,600 (9th-12th grade). The school is in the district of Kona on the island of Hawai’i and is built on 50 acres of land located in the Kealakehe “ahupua’a”. The “ahupua’a” is an ancient Hawaiian land division system which contained strips of land that extended from the mountain to the sea. Located in West Hawaii, Kealakehe serves a geographic district approximately 40 miles wide, encompassing the communities of Kailua-Kona, Holualoa, Waikoloa, and Puako and is the largest geographic school district in the state. Over 77% of the student body is made up of underserved minorities, which include Hawaiians, Hispanics, Polynesians and Asians.

Project Vision Hawaii

Project Vision Hawai`i has the only mobile health screening programs in Hawai`i that provide statewide services in communities with significant access-to-care challenges related to income, lack of insurance, geographical location, or cultural conflict. To date, Project Vision Hawai`i has provided free medical screening services to more than 55,000 patients across the state, including high populations of seniors, children from low-income families, immigrants, and individuals with disabilities.

West Hawaii Community Health Center

West Hawaii Community Health Center delivers patient-centered health care on the Big Island of Hawaii. Their mission is to make quality, comprehensive, and integrated health services accessible to all, regardless of income. They focus on offering services that are culturally sensitive and promote community well-being through the practice of malama pono (caring for others in a way that is right). As a Federally Qualified Health Center, the center receives 10% of its operating funds from the Federal Bureau of Primary Health Care. This funding assists in bringing comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary health care to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations.

Hamakua-Kohala Health

Hamakua-Kohala Health adheres to the model of the Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) and were awarded National Recognition in 2015 by the NCQA HKH PCMH Recognition the National Committee for Quality Assurance, placing patients at the center of the healthcare system, and providing comprehensive primary and preventative healthcare to persons of all ages, that is “accessible, affordable, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective.” Services for the low-income, uninsured and under-insured are provided on a Sliding Fee Scale that is based on family income and size. Hamakua-Kohala Health provides primary and preventative healthcare regardless of their ability to pay or health insurance status.

Tutu’s House

Tutu’s House strives to offer affordable access to interactive, experiential, and informative health-related activities and inspiring opportunities to make the best choices for their own circumstances. All activities are free to the community. Activities include support groups for seniors and individuals experiencing health challenges, as well as community-building and craft activities.

Ulu Mau Puanui

Ulu Mau Puanui is a non-profit 501c3 organization formed for research and educational purposes to discover and understand how Hawaiians sustained rain-fed (unirrigated) intensive farming for centuries; and how it may inform current efforts to live sustainably. Ulu Mau Puanui manages the gardens at Puanui, provides educational programs and collaborates with various educational and cultural organizations that provide learning opportunities for students, teachers, families and community. 

Hamakua Youth Foundation, Inc.

The Hamakua Youth Foundation, Inc. (HYF) is a grassroots community organization dedicated to creating nurturing, stimulating and enjoyable youth-centered, after-school, occasional weekend, and summer programs for youth of the Hamakua District. Guided by Hawaiian traditions and values, the Hamakua Youth Center engages local youth in leadership training, environmental stewardship, music, visual arts, recreational activities, and exploration of the many cultures represented in the area.

Paniolo Pediatric & family Medicine

Paniolo is a private practice providing a wide range of healthcare from birth through infancy, childhood and adolescence. From counseling for behavioral problems, to treating infectious illnesses, Paniolo Pediatrics offers a professional, caring and empathetic approach to children and families on the Big Island.

Excursions and Day Trips

Short excursions and day trips will be included throughout the program, integrated within the program to highlight the linkages in Hawaiian culture between culture, tradition, history, the environment, and health.

  • Welcome dinner
  • Lectures about Hawaiian history and culture
  • Classes at local community center and Polynesian dance academy
  • Guided visit to Kohala Center for research and conservation
  • Guided visit to Mauna Kea beach
  • Traditional Healing Workshop by the Pe’Ahe Education Group
  • Keck astronomy observatory

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 Hawaii Island, Hawaii

Hawaii island the largest island located in the U.S. state of Hawaii. It is the largest and the southeastern-most of the Hawaiian Islands, a chain of volcanic islands in the North Pacific Ocean. With an area of 4,028 square miles (10,430 km2), it is larger than all of the other islands in the archipelago combined and is the largest island in the United States. However, it only has 13% of Hawaii's people.

Hawaiian Currency: US Dollar
Language Spoken: Hawaii is the only American state to have two official languages: English and Hawaiian. However, a 3rd unofficial language is also widely spoken- Pidgin- which is a slang combining words from many aspects of island life and culture.

Weather and Climate

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