While You're Abroad
Study abroad programs typically offer several housing options. You might live in a dorm with students from the host country. Or, you might live in a homestay, with a family. Alternately, you may live in an apartment with other students who are studying there.
If you are participating in a UR-sponsored program, you will be charged the standard UR housing charge. This covers the basic housing level that the program offers, generally with one or two roommates. Some programs offer optional premium housing, but students who choose to take advantage of such optional housing are responsible for any additional costs.
Note: Housing standards in other countries may be different than what you're used to here. Specifically, rooms may tend to be smaller; buildings may be older; windows might be more drafty, or plumbing more fragile. Be flexible with your expectations and be aware that published housing arrangements may change prior to your arrival on the program.
Types of Housing
Dormitory life abroad will be quite familiar to UR students, given the residential structure of The College. Programs that offer residence halls will often afford you the opportunity to live near or with students from your host country. This is a great opportunity to get to know them. In-room cable TV and speedy Internet connections are not common overseas, so don't be surprised to find fewer such luxuries. Just as in the UR dorms, remember that there are rules that you must follow when living in such close proximity to others (e.g. quiet hours). When you break the rules in the UR dorms, you're a lousy roommate or hallmate and are subject to disciplinary action. When you break the rules abroad, in addition to being a lousy roommate/hallmate, you're an "Ugly American," and you're still subject to UR disciplinary action, including being removed from the program and sent home.
Homestays are a great way to get an intimate view of life in your host country, including practicing the language. Homestays are more common (and arguably more effective) in some countries than in others. Spain and Italy, for example, have a social structure that makes homestays quite feasible. Even there, homestays sometimes are more like a boarding arrangement, and you may see your host family regularly, but may not have extensive contact with them other than passing greetings. Students often fear that homestays will be too limiting, in terms of not being able to come and go as they please. It is true that homestays require a high degree of cultural sensitivity—indeed, that's precisely why they are an effective way to learn about your host country. This will require you to be respectful of when your host family eats meals and goes to bed. Moreover, you'll need to be sensitive to issues of food tastes, use of utilities and water, standards of timeliness, and financial issues. For example, if your host family is traveling to visit a historic site, be sure that it won't inconvenience them before inviting yourself along.
Apartments afford you a great deal of freedom while you're abroad, but they can also serve to isolate you from the people and the culture of your host country, especially if you're sharing an apartment with other U.S. students. Some programs arrange an apartment for you, which will be ready upon your arrival. Other programs require you to find your own apartment once you arrive in the country: this is a challenging exercise in finding your way in your new environs.
You may find that preparing your own meals in your apartment is a good way to budget your money (it costs less than eating out all the time). At the same time, you should challenge yourself to get out and meet the people of your host country, and to see the sites.
In any case, you should be prepared to pay a security deposit upon move-in. If you damage the apartment (or residence hall, or homestay) at all during your stay, be prepared to pay for those damages with your security deposit (and with additional payments, if necessary). If you leave your place of residence undamaged, your deposit will be refunded to you. Realize that in many countries (especially in Europe), apartment buildings may be many decades old, and plumbing may be even older. Take special care, as these facilities may be easily damaged.
Hotels, Hostels and Other Lodging
Most students spend part of the semester abroad staying in hotels and other lodging during travels. Many programs will house you temporarily in a hotel upon your arrival . Notice that the hotel industry may be far less developed and less regulated in your host country than it is in the U.S. The disadvantage is that you may find yourself in substandard accommodations if you're not careful (no elevators, less than pristine sanitary conditions, and thin walls are a few common pitfalls). The good news is that you may find lodging far more affordable than it is here in the U.S. For example, while you may not be able to find a room here for less than $35, you might be able to rent a decent room abroad for $20, or even less in some countries. Youth hostels are a great example of affordable housing for college students, and a good way to meet other travelers. Consider getting a Hostelling International Card before you go abroad. Of course, for the weak of heart, the sore of feet, or the well-to-do, you'll find Sheratons, Marriotts and better five-star hotels in most cities around the world.