Housing and Life Abroad
- Jump to:
- Housing overseas
- Housing for your return semester at UR
- Dining Plan Information
- Parking for your return semester at UR
- Daily life
- Local students
- Meeting people
- Culture shock
- Questions about your host country and culture
- Peer Advisers
- Related web sites
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. Finally, some programs arrange for you to spend part of the semester in one type of housing and the rest of the semester in another type. 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.
Whatever the housing arrangements on your program, remember that 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. So it's especially important to be flexible with your expectations. Also, be aware that published housing arrangements may change prior to your arrival on the program. Students participating in University of Rochester programs are required to live in program housing (standard double-occupancy rooms).
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.
While your housing abroad may sometimes serve as a refreshing retreat from your new surroundings, remember that it is not an oasis of American life. You're still a guest in the country, even when you're in your own living space. Be respectful of your neighbors, and of your landlord or host family.
Important Information from Residential Life
Your housing contract and room assignment will be canceled and room charges deleted when Residential Life receives official notification that you are officially going on a study abroad program. Once this occurs, that room is no longer available even if you change your mind at a later date about going abroad.
It is ok to submit a housing contract for the room draw if you were not sure whether you will be accepted to a study abroad program or if you are unsure about whether you are going. However, please realize that if you decide to go abroad, this can affect your friends in suites and apartments. We will not be able to keep your room vacant for the fall semester due to very heavy demands for housing for the fall semester. Please advise your suitemates that a person will be assigned to the vacancy – this may affect their strategy for the upcoming room draw.
Many students elect to form suites or apartments where there is a student who is planning to go abroad for spring semester 2012 and a student returning from a fall study abroad 2011 can replace them in the suite. In this particular case, Residential Life will work with you to try to make this happen successfully.
No Storage Available
Residential Life does not have any available storage. If you need information about local storage facilities, check your Area Office or come to the Office for Residential Life, 020 Gates for details.
Housing When you Return:
For students going abraod for fall semester only:
The Office of Residential Life will be emailing information to you in late October-early November regarding spring semester 2012 housing. We no longer send the information to parents-we ask that you forward the information and link to your parents if you wish them to take care of your housing submission. Please be sure the Study Abroad Office has your abroad email address as soon as possible-we rely upon them for this information. Students may mail or fax the housing contract to the Office for Residential Life. You need to be aware that is it highly unlikely that you will be returning to a single room for spring semester 2012. Priority for available singles goes first to currently housed (fall 2011) students who have requested room changes throughout the fall semester. If there are any singles remaining after room changes are made, then Study Abroad students will be considered for them based on class year (seniors first, then juniors, then sophomores) and the date the contract was received. When housing returning Study Abroad students in double rooms, Residential Life tries to place students with like-class year students whenever possible.
For students abroad for the entire year:
The Office for Residential Life will be emailing Room Drawing information to you in late February/early March 2012. Please be sure the Study Abroad Office has your email address as soon as possible - we rely upon them their information. Students may mail or fax the housing contract to the Office for Residential Life. Students have the opportunity to designate which lotteries they wish to participate in and to designate a proxy to act on their behalf they should so choose. It is possible to be included in a suite of your best friends or in a special interest housing group (greek or non-greek). Details on how to do this will be included in this mailing.
Many students elect to form suites or apartments where there is a student who is planning to go abroad for spring semester 2012 and a student returning from a fall 2011 study abroad can replace them in the suite. In this particular case, Residential Life will work with you to try to make this happen successfully.
If students have specific questions, they can be addressed this week in the discussion portion of this course or by contacting the Office for Residential Life at 5-3166 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dining Plan Information
Students abroad are not required to purchase a UR meal plan during their time abroad. You will need to purchase a meal plan when you return from your time abroad.
For a full description of the University’s selection of dining plans, please refer to the Dining Options publication, visit the University Dining Services Web site at www.rochester.campusdish.com, visit the Customer Service/ID Office, or call the office at (585) 275-3975 or (800) 661-1118 or email at email@example.com.
DINING PLAN CHANGES AND CANCELLATIONS
Important Note: Students studying abroad for the spring semester do not need to cancel their dining plan for the spring semester. Dining services will refund any spring dining charges to the bursar bill once official notification is received that you are on Study Abroad Status.
Fall and spring dining plan changes and cancellations are permitted only during the designated change periods.
A $25 fee is charged for any plan-level decrease or cancellation that is requested during any modification period except the October open modification period. Parents or legal guardians cannot make dining plan changes/cancellations for the participant. Changes or cancellations must be submitted via the Dining Plan Change/Cancellation form. Phone or oral requests are not accepted. Changes or cancellations must be made at the Customer Service/ID Office in Susan B. Anthony Halls.
The Meal Plan Change period for the fall semester begins 9/6/11 and ends on 9/16/11. The Open meal plan change period for the spring semester is the first full week of November (11/7/11-11/11/11). The Late meal plan change period for the spring semester starts 1/23/12 and ends 1/27/12.
Club Meal and Declining Plans
Unused fall semester declining balance dollars carry forward to the spring semester. Remaining declining balance dollars at the close of the spring semester are nonrefundable.
Refunds of unused declining balance will be issued for any participant who withdraws from the University or whose status changes to inactive during a semester, as certified by Academic Support, the Registrar’s Office, or the appropriate dean. Refunds will be credited through the University’s Bursar account. Club Meal Plan costs are also credited through the University’s Bursar statement and are subject to proration based upon the official date of cancellation.
URos Account balances will carry over from year to year, or until your permanent departure from the University of Rochester. Refunds for unused balances of $20 or more will be issued for any participant who withdraws from the University during the semester, as certified by Academic Support, the Registrar's Office or the appropriate dean. Refunds will be credited through the University's Bursar account. Should you withdraw or resign from the University at the close of a semester or upon graduation, any unused balance of $20 or more will be refunded to you.
DINING PLAN EXEMPTIONS
Participants requesting exemption from dining plan requirements must request and submit a Dining Plan Exemption and Change Appeal Form to the Customer Service/ID Office in Susan B. Anthony Halls. The request will then be forwarded to the University Dining Advisory Committee. Requests for exemption for religious reasons will be reviewed with appropriate University authorities. They will make recommendations to the committee.
Exemptions for special dietary needs or medical reasons must be submitted in letter format from the participant’s medical doctor on the physician’s letterhead. This request should be mailed to: University Health Services, 250 Crittenden Blvd, c/o Dr. Ralph Manchester, P.O. Box 617 Rochester, NY 14624.
For all such requests, we ask that the student provide a description of the special diet that needs to be followed due to his/her medical condition. The request will be reviewed, and recommendations will be made to the University Dining Advisory Committee. Decisions of the University Dining Advisory Committee are final. Only one exemption per participant will be considered in a semester.
Few study abroad programs offer meal plans such as those that are available on campus at UR. Your university or program may have a dining hall (as is often the case in Australian residential colleges, for instance) or—more commonly—a variety of on-campus eateries. However, in many cases, you’ll have a greater degree of independence and flexibility in planning your meals. You may be able to choose from a number of local restaurants. This can be a great way to try out the local cuisine, but it can also be a very expensive way to feed yourself, depending on the cost of living and the caliber of the restaurant. Also, pay attention to the sanitary conditions wherever you eat. For example, the food stalls at the local farmer’s market might be very cost-effective and culturally authentic, but they might also serve up a sure recipe for traveler’s diarrhea (see the section on “Health Care While Studying Abroad” for more on this topic).
In many cases, your best bet will be to prepare your own meals. This is usually the most affordable option, and a good way to stay within your budget. It may sound intimidating if you’re accustomed to relying on a Platinum Plan here on campus, but most students find cooking and food shopping an exciting aspect of overseas living. Your program staff can give you advice about the best places to buy groceries (don’t expect to find a Wegman’s nearby), and your housing will often include kitchen facilities. Particularly if you’re staying with other students, it makes sense to share meals and take turns cooking. Preparing your own meals allows you to regulate the sanitary conditions of your food preparation. So, for example, you can avoid raw vegetables if you’re not confident about the quality of the water used to wash them. And while you might be able to find boil-and-serve comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, you can experiment with local delicacies, too.
Last but not least, if you’re living in a homestay, your host family will typically provide at least one meal per day. This, of course, is a wonderful way to sample some home cooking typical of your host country. Sometimes it can also present awkward dilemmas which require you to balance sensitivity against dietary requirements. It’s important to be clear up front about any special dietary limitations you may have. That way, if you’re a vegetarian, your host mother will know not to put chicken feet in your soup. Also, your program staff will usually provide the host families with guidelines for food preparation, since foods that seem ordinary to them might present gastronomical challenges for someone newly arrived in the country.
The Parking Office holds a lottery for Resident Student parking permits in the spring before students leave for summer break. Students studying abroad during the fall semester will participate in this lottery. For those students who will be abroad during the spring semester, the registration form for the lottery will be emailed to you while you are abroad. This will enable you to join your classmates for the space allocation for the upcoming academic year. This space allocation is done by seniority. Permit prices are included and payment must be made by the specified date to hold the space for the following school year. If for some reason you do not receive the emailing and need parking for the following year you may contact the parking office at (585) 275-3983 or mail 109 Fauver Stadium, University of Rochester NY 14627 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Campus life" is generally an American concept, with the exception of some British universities. Buildings are often in the heart of a city, and may be scattered over a considerable area, separated from each other by residences, restaurants, and shops. You may live in one part of the city, attend classes in another part, work in the library somewhere else, and eat your meals in a student restaurant. You will participate in everyday city life: mass transportation, pollution, strikes, impersonal attitudes, different gender issues, etc. Generally, expect less planned or "pre-packaged" student life, fewer clubs, fewer social affairs, and fewer organized sports than in the United States. An exception to the above rule would be universities in smaller cities, so this might affect your choice of where to study. On the other hand, study in a larger city will offer greater varieties of independent cultural and social activities.
Most study abroad programs do not have a full array of student service offices, but all have a program director or site administrator. This person variously serves the roles of academic adviser, residence hall director, counselor, and tour guide, and will be an invaluable resource throughout the course of your program. Get to know your program director.
There are study abroad programs in over 100 countries, so it is impossible to generally characterize the local students you might encounter. In some countries, the host country students you encounter will have gone through a more specialized system of education. As a result, they tend to be somewhat older and better prepared to meet the academic demands of their university education.
Most likely they will have begun studying their major subject earlier than their American counterparts, so expect them to have a much more extensive knowledge of the subject. They may seem more serious, tending to act with formality and reserve, even among their peers. It is conceivable that you might sit next to a local student in class for a year without ever striking up a conversation. On the other hand, in other location, local students may be surprisingly like the American students you are used to.
Students in your host country will be politically knowledgeable; work on improving your own knowledge of history and politics of the United States and of the host country before you go. We recommend reading The Economist, Washington Post, Asian Wall Street Journal, or The International Herald Tribune, all of which can be found in the Messinger Periodical Reading Room at Rush Rhees Library. Many newspapers and news magazines have Internet sites. You can access them at http://news.yahoo.com.
Class schedules on study abroad programs are often organized differently than those at UR. For instance, classes may meet only once each week for three hours at a time. In many cases, the class may involve fewer exams and quizzes than at the University of Rochester. At the same time, expect to do more independent learning.
Talk to Peer Advisers who studied in the countries you are considering. They will be able to give you more insight into host country student life.
In many societies, particularly in western Europe, it not as easy to make friends as in the United States. For example, the concept of a "friend" is quite distinct from the concept of an "acquaintance." It takes months to make a "friend," but once a friendship is formed, it will last a lifetime.
If you are living with a family, your relationship will typically start off as that between boarder and landlord/landlady. It will be up to both of you to create something more than the initial, formal relationship. It may take time to adjust to the customs and habits of the family and to develop a warm relationship. Be patient: it does happen, but it takes time and flexibility.
Be prepared to undergo a fairly typical adjustment cycle during your stay; in other words, expect some ups and downs. You'll start out with a great deal of excitement; the host country seems to be the most fantastic place on earth, and you will be high with enthusiasm. After a while, the novelty will wear off, and you may feel lonely, frustrated, depressed, homesick, and irritable. You will complain about everything and everyone; you may wish you had never left home and long to be back in Rochester. Don't worry! Things will get better. The petty frustrations will disappear. As you complete your adjustment cycle, you will come to accept and then to enjoy everything, including the academics, food, drinks, habits, and customs of the host country. By the end of the term, you may not want to leave, and you will try to figure out how to get back again as soon as possible.
Some required reading on Culture Shock:
The "What's Up With Culture?" web site was created by Dr. Bruce LaBrack, an anthropologist at the University of the Pacific in California. It is specifically designed for students traveling abroad. It is a wonderfully thorough, informative, engaging and interactive presentation about crossing cultural boundaries. If you're majoring in anthropology, you may already be familiar with some of this material; for all students, this is an essential crash course in cross-cultural communication and adjustment. If you find yourself at a low point when you're abroad, refer back to this site: it can help you understand some of the cultural complexities that may be making your life difficult.
Questions About Your Host Country and Culture
Take a proactive approach to encountering difference in your host country. These questions are designed to help spark your curiosity about the country, to direct your reading and research, and to sharpen your knowledge. How many can you answer? Once you arrive overseas, you might use them to fill a quiet moment with your host family, or to strike up a conversation at a pub.
- How many people can you name who are prominent in the affairs (politics, athletics, religion, the arts, etc.) of your host country?
- Who are the country's national heroes and heroines?
- Are other languages spoken besides the dominant language? What are the social and political implications of language usage?
- What things are taboo in this society? How do people greet one another? Shake hands? Embrace or kiss? How do they leave one another? What does any variation from the usual greeting or leave-taking signify?
- Can you recognize the national anthem?
- What are the most common forms of marriage ceremonies and celebrations?
- What is the attitude toward divorce? extra-marital relations? plural marriages?
- What is the attitude toward gambling?
- What is the attitude toward drinking?
- Is the price asked for merchandise fixed or are customers expected to bargain? How is the bargaining conducted?
- If, as a customer, you touch or handle merchandise for sale, will the storekeeper think you are knowledgeable, inconsiderate, within your rights, completely outside your rights? Other?
- How do people organize their daily activities? What is the normal meal schedule? Is there a daytime rest period? What is the customary time for visiting friends?
- On what occasions would you present (or accept) gifts from people in the country? What kinds of gifts would you exchange?
- Do some flowers have a particular significance?
- What are the important holidays? How is each observed?
- How are children disciplined at home?
- Are children usually present at social occasions? At ceremonial occasions? If they are not present, how are they cared for in the absence of their parents?
- How does society observe children's "coming of age?"
- What is the predominant religion? Is it a state religion?
- What are the most important religious observances and ceremonies? How regularly do people participate in them?
- How do members of the predominant religion feel about other religions?
Food and Entertainment:
- What foods are most popular and how are they prepared?
- If you are invited to dinner, should you arrive early, on time or late? If late, how late?
- What is the usual dress for women? For men? Are slacks or shorts worn? If so, on what occasions?
- What are the favorite leisure and recreational activities?
- What sports are popular?
- What kinds of television programs are shown?
- What are the special privileges of age and/or sex?
- What are the minority groups in your host country? Are you a minority in that country?
- What are men's, women's, and minorities' roles (social, professional, religious, etc.) in your host country?
- Do men, women, and minorities have equal opportunity/protection under the law?
- Do men, women, and minorities have the same educational opportunities? Job opportunities?
- Do women and minorities serve in the military?
- Do women work outside the home?
- What type of leadership roles do women and minorities hold?
- How do men treat local women? American women?
- How does your host country view minorities within the country and elsewhere?
- Are pay scales equal for men, women, and minorities?
- Is there a women's rights or civil rights movements?
- Are there special concerns/issues that women and minorities should be aware of before they study abroad in your host country?
- Where do women and minorities fall within the social hierarchy?
- What kind of local public transportation is available? Do all classes of people use it?
- Who has the right of way in traffic: vehicles, animals or pedestrians?
- Is military training compulsory?
- Are the largest circulation newspapers generally friendly in their attitude toward the United States?
- What is the history of the relationships between this country and the U.S.?
- How many people have emigrated from this country to the United States? Other countries? Are many doing so at present?
- What kinds of health services are available?
- What are the common home remedies for minor ailments? Where can medicines be purchased?
- Is education free? Compulsory?
- What kinds of schools are considered best: public, private, parochial?
- Where are the important universities of the country? If university education is sought abroad, to what countries and universities do students go?
These students studied abroad recently, and are an excellent source of detailed information about student life overseas. They will be able to answer questions about topics such as: packing, making friendships abroad, dating, culture shock, travel arrangements, gender roles, differences in instructional methods & study techniques, advice on learning foreign languages, and how to research the history, culture and current events of your host country. If you have questions about your study abroad plans such as: "What should I pack?" or "What can I expect from my program?" email a study abroad returnee at: email@example.com
Your fellow students are your best resource for these types of questions. Click the link above to send a message and a study abroad returnee will respond to you directly!
Related Web Sites
U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT TRAVEL
U.S. TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm (List of items permitted and prohibited on U.S. flights)
EUROPEAN TRAIN SCHEDULES
GENERAL TRAVEL INFORMATION:
http://www.travel-library.com/ (Rec Travel Library)
GENERAL DESTINATION DATABASES:
http://www.virtualtourist.com/vt/ (Virtual Tourist)
LANGUAGE AND CULTURAL INFORMATION:
http://www.travlang.com/languages/ (foreign languages for travelers)
http://www.about-australia.com/about.htm (About Australia)
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/australasia/adelaide/ (LP: Adelaide)
THE CZECH REPUBLIC:
http://www.czechsite.com/ (The Czech Republic)
http://www.sispain.org/english/politics/index.html (Everything About Spanish Politics)
http://www.red2000.com/spain/madrid/index.html (Madrid by All About Spain)
http://www.softguides.com/index_madrid.html (Softguide Madrid)
http://www.ukonline.com/ (U.K. Online)
http://www.londontown.com/ (The Official Internet Site for London)
http://www.virtual-london.com/ (Virtual London)
http://www.britainusa.com/ (Britain USA: the web site of the British Embassy in the U.S.)