Types of Housing
Programs that offer residence halls usually give you the option 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.
Just like Rochester dorms, remember that there are rules that you must follow when living in close proximity to others (e.g., quiet hours). Breaking these rules while abroad not only makes you a lousy roommate/hall-mate, but can also perpetuate negative stereotypes of Americans.
You're still subject to Rochester disciplinary action while abroad, 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 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.
Homestays require a high degree of cultural sensitivity and 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 culture of your host country, especially if you're sharing an apartment with other US 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, a challenging exercise in finding your way in your new environment.
You should be ready to pay a security deposit upon move-in. If you damage the apartment 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. In many countries (especially in Europe), apartment buildings may be many decades old and 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. The hotel industry may be far less developed and less regulated in your host country than it is in the US and 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 US. 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.