While You're Abroad
"Campus life" is generally a North 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 somewhere else, and eat your meals in a student restaurant. Generally, expect less planned or "pre-packaged" student life as well as fewer student clubs and organizations, social affairs, and organized sports than in the United States.
Talk to a peer advisor who studied in your host country for insights into student life. You can also complete the Your Host Country questionnaire as a way to think more deeply about the country you’ll be visiting.
Study abroad programs typically offer several housing options. You might live in a dorm with students from the host country, a homestay with a family, or an apartment with other students who are studying there.
If you are participating in a UR-sponsored program, you will be charged the standard Rochester 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 such optional housing are responsible for any additional costs.
Note: Housing standards in other countries may be different than what you're used to. Rooms may be smaller, buildings may be older, windows might be more drafty, or plumbing more fragile. Be flexible with your expectations and aware that housing arrangements may change prior to your arrival.
Few study abroad programs offer meal plans like the ones available on campus at Rochester. Your university or program may have a dining hall or a variety of on-campus eateries. You can also choose from a number of local restaurants. This can be a great way to try out the local cuisine, but it can also be an expensive way to feed yourself.
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. Program staff can give you advice about the best places to buy groceries, and your housing will often include kitchen facilities.
It is important to pay attention to the sanitary conditions wherever you eat. For example, the food stalls at the local farmer’s market might be cost-effective and culturally authentic, but they might also cause traveler’s diarrhea.
If you’re living in a homestay, your host family will typically provide at least one meal per day. This is a wonderful way to sample some home cooking typical of your host country. Sometimes it can also present awkward dilemmas that require you to balance sensitivity against dietary requirements. It’s important to be clear up front with your host family about any special dietary limitations you may have. That way, if you’re a vegetarian, your host family will know not to put chicken feet in your soup.
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.
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 one 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 some adjustment during your stay. After the initial excitement of being in a new place wears off, you may feel lonely, depressed, or homesick. For most, these feelings of homesickness fade as you get used to your new environment. But if you continue to feel depressed, it’s important to reach out to a friend, family member, or counselor for help.
The "What's Up With Culture?" website 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 thorough, informative, engaging, and interactive presentation about crossing cultural boundaries.
This is an essential crash course in cross-cultural communication and adjustment. If you find yourself at a low point while 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.