Living in a Russian home often proves to be one of the most rewarding aspects of a student's time in Russia. Homestays do not simply provide a window into Russian reality; they allow students to be full participants in that reality. Through the constant, informal contact that homestay situations provide, students tend to make great strides in their Russian language and gain insight into Russian culture that "visiting" Americans rarely obtain. In the best situations, they leave Russia with a new мама or бабушка, with whom they remain in contact for years to come.
All homestay placements are made in hospitable, Russian-speaking environments, where students are able to live a truly Russian lifestyle. Hosts are selected exclusively through personal acquaintances of the host university and of the School in Russia. Although many families have hosted students in the past, new hosts are screened and added each year.
The compositions of host families and the locations of apartments vary from site to site, and within individual cities. Some hosts may be young or middle-aged couples, while others will be single mothers with children or widows (бабушки) who wish to host a visiting student. In some cities, particularly Moscow, there may be a lengthy commute between home and the university. An hour-long commute is common, but it is worth keeping in mind that by Moscow standards this is quite reasonable and that commutes of up to an hour and a half are common for many Muscovites.
Students are placed in individual homes by School in Russia staff, based on information provided in a post-acceptance Housing Questionnaire. Care is taken to place students according to individual needs (dietary, health, etc.), and when possible, personal preferences are also taken into account.
Each student is given his or her own room in the host apartment, with linens provided. Board includes breakfast and dinner on weekdays and three meals per day on weekends. (In Moscow only, students now have a choice between receiving board from the family or cooking for themselves.)
In order to maintain authenticity in the host family environment, the School in Russia does not make any other material demands on the hosts. Certain hosts may have amenities like washing machines or computers, but since these items are not always found in normal Russian households, not all hosts will have them.
Students will withdraw rubles in Russia and pay their hosts directly at the beginning of each month.