Students on SRAS programs in Irkutsk can choose between dormitory stays and homestays. See the invidual program pages for details. The reviews below of the Irkutsk dormitories and Irkutsk homestays are meant to help students make their decisions and prepare for their time abroad.
Dormitories in Irkutsk
Katya Grigerman (Summer, 2019): I was staying in the dorm. About half of the students in the program were in the dorm while the other half were in homestays. The dorm had five floors, and each floor was one long hallway with 10 rooms, two bathrooms, and two kitchens. Each room had two beds, and two closets, a fridge, a hot water boiler, a closet, and a little drawer. The bathrooms had two toilets, a shower, and two sinks in each one, and the kitchen was a full kitchen with an oven, stove, sink, and some dishes. The Internet worked great; it was fast, and was always working. Unfortunately for the summer students, they were doing construction on the dorm building during the summer, but that just means its going to look great for future students! Overall, the dorm was very livable, but its not the ritz.
Katya Grigerman (Summer, 2019): The location of the dorm was extremely convenient! It was only a five-minute walk from the busses, and several stores and restaurants. There was a little strip mall one block away that had a few food stalls, a pharmacy, a beer store, and a restaurant. The bus would take about 15-20 minutes to get to the university, and about 10 minutes to get to the trendy quarter.
Katherine Grigerman (Summer, 2019): The dorm had a kitchen, but I rarely used it (lack of kitchen tools and also it wasn’t a very pleasant cooking environment). Near the dorm there are several places to get food though. There are two Slata’s (the main grocery chain in Irkutsk), and they also have a lot of ready-made food there. They also have microwaves, so you can heat up the food that you get there. Also near the dorms are several food stands, including shashlik and shwarma. And finally, there are several restaurants, a Chinese one about a block away, and then several others by the bank about a 10 minute walk.
Katherine Grigerman (Summer, 2019): I wouldn’t say that living in the dorms made it easy to meet people, but I don’t think that living in a homestay would have made it better. There were not that many people living in the dorm, besides the six of us living there, there were a few other international students staying there.
Homestays in Irkutsk
Students on SRAS programs in Irkutsk can chose between dormitory stays and homestays. See the invidual program pages for details.
Irkutsk homestays include two meals per day and are generally 10-50 minutes away from classes by public transport. Homestays in Irkutsk vary, sometimes housing you with a family and sometimes with a single, older person. In all cases, however, your host(s) will be experienced and ready to include you in coversations and daily life. Home stays are a phenomenal way to boost your Russian language and immerse yourself in the local culture.
Our Homestay Experiences (Summer, 2014)
By Mary Locke
Many students study abroad and each will have a unique experience. In my opinion, the opportunity to live with a host family when in Irkutsk is not to be missed. Some programs allow students to stay in dormitories, where they can interact with other students, or in apartments where they can really live in the city, but neither of these options are as meaningful as a host family experience. Living with a host family in Irkutsk has been amazing.
The following will introduce you to the experience that I and my fellow American students had while studying in Irkutsk.
My classmate Selene Palamo, of NewYork, NY says that she loves the home-made Russian food. She has been able to eat everything from pelmeni to stuffed calamari to blini all of which her Babushka makes fresh for her.
I agree that it’s great to have real Russian food. My host family cooks for us every night, and in addition to the “normal” Russian foods, we eat foods that aren’t eaten in other parts of Russia. Because of the proximity to the Republic of Buryatia and Mongolia, these cultures are influences in Irkutsk cuisine. Pozi/Buuzi are a sort of dumpling native tothis area that my host family has made for me. I’ve also been served Omul, a fish native to nearby Lake Baikal.
“I’d say it definitely improves your Russian exponentially [tolivewithahostfamily], and once you’re comfortable speaking with and understanding each other you can really start to talk about issues. I learned a lot about Russian schooling and their views on history by talking to my host mother,” Says Cam Duval, Framingham, MA.
Sitting in the kitchen and just talking after dinner has taught me more words than I can imagine. Even just listening to the family at first helps with pronunciation. I’ve learned a lot of slang being in a household where words that aren’t taught in class are spoken. In Irkutsk, not as many people speak English as in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In some families the only way to communicate at all is to speak Russian, forcing you to learn the language.
Lizzy Smith,of Tichonderoga, NY has really appreciated her host brother’s humor. Living with a Russian family, you pick up on jokes you might not otherwise.
Lauren Woods, Latham, NY says she loves the new experiences she gets to have. For example, she was able to celebrate Russian Easter with her host family and experience the holiday in a whole new way. They painted eggs in the Ukrainian fashion and spent the weekend at her host family’s dacha. Living in a dorm doesn’t usually offer the same “family” experience of the holidays.
Lacey Reimer, of Plainfiew, NY believes that living with a family makes it harder to hang out with only other Americans, therefore forcing her to speak and learn more Russian.
My own “host siblings” have offered a portal in the world of young people in Irkutsk. They introduce me to their friends, bring me rollerblading, and teach me how young Russians interact. If I was living in a dormitory, I fear that I would likely be living with other Americans and speaking English.
Kyle Tevlin, Billings, MT told me that living in a host family offers him a more personal support system for dealing with culture shock, home sickness, and other similar problems.
In Irkutsk, people are very family oriented, and so the family really does become yours.
Lucy Miller, of Loudonville, NY says, “You get to witness the culture first hand [living in a host family]. The customs are apparent when in a family, who see it as their daily routine. The holidays are a big factor in this; Easter was completely different here than back home.”
It is my observation that families in Irkutsk often have cars because people like to leave the city travel around the area. One day my family took my roommate and me on an impromptu trip to a nearby town for lunch and a day on the lake.
At the end of the day, living with a host family is an opportunity that rarely happens at any other time in life besides during study abroad. Throughout our lives, most of us will live in dorms or apartments, but it is a rare thing to live with a foreign family and be treated as one of their own. I’ve experienced great food, a drastic improvement in language skills, extra sets of eyes to teach me about Irkutsk, a home base, and so much more. I wouldn’t trade my home stay for any other type of living.