Here might be something of use for future fellows who might want to opt for the homestay option at DSIC:
What is the main purpose of staying in a traditional, Chinese home rather than the international hotel? Of course, it is to have more interaction with the natives and to observe a completely different culture.
However, this is not always guaranteed. Right now, I live around 35 minutes walking or 15 minutes biking from the school. There are no direct bus routes, so you would have to make several connections to get to class. As you can imagine, going to and from home is not that convenient.
In the morning, I wake up early and go over the previous night's homework and vocabulary. Then, I say my goodbyes to the host family. I stay at the school for most of the day (until 10ish) because everything and everybody is there. With one-on-ones (一对一) to do and language partners (语伴) to meet, I don't really have time to go home during the day. Plus, teachers' office hours are at night from 7PM-9PM. By the time I do get home, it is quite late, and all I can do is say my greetings to the family before they go to bed and I start my homework. As you can tell, my interaction with the family is not exactly where I want it to be.
I've talked to other students who are living outside the hotel. The ones whose houses are only a five minute walk away seem very happy. Once you get further than 10 or 15 minutes, it seems that the advantages cancel out the disadvantages to a point that the student is indifferent to the two options. Once you get even further than 15 minutes, the prominent attitude is slightly negative. Thus, it seems like distance from the school has an enormous impact of convenience and the amount of interaction you have with your hosts.
Some of it is definitely my fault. For example, I don't eat very often with the host family. Also, if I tried much harder, I feel like I could definitely make it home earlier some nights.
Am I going to stick with the host family option? With three weeks left in the program, I think so. However, if I had to choose again, I don't think I would make the same choice.