I remember when I was in St. Petersburg last summer, the Russian tour guides were stunned to hear how much a year of college tuition cost in the U.S. The ruble hasn't done very well the last few years, so while Russian travelers can fly to the U.S., doing much else here is EXPENSIVE. It's why they like couchsurfing and cooking for themselves instead of hotels and restaurants!
Looks like average rent for two people in a decent apartment in Tatarstan is under $600, which is even lower than it is in St. Petersburg. Decent two-bedroom apartments in Ithaca are more like $1,400 and up.
Both of the Russian women are dog owners, and gave my trio lots of attention. One was messaging her husband back in Leninogorsk about their dog, who's in trouble for eating poop today! But considering it's only now after 6am there, and she was messaging him a couple of hours ago, I have to wonder if she woke him up for the conversation.