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LIFE Overview

Life participants during the Thanksgiving Potluck

Leaders in International Friendship Exchange (LIFE) is a program that matches JMU international students with local friendship families who are interested in connecting with international students. The purpose of the LIFE program is to facilitate friendship and cultural understanding.

Who participates in LIFE?

LIFE is a completely volunteer program that is open to JMU international students and to members of the Harrisonburg area community.  International students choose to participate in LIFE in order to learn more about American culture and customs through interaction with an American family, improve conversational English skills, and to develop friendships with individuals in the local community.  There are hundreds of international students at JMU representing a diverse range of cultures and interests. Friendship families participate in the program in order to learn about a new culture, provide a comfortable environment to students far away from home, and promote a sense of global understanding.  If you wish, you may read about the real experiences of students and friendship families participating in the LIFE program. 

How do I join LIFE and what are the options for participation?

There are two options for participation in the LIFE program:

  1. Matched: Participants are matched by the program coordinator based on similar preferences and interests. Participants then meet each other for the first time at an event sponsored by the JMU Office of International Programs (OIP).  
  2. Non-matched: Participants attend social events sponsored by the Office of International Programs (OIP) where relationships between international students and members of the local community can grow organically.

Both international students and friendship families join LIFE by completing the application. All friendship families must pass a background check before participating in the program.

When can I participate in the LIFE program?

Non-matched participants can begin participating in the program once their application is approved. For matched participants, there are three start dates for the LIFE program and one end date for participation:

  • Summer start date: commitment lasts until the following May (1 year).
  • Fall start date: commitment lasts until May (8 months).
  • Spring start date: commitment lasts until May (3 months).