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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 exchange.  

Who Participates In LIFE?

LIFE is a completely volunteer program that is open to JMU international students and scholars 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 well over 400 international students and scholars 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.  Friendship families represent a diverse cross section of the Harrisonburg area community.

How Do Participants Join LIFE and How Are They Matched?

International students and friendship families go through an application  process that is designed to match up participants based on similar preferences and interests. All friendship families must pass a criminal background check before participating in the program.  New participants go to an orientation program at the beginning of the semester to prepare them for interacting with international students.  Participants will meet each other for the first time at an event sponsored by the JMU Office of International Programs (OIP).  

Occasionally, the international student and friendship family may not be compatible.  In these situations they may discuss a change with Hunter Swanson, the LIFE coordinator.

What are the LIFE Program Dates?

There are three start dates for the LIFE program and one end date for the LIFE program. 

  • 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).