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International Friendship Program

International students.An estimated 80 percent of international students never set foot in an American home while visiting the United States. This program aims to change that statistic, one student at a time.

The International Friendship Program began in 2004 and was first known as American LIFE (League of International Friendship Encounters). The program changed names in 2013, but its focus remains the same: connecting international students with MU community members.

The program matches international undergraduate and graduate students with local American volunteers to facilitate cross-cultural relationships. It provides international students in their first semester at MU with a more intimate and authentic experience of American culture. In return, American volunteers learn about another country and culture, develop cross-cultural competencies and help foster a global community at MU.

The International Friendship program is beneficial for all participants, but it is an especially important service for MU's international student population. Adjusting to American culture is not easy and international students many feel isolated because of cultural differences, language barriers and many other reasons. This program helps alleviate initial anxiety international students may have about living in America by providing a friend who serves as a cultural navigator.

For additional information, see the International Friendship Program Participant Handbook and frequently asked questions.

Program objectives

  • Foster positive intercultural relationships between new international students and MU community members.
  • Help international students learn more about and adjust to American culture.
  • Provide important social support for and extend hospitality to international students during their initial adjustment to life in America.
  • Supplement the International Center's support services programs for international students (immigration advising, document processing, orientation, etc.).
  • Offer all students an opportunity to learn about new cultures and how to communicate in a diverse society.
  • Encourage American students to study abroad to gain additional cross-cultural understanding and new perspectives.
  • Raise international awareness, promote international education and contribute to the university's comprehensive internationalization efforts.
  • Give student participants a place to fit into the international community as engagement in extracurricular activities increases student retention rates.

Expectations of friendship partners

  • Meet at least once per month. More meetings are highly encouraged.
  • Attend International Friendship Program events.
  • Attend International Center events as time allows.
  • Acknowledge the NAFSA Code of Ethics.
  • Refer concerns or issues to the International Center.

Benefits of international friendships

  • Expand social support networks.
  • Enhance the sense of community and belonging.
  • Ease the impact of culture shock.
  • Increase cross-cultural competency and understanding.
  • Develop appreciation for different countries.

Submit a participant application