So you and your friend are going to study in the U.S.—you, as an exchange student and she, as an international student. Not all visas are equal, and as a J1 visa holder, you need to have J1 visa health insurance that conforms to the rules laid down by the U.S. government. Your friend, meanwhile, will need to purchase international student health insurance.
As a J1 student, your insurance must provide for at least $50,000 in medical benefits per accident or illness, and cover repatriation of remains up to $7,500. The plan must also provide for emergency medical evacuation to the student’s home country, for at least $10,000. There are a few other requirements as well.
To apply for and receive a J1 visa, several colleges help out with their office of international students. In general, visas are issued at the U.S. consulate if the consular officer is convinced that the applicant will return to the home country after completion of the period of study. It is important to convey that message as briefly as possible, with additional documentation, if necessary.
Visas for international students are regulated to a large extent, and most questions can be answered even before arrival by the school/college administrative/international office. Remember that your J1 visa insurance needs to kick in as soon as possible, and several plans that satisfy the government criteria are available online as well.