Skip to Main Content

Japan Exchange Program Deepens Relational Aspect

Japan Exchange Program Deepens Relational Aspect

The Urawa Exchange, Concordia’s twenty-year partnership with a Japanese Lutheran School, is expanding to offer more opportunities for CUI students to participate in educational ministry overseas while growing in leadership skills at home.

In the past, CUI sent only faculty members to Urawa for the exchange each May, and received a delegation of faculty and students from Urawa in July. Now, two CUI students per year are being selected to travel with CUI faculty members, to lead chapel services and teach English to Japanese students there. The relationships created in Japan continue when Urawa teachers and students travel to CUI’s campus in the summer.

“This program was pure cultural exchange before. Now it’s more relational and missional,” says International Center senior director Faith McKinney, who grew up in Japan and has a long history with Urawa dating back to the 1960s.

“There’s more of a connection between the group that visits Japan in May because they also host the students and faculty in July,” says Julie Stiegemeyer, an adjunct professor and prolific author of children’s books who works with CUI students traveling internationally. “We have a deeper connection and can build on those relationships we started.”

There’s more of a connection between the group that visits Japan in May because they also host the students and faculty in July. We have a deeper connection and can build on those relationships we started.

The summer camp portion of the exchange, where Japanese students stay at CUI for a week to learn English and American culture, is now led by the CUI students who traveled to Japan. This year, Samantha Redmond ’20 was one of them.

“Our job was to prepare English lessons and make the itinerary for them,” says Redmond. “It was a lot of planning, but definitely a privilege.”

Redmond and the other CUI student focused English lessons around that day’s cultural activity, whether learning how to order food at In-N-Out, whale-watching or serving kids at the Village of Hope. Each day also included a chapel service and devotions, and Redmond appreciated how music transcended language barriers.

“Even though the language was different, we could sing worship songs together,” she says. “It was a way to bring the community together.”

The week offered plenty of leadership training. Stiegemeyer says she has “seen students grow in a variety of skill areas. They have to be very good time managers and learn how to prioritize. They see what a busy week of teaching and leading is like, which gives them great experience for the future. They learn to cope with a demanding schedule while still having a Christian witness. I also saw a lot of friendships develop. That is another real fruit of the effort.”


Concordia University Irvine (CUI) is a non-profit Lutheran Christian liberal arts four-year university that prepares students for their vocations—their calling in life. Concordia offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs in education, nursing, theology, business, and athletics administration. CUI’s undergraduate program is distinctive because of its nationally recognized core curriculum, Enduring Questions & Ideas, and its Lutheran heritage that provides a thoughtful and caring Christian community that lives out the theology of "Grace Alone. Faith Alone." Concordia is a U.S. News Top Tier Regional University and has been named by The Chronicle of Higher Education as one of the fastest growing private nonprofit master's institutions. The university is part of the Concordia University System, the second largest education ministry system in the United States just behind the Catholic Church. The NCAA DII private university enrolls over 4,000 students annually.

Back to top