October 01, 2019
By Luke Duceman ’13
Even before becoming a Susquehannan, I knew that I wanted to travel to a Spanish-speaking country to combine my love of music with my interest in the Spanish language and Latino culture.
While researching where to complete my Global Opportunities experience, I came across an independent organization, Performing Arts Abroad, which offered a music education volunteership. Shortly before my sophomore year, my GO Your Way proposal was accepted and I was on my way to Costa Rica — the “Switzerland of Central America.”
By fully immersing myself in San José, both the capital and heart of Costa Rica, I gained a better understanding of that culture, my own culture and the concept of culture as a whole. Sure, the cooking and dancing classes were nice additions to my experience, but most of my learning came from teaching Costa Rican children and learning about the music education system and the pedagogical philosophies and ideologies there, all of which improved my skills as an educator.
Teaching can be a challenge. Teaching music can be an even bigger challenge. And teaching music in Spanish was probably the biggest challenge I had faced; yet, I loved every second of it. So, the summer after my junior year, I returned to Costa Rica for a month, thanks to Susquehanna’s Gundaker-Summers grant. In addition to volunteer work, I took private saxophone lessons with a local professor, attended an international arts festival, and even performed a concert for government officials at the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Culto.
They say that the third time’s the charm, but was I to go to Costa Rica yet again? The fall of my senior year I met with Dr. Karen Mura, faculty coordinator for postgraduate and fellowship advising. We discussed several options, such as the Peace Corps, and eventually landed on the prestigious Fulbright program as a possibility.
The Fulbright application process is by no means quick or simple, and the wait to learn if I would be accepted was nothing short of excruciating. At that point, I was in the final semester of my undergraduate career and student teaching at Cumberland Valley High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
I was excited when notified I was a semi-finalist for one of only two spots for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Costa Rica; but unfortunately, I was ultimately accepted only as an alternate, which didn’t come to fruition. But everything happens for a reason. I went on with my life, finished student teaching, graduated from Susquehanna and taught at several schools afterward, including currently teaching music at Selinsgrove Area Middle School.
Dr. Mura stayed in touch and convinced me to reapply to the Fulbright program, and this past spring I was accepted as an ETA in Costa Rica. When I begin as an ETA in February, I not only want to instill a joy of learning in my students but also have them gain an appreciation for another culture, just as I have.
It’s hard to believe that what started out as just another requirement for my degree audit turned into an internationally recognized fellowship. Without the GO Program, I wouldn’t have learned what I know now.
First: Trust and believe in yourself. You’re not just an “insert major here,” and you are capable of much more than you think. Second: Life, unfortunately, is full of disappointments; but just because things are a certain way doesn’t mean they can’t be changed, even if it’s you who must change them.
Luke Duceman ’18 is Susquehanna’s ninth Fulbright recipient in the past seven years. He majored in music education and minored in Spanish.