April 23, 2021

Luke Duceman ’18 has received his second Fulbright U.S. Student Program award for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in Costa Rica after his first was cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Costa Rica accepts only two Fulbright ETAs per year. Fulbright’s ETA Program places Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to aid local English teachers. Duceman, of Danville, Pennsylvania, will help teach English to students there and improve their knowledge of the United States while also increasing his own Spanish language skills and familiarity with his host country, though Duceman already feels at home in Costa Rica.

Duceman’s latest award is his third bite at the Fulbright apple after being named a finalist in 2019 and winning the award for the 2019-20 academic year. However, after only two months in Costa Rica, he was forced to return to the United States due to the worsening pandemic.

“I strongly considered staying in Costa Rica; however, once I heard the borders were closing, I knew I had to leave,” Duceman said. “Even on the morning of my flight, I called friends and family, getting all their opinions on whether to stay, struggling with the fact that I’d be giving up the opportunity of a lifetime. But ultimately, I decided to leave.”

Circumstances continued to be challenging after Duceman arrived back on U.S. soil. Although he was able to briefly resume his teaching career, he had to resign due to medical issues. Despite all of this, Duceman reapplied for a third Fulbright, but it wasn’t an easy decision.

“Admittedly, I didn’t plan on reapplying at first simply because I was so upset. I felt quite bitter,” Duceman said. “But I wanted to finish what I started. I felt cheated out of my Fulbright experience and I was too persistent (or even stubborn) to give up so easily.”

Duceman, who graduated with a degree in music education and a minor in Spanish, first traveled to Costa Rica in 2016 for his Global Opportunities program, and worked with the organization Performing Arts Abroad, San José, studying Spanish and teaching music at a local after-school program. He enjoyed his experience so much that he returned in 2017 for a month with the help of Susquehanna’s Gundaker and Summers Enrichment Funds.

“During those times in Costa Rica, I made so many friends from all across San José and beyond,” Duceman said. “I got to experience so many amazing things in such a small city and meet so many amazing people that I knew there was more that the country had in store for me.”