She’s Off to Brazil: Meet Fulbright Finalist Rachel Duong ’19

rachel duong at commencement

Senior Spanish and English double major Rachel Duong ’19 will travel to Brazil for a year as an English teaching assistant as a Fulbright Finalist. Fulbright is a flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government that sends scholars and teachers to more than 160 locations around the world. The College’s other three Fulbright finalists for 2019 are Spanish major Calyn Lutz ’19, who will be in Mexico, early childhood education and special education major Matthew Torrence, who will be in Malaysia, and music education major Alexa Kanakry ’19, who will be in Spain.

“I chose Brazil because I’ve always wanted to travel in South America and have studied Spanish for more than 14 years,” said Duong. “Within the past year, LVC hired Dr. Fabricio Silva, a Brazilian professor that I took Spanish classes with, and through conversations with him, I became more interested in Brazil and decided to apply there. I was also very excited about the opportunity to learn Portuguese and have another language under my belt.”

Duong’s interest in language and culture developed at a young age as she grew up as a second-generation child to Vietnamese immigrants and is a first-generation college student.

“Growing up in two different cultures, Vietnamese and American, while multilingual has taught me the importance of cross-cultural exchange and understanding that I believe has set me up very well for the ideals upon which the Fulbright program has built itself,” she said. “Recognizing the opportunities present in the United States, my family has always made my academics a priority, and I believe that all the educational opportunities that they consistently encouraged me to seek and pursue have led me to this achievement.”

In addition to Dr. Silva and her family, Duong credits the consistent support of faculty across campus in helping her through the Fulbright application process and maximizing her educational experience.

“Throughout my years here, many people have encouraged me to apply to a variety of different grants, scholarships, and programs,” said Duong, who also competes on the women’s tennis team. “The openness that the LVC culture allows for has helped me work very closely with my professors to fine-tune, not only the application itself, but also my academic career for the past four years leading up to the Fulbright.”

Duong also appreciates the opportunities she had to travel to Costa Rica and Spain because of the John Bowman Allwein Scholarship she received from the College. Duong received the award, which includes full tuition and a stipend for research or scholarly expenses, as an incoming freshman.

“I knew that after graduating, I wanted to take a year off to travel but I didn’t want to do it just for myself,” she said. “I wanted to ‘do something’ with my travels. After hearing and learning about the Fulbright, I decided this was the perfect opportunity!”

Duong looks forward to learning about Brazil’s culture and food, which she said reveals a lot about customs, celebrations, and geography. An aspiring filmmaker, she also plans to record her experiences in Brazil and produce and publish them when she returns to the U.S.

After completing her Fulbright placement, Duong plans to pursue graduate school for film studies.

In February, LVC was for the third consecutive year named a top-producing Fulbright institution by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. With the three new awardees, the College has had nine Fulbright finalists since 2016.


Students interested in applying for the Fulbright Program or other fellowships should contact Dr. Philip Benesch at or 717-867-6326.


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