USTL provides full scholarships to outstanding students from Timor-Leste for four years of study at high-quality undergraduate degree institutions in the United States. Scholarship awards include full tuition for four years of undergraduate study, travel, living stipends, medical insurance in the U.S., and visa costs. USTL is a program of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), U.S. Department of State.



USTL participants are expected to complete a four-year undergraduate degree at the U.S. university or college at which they are placed. Students live with U.S. roommates on the campus of their host institution and attend classes full time. Based on their academic interests, career goals, and English proficiency, USTL students are placed at institutions from a diverse network of high-quality, accredited U.S. institutions working in close partnership with American Councils. All host institutions are committed to providing USTL students programs that serve their academic interests and maximize their engagement with U.S. culture through regular interaction with faculty and fellow students. American Councils and host-university staff provide ongoing logistical support, advising, and emergency assistance to USTL participants as they adapt to life and study in the U.S.

USTL students may apply to pursue a wide range of academic disciplines, including but not limited to agricultural science, business communication, economics, education, environmental science, international relations, political science, psychology, and sociology. USTL students who achieve a TOEFL score of between 400 and 500 during the application process (see below) are required to complete one or two semesters of intensive English language training in the U.S. before beginning their four years of degree-related study. USTL awards provide full support for the additional period of study and residency in the U.S.


The USTL program provides important professional training in addition to academic study at a U.S. university or college:
Community Service: In order to expose participants to the principles of community service and social responsibility in the United States, USTL participants are required to perform a minimum of 20 hours of community service at local organizations per year during their study in the U.S. Community service projects may include volunteering at public schools, retirement homes, youth activity centers, and local food banks.

USTL students are also provided the opportunity to participate in paid or unpaid internships related to their career goals during the summer break between academic terms. Internships provide an essential opportunity for participants to gain professional experience and skills that can be applied to their future careers at home. USTL participants who do not wish to participate in internships are required to continue full-time summer-study.

American Councils staff and host-university personnel work closely with USTL participants in identifying internships and community-service opportunities and provide participants ongoing support throughout their professional training experiences.


USTL fellows agree to conduct at least two presentations about their home country and culture during their studies in the U.S. These presentations may be completed during such events as International Education Week and New Student Orientation at their host-university campuses. Participants begin to prepare materials for these presentations during their pre-departure orientation. USTL students also agree to serve as mentors for future participants by speaking at their former schools about the USTL program, answering questions from potential applicants or active participants, and helping to update orientation materials (see alumni activities below).


American Councils conducts several important programs to help ensure that participants are well prepared to succeed during their four years of study in the U.S. These begin with a pre-departure orientation conducted at the U.S. Embassy in Dili, during which participants learn about program terms and conditions, J-1 visa requirements, health and safety, U.S. sexual harassment laws, health insurance, host institutions, finances, packing, and travel logistics. During the pre-departure orientation, USTL participants are also asked to prepare materials for presentations about Timor-Leste in order to serve as effective cultural ambassadors and educate their American peers about their country.

Before the start of their semester terms in August, first-year USTL participants travel to Washington, DC for a two-day arrival orientation program at the American Councils headquarters. Participants attend a series of special seminars and presentations addressing U.S. academic culture, community service, cultural enrichment activities, summer study, and internships. Participants also learn about health and safety, emergency procedures, in-country support from American Councils staff, and banking and personal finance in the U.S. In addition, participants visit cultural and historical sites such as the Smithsonian Museum of American History and the Jefferson, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Memorials.

Upon arrival at their host institutions, USTL participants complete a final orientation program designed to familiarize them with their home campus, class schedules, advising, international student services, dining facilities, insurance, and health clinics.

American Councils staff maintain regular contact with USTL participants throughout their period of study in the U.S. via SKYPE, phone calls, and site visits. USTL participants are encouraged to contact American Councils and host-university staff for assistance throughout their time in the U.S.


Six months before their graduation, participants are invited to join a virtual Re-Entry Workshop hosted by American Councils and designed to help USTL scholars prepare for their return home. During the workshop, participants have the opportunity to connect virtually with other USTL alumni, explore the challenges of reverse culture shock with experts on the subject, discuss ways to be effective cultural ambassadors and young community leaders at home, and learn about networking within the ECA-sponsored alumni community.


Upon completion of their studies, USTL alumni will be encouraged to become part of an active network designed to help former participants play leadership roles in their communities and promote cross-cultural understanding and tolerance. Alumni are eligible to apply for small grants to support community service projects, public presentations, trainings, and workshops to be conducted in such venues as public schools, university campuses, and community meeting halls in their home communities. Potential presentation topics might include an introduction to U.S. culture, the U.S. workplace, the American system of government, English idioms and colloquialisms, public speaking, leadership skills, the challenges of cultural adaptation, and promotional activities designed to generate interest in the program. USTL alumni will be encouraged to submit a budget of up to $250 per event for refreshments, promotional activities, presentational materials, and other modest expenses associated with the proposed activity.

USTL alumni will also be asked to serve as mentors for potential future participants. Proposed mentorship activities might include speaking at pre-departure orientations, developing orientation materials, creating and updating a Facebook page to address the questions of newly admitted participants, and serving as long distance advisors to participants while they are in the U.S. (via SKYPE, email and other electronic resources).