USTL provides full scholarships to outstanding students from Timor-Leste for two to four years of study at high-quality undergraduate degree institutions in the United States. Scholarship awards include full tuition toward either a bachelor’s degree or associate degree, 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.



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This month, specifically on December 18, marks one year I have spent at the University of Missouri – Columbia. When reflecting back, I sometimes can’t believe how quick time went by and that I only have 2 and a half years left in the states. On this blog, I will highlight 5 major things that I have learned over this past year and how it has shaped me as a person and a student navigating life at an American higher-education institution. I feel like the lessons below would be applicable to any college students, anywhere – so feel free to use them to your advantage!

1. Keeping yourself busy is a cure (or distraction) from homesickness.
There is nothing I can’t stress more than this – keeping yourself busy as well as being involved in campus is the best method to curb homesickness. The feeling of homesick usually hits when you are alone and had nothing else going on. I learned over my experience in a year that I was able to suppress or curb this feeling by always keeping myself busy – both academically and outside of classroom setting. My schedule has not always been busy, so I usually have free time in between classes or after class. I use that time to either volunteer, be involved in campus organizations or do other things I enjoy. I try not to be sedentary and not have anything going on because that will just lead the feeling of homesickness hit you – definitely not a thing that you wish to experience while you are twelve-something thousand kilometers and 4 flights away from home.

2. Hold yourself accountable and disciplined – even on days that you think you can’t (or don’t want to).
There’s no denying that studying abroad is hard. Being distant from your family as well as friends you grew up with is no easy task. What’s more difficult is to adapt to the differences in the educational system. U.S. higher-education system is designed in a way that puts student at the center of control – meaning that they are individually responsible for their actions. No one would be there to get you out of bed and make you go to class. No one would be there to tell you when to start writing that 10-page paper. With this freedom, comes a great disadvantage-- It’s easy to fall back. That is why it is important to keep yourself disciplined and accountable. This is perhaps some of the lessons that is the hardest to learn, but it has saved myself (and my grades!).

3. Make friends and connections – it’s essential for survival in college.

I can’t count the instances where my friends have helped me in college. Be it to take me around town, running errands, answering questions about living in the states, and providing emotional support – they are always there to help me succeed. I am also lucky to have an excellent support system provided by the university, such as my academic advisor, professors, mentors, and tutors. I learned that having these support systems drives me to grow and succeed in college.

4. Pause, take a break, look back, and reward yourself
There are days where I got so busy and overwhelmed with what is in front of me, I forgot to appreciate what I have achieved. It is always important to take some break and look back at the things you have accomplished. Got A on that exam? Take yourself out for a nice meal at a restaurant. Nailed that presentation in class? Celebrate it with your friends. Life is worth a celebration – so celebrate every achievement in college. For what it is worth, you carried yourself through everything and should rightfully be proud of yourself.

5. Incremental steps are necessary for transformative change
I felt truly intimidated by how different college life would be. I graduated from high-school in Timor-Leste with no prior experience in higher-education setting, so my first few months can be described as a daunting experience. However, I took (small) steps that enabled me to succeed in every aspect of my college career. I seek help. I talk to people and have meaningful conversations. I set small goals that eventually will lead me to a desired final outcome. Sometimes, when we set unrealistic goals, it leads us to believe change is possible because we felt overwhelmed with how big it is. So, it is necessary to take incremental steps and climb up!

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