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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One thing that excited me for my second semester is that all my classes are getting interesting. I love to explore learning them—starting from joined classes that are mandatory for my major, general courses, and my favorite lab classes. Everything is getting challenging but interestingly awesome. So far, I have taken my biology classes, both lectures and lab. Because I am doing an interdisciplinary science major, most courses are heavy sciences like animal biology, chemistry, physics, etc. This semester I had the opportunity to take one of the laboratory classes. The classes were about animal biology - mainly focused on the anatomy of the animals ranging from mammals, insects, invertebrates, and their behavior in the wild.

The first week of class, I was nervous because I had never taken a lab class, and I thought this will be hard for me because I did not know anything about animal biology; on the other hand, I found it exciting, worried and overthinking at the same time I have these crazy thoughts like am I going to be able to pass the course? Am I going to be okay doing dissections for animals? I don’t know how to use the microscope to see the tiny particles of the specimens that we will do in the classroom, what about this?. Even though all these self-doubt questions often appear in my thoughts, I fight back by forcing myself to stay positive because learning new things is part of the college life; whether you are new to these materials or familiar with them, it does not matter because you will discover it in the classroom. The professors and your classmates will for sure help you along the way.

My lab class was intense - the workload was heavy, and I had to put many hours into studying the lectures and doing the lab dissection sessions. With my other classes and extracurricular activities, it seemed like it would be hard to manage my time at first but I was doing great. My professor was also kind and helpful. When I didn’t understand the materials, he explained them to be in a more simple way, especially some new materials. What I like the most about this lab class is that I had the opportunity to do the actual dissection of the organism we learned in the lecture session. For example, in the lecture, we know about the phylum Mollusca; we would also have to learn how to perform a dissection, its classification, and how many species it has. We had a chance to do dissections of squid and clams. But before dissection, we also have to learn the anatomy of the animals to understand their capabilities and whole body systems. At first, I was so worried and felt terrible about the specimens we used to practice in the lab because most of them were the actual specimens collected by the university. I was very sad to see these specimens but I can’t say much, it's for the learning purpose. The specimens also help us to understand the role certain animals play in the environment. In total, we did more than ten animal dissections in this class. I like all of them but the one that pretty interesting to me was earthworm dissections. Growing up, I saw many worms, especially during rainy seasons. They would come out of the ground and wander around on the surfaces, and when the rain stops, they go back into the ground; sometimes, our chicken fed on them, too, but during that time, I was not paying attention to the importance of earthworms to the environment. I knew they were just worms, which means they don’t do much. From this class, I learned so much about earthworms; they have excellent features on their body that are interesting too, one of them is called clitellum—it's used for mating between males and females earthworms. One other cool facts about earthworms are that they have complete digestion; that’s right, it's like us humans, and did you know that earthworms don’t have eyes? However, they have abilities to sense the lights from their anterior end (or their head); this helps them to move away from the lights, but if they are exposed to sun lights for too long, they might be paralyzed or die.

My second semester went very well. I have become more familiar with the US curriculum and have settled down. I'm excited and looking forward to more science classes. I enjoyed my first lab classes. I learn so much from the first lab, and I am sure the following courses will be more enjoyable. If you are applying for USTL scholarship and are nervous, worry about what lab classes look like, and doubt yourself, don’t worry, you got this. Belief in yourself and the professor will also help you if you don’t understand some materials in the classroom or during office hours.