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Applying for the United States Timor-Leste (USTL) scholarship was a decision that came to my mind one fine afternoon. I was sitting at my workplace, enjoying a cup of coffee, when my supervisor asked me if I intended to pursue the USTL scholarship. It was a simple question, yet it triggered a moment of introspection.
I recall that moment as I responded, "I'm not entirely certain, sir. I've faced rejection three times already. I'm not sure if I want to attempt a fourth time." It was then that my supervisor shared a piece of wisdom, asking me about my age and reminding me that there was nothing to lose by trying once more. "Just apply, Ivo!" These words stayed in my mind.
Upon returning home, I contemplated whether I should apply for the scholarship. The prospect of yet another rejection weighed on my mind. I questioned whether I had the courage to face disappointment again. But then, I started to think of another alternative perspective, which was more positive. "What if this time is different? What if things go in my favor?"
In the end, I swiftly set to work on my application. I meticulously reviewed my past applications to identify areas for improvement. In addition, I sought support. I reached out to my supervisor and mentor for letters of recommendation and proofreading for my essay. I also sought guidance from my college to prepare for the interview. I committed to putting forth my best effort, understanding that when I applied, theoretically I already had at least a 50% chance of success. I simply needed another 50%.
I invested nights and days, working intensively on my application preparation – reflecting, writing, organizing the required documents, revising, and engaging in discussions. I gave this scholarship my all, switching my mindset from "doing my best" to "doing whatever it takes."
Long story short, after months of waiting, hoping, and going through numerous rigorous steps, I achieved success. I was awarded the 2023 USTL scholarship, enabling me to study Economics at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, one of the top public research universities in the United States.
I understand that setbacks and rejection can be painful, and I've certainly felt that pain. But, the important question we must ask ourselves when facing such circumstances is this: "Will I allow these setbacks to make me stagnant? Or will I emerge from these setbacks even stronger?" In essence, it boils down to the age-old question of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet, "To be or not to be, that is the question".