Adriel Taslim was 7,700 miles away, and time was scarce.
The 2014 Mercer graduate had already been teaching English to students at the Mongkol Wittaya School in Lamphun, Thailand, for six months when he learned that he had been selected as one of the 164 Marshall Scholarship finalists.
“Honestly, I was a little bit panicked about it since their initial emails had gone to my spam, so I found out through from a friend that works at Mercer,” said Taslim. “They’d been trying to contact me for a couple of days, and by that time, I was about a week out from the interview.”
Taslim had become Mercer’s first Marshall Scholarship finalist since 1962.
Forged in honor of the American post-World War II European Recovery Plan, the Marshall Scholarship was created by UK Parliament in 1953 and is offered to American students who want to complete postgraduate study at a British University.
Taslim’s boss and co-workers, who had been informed that this exact situation may occur, understood when he had to leave on such short notice. Once he got word, Taslim was scrambling. He found out on Nov. 7, and four days later ,Taslim was back in the States for his interview on Nov. 14 at the British Consulate in San Francisco.
Taslim named the University of Warwick as his university of choice in the application process. “It has one of the leading programs on US Foreign Policy in the world,” he said.
However, Taslim’s international ambitions began with humble origins. When he arrived on the Macon campus in 2009, his focus was on music.
Before coming to Mercer, Taslim attended Shashta College in Redding, California. There, he received an Associate of Arts degree with a concentration in music and served as the concertmaster of the Sacramento Youth Symphony in 2007.
Taslim met Amy Moretti, the director of the McDuffie Center for Strings, through his violin teacher in California and made the decision to come to Mercer.
During his time as a Mercerian, the violin led Taslim to another passion. “Being a part of the (McDuffie Center for the Strings), we traveled around a lot for performances and met a lot of international artists.” Taslim would go on to become a founding member of the Mercer Asian Society and Interest Association and serve on the University’s International Affairs Organization, the German Club and the French Club.
Taslim continued to pick up foreign languages—French, German, Mandarin and some Italian. In his final two years in Macon, Taslim lived in the International House, and his interest in foreign languages and cultures increased.
“I quite enjoyed finding the differences between our different cultures and helping them learn (about) American culture,” he said.
After Taslim had his interview, he waited. On Nov. 23, he heard back.
From the original field of 935 applicants, the commission narrowed it down to 164 finalists to fill up to 40 spots. This year, the organization chose 31 students to receive the scholarship.
However, Taslim was not selected.
“I’m not overly disappointed,” he said. “My mock-interviewers and other advisors told me that the whole thing was at best a shot in the dark. By the time it gets to the interviews, most everybody is qualified and able to the point where it’s just the luck of the draw.”
Despite not being selected, Taslim’s accomplishment bodes well for future Mercerians.
“Adriel’s progress in the Marshall Scholarship process demonstrates that Mercer students can compete with the best students in the country for the most prestigious awards. I hope his accomplishments will inspire other students to set high goals,” said David Davis, Director of Fellowships and Scholarships.
As of now, Taslim said that he is working on graduate school applications and has applied to Yale, Georgetown, UC San Diego, Warwick University and the University of Chicago with hopes of working in foreign service.
Until then, Taslim will be teaching English and unwinding.
“Life in Thailand is a lot more slow-paced. One of their most common sayings here is ‘mai bpen rai,’ which quite literally translates to ‘hakuna matata,’” he said.