The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
Prolific Filmmaker to Pursue Dreams at King's College London

Alex Secilmis ’19 (Turkey/USA) will study English Literature with Film Studies at King’s College London after turning down offers from University of St Andrews, Bath Spa University, and Emerson College.

A brilliant storyteller, Alex took advantage of the Journalism and Video Production Internship during his final three years at TASIS and produced a volume of work that has him well on his way to achieving his life’s goal. “I unequivocally want to become a filmmaker,” he said. “I want to work as a writer-director, but I now have a lot of experience editing and filming as well.” 

Alex credits the College Counseling Office at TASIS for helping him find a program that will support his love for both filmmaking and English Literature. “The Birks, Mr. Stickley, Ms. Shepherd, and Ms. Abisi were all extremely helpful and a massive support in my application process,” he said. “My goals were always relatively clear, but these individuals helped me reach them.”

Alex’s linguistic gifts earned him both the Award for Excellence in Modern Languages and the Cynthia Whisenant Award for Excellence in English Literature at the 2019 Commencement Ceremony and helped him secure 36 points on his Bilingual IB Diploma Assessment (English and Italian). His nobility of character and wide-ranging intellectual curiosity garnered him the Headmaster’s Award and an induction to the TASIS Chapter of the Cum Laude Society.

In addition to these major awards, Alex earned Magnificent Seven Awards for both Service and Vision. He is particularly proud of these two honors and the Headmaster’s Award because of the way in which they recognized the contributions his filmmaking made to the TASIS community. “My biggest achievement has been making a full-length film—more than an hour long—about professional Tic-tac-toe, and I am truly thankful to everyone at TASIS who has supported my dream and helped me realize a passion project that spoke to all my strange interests in comedy and 80s pop culture,” he said. “It was truly stressful and challenging to write, direct, edit, film, and act in a full movie while I was also taking the full IB and had other extracurricular commitments, but I was able to do so with the help of an amazing cast, and I'm proud to have created a movie made with and made for my friends.”

A tireless worker who “got a constant thrill” from integrating himself within the TASIS community, Alex seized nearly every opportunity thrown his way—serving as a Dorm Proctor, TASIS Speaker Series Committee member, and Student Council member; running for the Varsity Cross Country team; learning how to play the guitar; joining Dr. Love’s Dante Club; attending a Global Issues Network (GIN) conference in Luxembourg; and devoting an incredible amount of time to the aforementioned video internship—and it’s no surprise that he believes his four years at TASIS prepared him very well for the next step. “I think TASIS has an incredibly eclectic curriculum that accommodates students of varying needs and interests, and particularly through the IB Programme® I was able to challenge myself at the high level I desired,” he said. “I honestly believe the difficulty of university will not exceed that of my last year at TASIS because the greatest challenge of my senior year was one of time management—balancing challenging classes with a wealth of arduous external requirements and my film commitments/extracurriculars. Therefore TASIS has prepared me extremely well for any future form of education.”

"TASIS has an incredible and almost overwhelming amount of opportunities on offer, and I have found the trips abroad, both through the Academic Travel and Global Service Program, to be unforgettable experiences that have become some of the highlights of my life."

Alex expressed great appreciation for the work of all his teachers at TASIS while identifying a handful of mentors who pushed him to be the best student and filmmaker he could be. “My advisor Dr. Love has been a supreme source of support throughout my four years,” he said. “Both as a teacher and a friend, he has encouraged my love of filmmaking and revolutionized the way I approach literature and literary analysis. It was a privilege to be a part of his 10th-grade Honors World Literature Class, the best class I've ever taken in my life, which made literary discussions such a relaxed process in such a friendly environment. I could thank all my teachers at TASIS because they are all of such a wonderful caliber, but I want to particularly mention Ms. Bernasconi and Mr. D'Azzo for guiding me to achieve a better grasp of the Italian language and its literature, Mr. Alvarez and Ms. Simona for doing the same in Spanish, and Mr. Shields, Mr. Schiff, and Mr. Schwartz for being a trio of wonderful math teachers, all with brilliant senses of humor. Mr. Schiff has also been a particular inspiration for me as both a Global Service Program leader and cross country coach. I lastly want to mention the duo of Mr. Chevalier and Mr. Zanecchia for leading me in the Video Internship. They were brilliant mentors for me and helped me develop my passion in such a fun and constructive way.”

The 2018 Nepal trip

Alex drew boundless inspiration from the many chances he had to further his learning outside the classroom. “TASIS has an incredible and almost overwhelming amount of opportunities on offer, and I have found the trips abroad, both through the Academic Travel and Global Service Program, to be unforgettable experiences that have become some of the highlights of my life,” he said. “I have gone rock climbing and glacier-walking in St. Moritz, had an exchange program with TASIS England, studied Dante in Florence, attended the Spanish homestay in Seville, visited CERN, prepared for my IB exams in a monastery in Siena—and these are not even all of my TASIS trips. The amount of enriching experiences is surreal, but the moments that stand out are the bonding and sheer fun of the numerous Ski Adventures, and particularly my two-week trip to Nepal, undoubtedly the greatest experience of my life. In Nepal, myself, Mr. Schiff, the Frazier-Smiths, and 12 other students hiked through the mountains to serve a Tibetan refugee camp. All of the clichés of these sort of trips being ‘life-changing’ came true, and I realized that while the service that we offer will never create enough of an impact, the trip was an opportunity for our group to change our view on our lives and the opportunities we have. The trip inspired me to focus on what I love most: having adventures surrounded by my friends and making movies, and when I returned to campus I had the confidence to shoot a 20-minute short film, a passion project of mine.”

For a student like Alex, who threw himself into every endeavor with an infectious passion and developed countless close friendships, it has not been easy to walk away from the community he came to deeply appreciate over the course of four incredible years. “I'll miss just walking around campus knowing that all my friends and teachers are there,” he said. “I will sorely miss my classmates and teachers and the knowledge that there was always another global trip or movie project to look forward to with those amazing people. Now that it's over, I will treasure the memories here for the rest of my life. All I can say is thank you to everyone who made it such a wonderful four years.”


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