School News

Boarding Students Arrive at MSAE

By Andy Hallman, as appeared in the Fairfield Ledger

Eleven boarding students will attend Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment this year, all but one of whom is from outside the United States. The boarding students began their orientation Wednesday to their new school, and for many of them, their new country. Most of the boarding students, eight, come from China. One is from Germany; one is from Mexico and another is from California. The 11 new boarding students join 16 returning boarding students.

Christine Albers directs the expansion program at MSAE and is also a host parent. Albers will host two girls this year, both of whom are from Shanghai, China. Some of the students adopt new first names upon enrolling because the names are easier for Americans to pronounce than the students’ real names. The girls staying with Albers have adopted American names, and they are “Queena” Zhou and “Univa” Song. Univa’s parents traveled with her to stay for the first few days of orientation. They said it will be hard to be separated from their daughter for so long, especially since Univa is planning to spend three years in America. She is a sophomore and plans to graduate from MSAE. However, her mother, Ruthy Song, said she and her husband, Yuezhong Song, are pleased they can speak to Univa via Skype. They’re also happy she is staying with a “sweet host mother.”

“I think she will get used to it soon,” Ruthy said.

Univa said she became interested in MSAE when the headmaster of the school came to her class in Shanghai. She said she has wanted to study abroad for the past two years, and had already spent a month in the United States while on vacation in 2010. That year, she and her family stayed with a friend in Fremont, Calif., and visited some of the nation’s largest cities such as New York, Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

“It has the best education,” Univa responded when asked why she wanted to study in America.

Ruthy said she believes Transcendental Meditation will help her daughter learn. Yuezhong practices meditation, although not specifically TM. Ruthy said she and Yuezhong liked the idea of sending their daughter to a school in a small town because it would be quiet, safe and full of nice people.

“We come from a big city, so it might be a good experience for her to study in a small town,” Ruthy said.

Although she hasn’t started classes yet, Univa has heard that her American education will be different from the education she received in China. In China, she was in class for more than 10 hours a day and thus had little time for extracurricular activities. She’s looking forward to devoting part of her day to after-school pursuits while in the U.S.

Jasmin Scherf is the only boarding student from Germany. However, she does not feel like a stranger in her new home because she is staying with a friend, Eugenia Davis, she has known since she was 10. Scherf has meditated since the age of 4, which is why MSAE’s focus on meditation attracted her to the school. About three years ago, she began attending a TM school in Vlodrop, Netherlands. Unfortunately for Scherf, the TM school closed. She heard about MSAE through a friend who attended the school and gave it good marks. Based on her friend’s recommendation and her interest in meditation, Scherf decided to give Maharishi School a shot. Scherf has studied English for six years, so the language is not a barrier to her. She said she will likely take sophomore English at MSAE but will take junior-level classes for every other subject. MSAE has a new requirement by which all students must go out for one sport. Scherf said she doesn’t consider herself particularly talented at sports, but will try her luck with basketball.

Because of the large number of new Chinese students accompanied by their parents, MSAE international student advisor Lijuan Cai interpreted for the Chinese parents during the orientation. The boarding students will visit Des Moines Monday where they will see the Capitol, the science center, an IMAX theater and the botanical gardens. They received an introductory lecture in meditation Wednesday, which is something they will practice every day in school. Albers said most of the host families either work for MSAE or Maharishi University of Management or are alumni of the school. If the number of boarding students continues to grow the school plans to build a dormitory or renovate an existing building for them to live in. Albers’s involvement with boarding students extends to her home life as well. Now that she’ll have two Chinese-speaking students staying with her, she has set ground rules for where the girls can speak in their native tongue. “They can speak Chinese on the second floor where the bedrooms are, but English only on the first floor,” she said. Albers helps her guests learn conversational English by playing a game wherein everybody at the table writes a topic on slips of paper, puts the slips in a bowl and somebody else has to draw from the bowl and speak on that topic.

“It’s been so great,” she said. “One girl said it was the No. 1 way that her English improved.”

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