I first met Queena the day she turned 16, as she stood alone by the baggage claim at the Cedar Rapids airport in Iowa, wearing a polka-dot down coat. A tiny, 90-pound, Chinese girl who looked like she was 12, Queena was coming to America to attend Maharishi School in Fairfield, Iowa, and she was going to live with me, her host mother.
Fast forward three and a half years, and Queena is only three months away from graduating. I was with her the day she learned Transcendental Meditation, the weekend she went to her first TM Retreat, the night she attended her first formal dance, the week her team won eighth place at the Destination Imagination Global Competition, and the moment she learned her SAT score was over 2000. Each day has been a joy and a learning experience for both of us, and it warms my heart to sit together and reflect on her time at Maharishi School.
Christine Albers: You were a bright, successful student in China, so why did you choose to come to high school in the U.S.?
Queena Zhou: I started studying English when I was five years old and always dreamed of going to school in the United States. I chose this school for several reasons. My dad wanted me to learn to meditate. We researched Transcendental Meditation (TM) online, and my dad liked that it could help me get rid of stress and be more settled and focused in school. This meditation seemed natural and effortless—anyone can practice it—and scientific research proved it is beneficial. We also liked that Fairfield is safe, and the school has a very supportive environment.
Christine: Can you tell me about your experience with meditation in school?
Queena: I found it actually works! For the first couple of months, I didn’t notice much, but I didn’t mind practicing. Then in the second year, I noticed the difference. During break, I went back to China and was invited to give a presentation to new students coming to America. My dad was amazed that I spoke for 45 minutes without any preparation, and I was outgoing and confident about speaking in public. In my daily life I feel more calm inside, with less ups and downs. I’m more content in myself and feel good every day. I’m sure I’ll continue to improve.
Christine: When do you meditate? Do you notice any effects from it with regard to your schoolwork?
Queena: We meditate every morning before class, which clears my mind and helps me be more alert. I notice I don’t get tired during the day. Before I go home, after school, I get to meditate again, and I’m refreshed and ready to go again.
“TM helps me feel better inside because I am more rested. It opened up my heart. It’s like TM cleans the dust off the window, and then I see the world as beautiful, and I see people as friendly and nice.” —Queena Zhou
Christine: Do you think your TM practice helped with the stress of being a teenager?
Queena: TM helps me feel better inside because I am more rested. It opened up my heart. It’s like TM cleans the dust off the window, and then I see the world as beautiful, and I see people as friendly and nice.
Christine: Your TM experience sounds great. What about other experiences? Anything else that stands out?
Queena: I benefited from being in this diverse environment. I learned how to get along with people from different countries, different cultures, different traditions. I learned to go with the flow and appreciate diversity.
Also, at Maharishi School we were given the opportunity to participate in Destination Imagination (DI), an international, creative, problem-solving competition, which trained me to be an innovative thinker, problem solver, and team player.
A few months ago, when I attended summer school at Babson College, my team won first place in the final competition to design a business plan. We planned a nonprofit organization to provide affordable tutoring services for elementary school students. Learning to solve real-life problems in DI helped me win this competition.
Christine: Did anything at Maharishi School surprise you?
Queena: When I first came, I didn’t know that the Science of Creative Intelligence® (SCI) was such a big part of the school. In every class we are asked to connect the class material to basic principles of creativity, intelligence, and wholeness that are present in nature and in our daily lives. When I first came here, I didn’t get the point. I thought it was unrelated.
After taking the SCI class for some months, I came to appreciate the connection between all subjects that I never knew existed before. One of the SCI principles is “The world is as we are.” It changed the way I see my world.
“I now know the reason for my existence, what I want to accomplish in my life and also as a part of society. I have the desire to give back and help make some contribution of my own.” —Queena Zhou
Christine: What is the greatest thing you’ll take with you from your high school experience?
Queena: I think it’s about knowing myself, connecting with deeper levels of myself.
Christine: Do you think you’ll continue to meditate in college and afterwards?
Queena: Yes. Definitely. Sometimes it’s hard to meditate on weekends, but I noticed the difference when I studied at Babson College last summer. Even if I had to stay up late to work, as long as I meditated I could still function well.
Christine: Are your parents pleased with your experience here?
Queena: Very pleased. They noticed that I gained knowledge about myself, and I know what I want to do and what I’m capable of doing. Now they are confident to let me make my own decisions because they trust that I will naturally make right decisions.
It’s almost like I’ve transformed from what others want me to do, or what society wants me to do, to what I know is right for me. I now know the reason for my existence, what I want to accomplish in my life and also as a part of society. I have the desire to give back and help make some contribution of my own. I want to be a social entrepreneur and make a positive impact by supporting good business practices such as fair labor, sustainability, and green initiatives.
Christine: What about preparing for college?
Queena: I came to America to attend high school because I wanted to get into a top university, and I think I have accomplished that. I am thrilled to be accepted by Babson College, since it offers the best entrepreneurship major in the country. Maharishi School has not only prepared me academically, but it has also made me a happier, more capable, and well-rounded person.