By CAROLINE CORNISH

Defy Gravity, 8/25/17

When students first arrive in Raleigh, some of them are surprised at how unlike any other Chinese city it is. Things are far apart, and for the most part, a car is necessary to get around! While it may not look like it, there are many fun things to do in Raleigh, if one knows where to look.

UPP teaches students this by taking them to some fun places in the local community. Defy Gravity is one of them, an indoor trampoline park where students can practice their acrobatics, flips, jumping skills, dunking skills and more. It’s a very active event, leaving even the fittest students panting within 5 minutes of jumping. Highlights include the foam pit at the end of a trampoline, where students increasingly gain confidence to commit more to their forward and backward flips as they know they can land safely.

Defy gravity was a definite highlight and a great event to launch the semester!

Frankie’s Fun Park, 9/8/17

A few weeks into the semester and students are starting to see how difficult their English classes can be! A way to remedy this is varied measures of different fun! Frankie’s is a classic place to try out laser tag, go-karts, and some arcade games. While these places are common in China, seeing how American’s create and engage with an interactive fun-zone is definitely a cultural learning experience.

The highlights for this group of UPP students definitely included the go-karts. For many who can’t drive, this is the perfect place to practice, and the competitive edge definitely showcases how strong, fast, and daring some students can be. Overall Frankie’s was a blast, and students can briefly take a break from their long weekends of study and enjoy the moment and more fun things Raleigh has to offer.

SPARKcon, 9/16/17

For the past 3 years, UPP students have helped spread some Chinese culture into the Raleigh community during this festival of the arts. Fayetteville Street is in downtown Raleigh, and during SPARKcon it is packed with vendors, food, performances, art displays, audience engagement and more in this celebration of art, dance, music, theater, circus and more.

The New Mind tent is a place to get an impermanent tattoo! UPP students interact with young American children as they get their name or favorite animal written on their arms and legs in Chinese characters. UPP students use henna ink that looks like mud, and eventually dries into a natural looking tattoo that fades within a week or two.

UPP students also enjoy teaching young children and other passersby how to use calligraphy, and the many participants of SPARKcon got to walk away with their own Chinese lantern. This is a great way for people to get to know what New Mind offers, allows our students to contribute to the livelihood and happiness of the community, and teaches others about some wonderful aspects of Chinese culture.