By ERIN HOLLOWAY

Editor: MICHELLE DANNER

 

July and August have been whirlwinds of activity for UPP students and New Mind staff alike! Despite the sweltering heat, jet-lag and other challenges, the Fall 2016 cohort has proved to be an enthusiastic and lovable group. To celebrate the end of their three-week orientation, as well as to introduce the Fall interns and welcome back our seven returning students, UPP at NCSU prepared a student mixer event in Pullen Park, located just beyond the NCSU Belltower.

 

On Sunday, August 21st, interns and staff prepared a large picnic area with balloons, decorations and plenty of shade and breeze! Students could snack on chicken wings, grilled corn and baked chips while they waited for everyone to arrive. Even though the staff prepared 300 seasoned wings, they were devoured in little over an hour and proved to be the highlight of lunch!

 

“The chicken wings were great,” Simon Chenyang Li said.

 

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This summer has been a particularly humid and brutally hot one, so the staff planned activities that would keep students out of the sun. After splitting the cohort into 3 groups, each group rotated through different activities. They got to try popular American party games such as Telestrations, Never Have I Ever and 3 Truths and a Lie. Outside the shelter, students tried sumo wrestling, complete with fat suits and helmets! Even if students did not want to body slam their opponent out of the ring, many of them enjoyed watching or taking photos of their friends in the funny-looking suits.

 

“I love the SUMO and the chicken wings,” Ruth Quanxin Zhao said. “The game is really excited and the food is delicious!”

 

As students rotated, they were able to spend time with a different pair of Fall interns. This year, the intern team is a terrific blend of UPP alumni and NCSU students learning Chinese as a second language. These students’ experiences will prove invaluable to the Fall 2016 cohort.

 

“One of my goals is to build a new network of friends,” Sarah Crawford, a new Fall intern, said. “I think my work in the program will help me find people who will be a positive influence.”

 

Even though John Fengshun Wang was the only returning student to attend the event, he did have a good time getting to know the new students. After introducing himself, Wang offered some advice to the new students such as working hard and avoiding video games. “[The event] was interesting,” Wang said. “I had fun!”

 

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An unexpected wildlife encounter during the event involved an infant squirrel, which fell out of its mother’s nest near the sumo ring. Thankfully, students notified the staff and a wildlife rescue volunteer collected the animal soon after.

 

“It’s great that there’s people out there volunteering like that,” Caroline Cornish, the staff member who contacted the wildlife rescue, said. “She said the baby would do fine, and she has a few other squirrels at home now that it can grow up with.”

 

The UPP festivities concluded at 2:30 pm, with interns leading the students to the Pullen Park ticket office. The park provides unique attractions such as a full carousel, paddle boat rentals on the lake and even a miniature train that loops through the entire park!

 

“It reminded me of my childhood,” Keanu Haofeng Lin said about the train ride. “It helped me forget the pressure [of school].”

 

For many students, these options were the perfect ending to an enjoyable time with friends and perhaps the best weather they’ve experienced so far in Raleigh!

 

“The environment is very peaceful,” Neal Yiqi Cao said. “When I was a kid, I play on the swings. It was fun to do it again.”