After a long and sweet winter break, UPP students reunited to share their holiday adventures and prepare for the new semester at the UPP Welcome Party in the Pullen Park Community Center. This event also introduced five new UPP students, four new interns and one new staff member to the returning cohort.  


In an effort to beat the cold, grey weather, UPP arranged for an NC State bus to transport students to the Pullen Park Community Center. Dongjian Shang, one of our new interns, helped gather students and escort them to the location. Other interns and staff arrived early to set up the center with an American Comfort Food buffet, which included chili, pot roast and vegetable soup and a hot drink bar with cocoa and tea. Students arrived at 2 pm to discuss their winter break activities and try new foods. Seventeen UPP students attended.



“The hot chocolate is so good, I want to get more!” Harry Haishuo Dun, a new intern, said.


Once everyone had finished chatting amongst themselves over lunch, Student Life Coordinator Erin Holloway invited new students Alivia Ren, Alice Luo, Gabby Xiong, Sean Jin and Lucas Jia to introduce themselves! New interns Harry, Alice, Shang, and Rex also had a chance to introduce themselves and offer their advice for the new semester. Program Coordinator Alex Brooks also announced this semester’s UPP Mentors: returning students who will work with the new students to help them adapt to life here. We are thankful for Eishon Pan, Kaia Hou, Peter Bi, and Mercer Chang’s commitment to helping our new students!



“The UPP Mentor program is a great idea to help the new students feel more connected,” Erin Holloway said.


“I think it is great to help the new students in their studies and life,” Eishon Pan said.



The rest of the event was dedicated to team building games.  The students were split into six teams with the 5 new students all being group leaders. Interns and staff also joined in the fun, creating a great sense of equality and family.


The first game was called Turning Over a New Leaf: everyone stood on a king sized sheet and needed to flip the blanket over without stepping off the blanket at any time. Students shuffled and squished to make enough room to twist the blanket. “Step on that part!” Alex Brooks said, who was definitely the leader in the first game. Surprisingly, they only took about 5 minutes to complete the task!



Students and interns then played three more games together, including Pencil Drop, Lily Pads and Transfer. Pencil Drop requires the teams to work in pairs to lower a suspended pencil into an empty bottle of water: the pair faced away from each other and were blindfolded, while their teammates guide them with their voices.



“It is so hard! I can’t feel my legs!” Jin said, struggling to keep squatting while playing Pencil Drop. Some pairs took much longer to beat the challenge than others; some took more than 10 minutes and others did it in barely 5!


“That was so fast!” Jia said. “We only took one minute to finish.”


Lily Pads and Transfer both involved critical thinking and the teams using limited resources or space to reach their objectives.



The event ended smoothly with the beautiful voice of Sean Yangcan Jin, who sang the song Long Time No See. Interns and staff then lead students outside to take group pictures with their advisors or UPP Mentors before heading back to the bus.



“I met some interesting people in there!” Gabby Xiong said. “It will be a long semester, but I feel good and confident.”