December is a hectic mix of tests, final projects or exams, and the flurry of upcoming holidays and trips. In order to recognize UPP student achievement, to celebrate the end of the semester and to teach students about American holiday traditions, New Mind Education at NCSU hosted a completion ceremony and holiday party on December. 4th. University Towers (UT) graciously allowed us to use their cafeteria after hours to hold this event, where interns and staff decorated the room with Christmas decorations, including ribbon and lights, and a plethora of holiday snacks. Students began to arrive at 8 PM.  All of the students were smiling and laughing as they began to settle in and socialize with each other, clearly happy and relaxed after the completion of their IEP exams.




A wonderful layout of holiday desserts and drinks were available for the students upon arrival; the cafeteria had been transformed into a winter wonderland complete with a tree, snowmen, poinsettias, and more. Staff and interns also wore holiday sweaters and Santa hats! Once everyone had their fill of peppermint bark, cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, eggnog, and hot cocoa, the completion ceremony commenced. Five students finished the UPP program this semester: Ziye Yu, Hongyuan Zhang, Junchen Mu, Xiwen Chen and Guoxiong Ma. Dalhya Lusk presented these students with a UPP yearbook and a completion certificate. Although these students did not earn enough credit to graduate from UPP, it was important to show the new students that finishing UPP was a prestigious occasion that they could look forward to.  Also, ten students had perfect GLC attendance this semester, an incredible feat that showed maturity and determination to succeed. Yuhan Pan, Kai Deng, Nan Sun, Wanting Li, Wenting Zheng, Sicai Zhao, Cheng Wang, Tianming Liu, Xi Liu, Han Yang and Zihao Chen earned this special certificate. Congratulations to you all!




Once the ceremony ended, Dalhya and Alex introduced the students to an American holiday tradition called “Christmas caroling,” while Director Steve Pond also explained the origins and symbolism of candy canes. Christmas caroling is a gathering of families and friends go from house to house spreading holiday cheer through song. In light of this tradition, New Mind staff sang several holiday songs including such classics as “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The students enjoyed singing along to the cheerful songs and sporadically laughed at how silly some of the lyrics were.




The evening concluded with the very popular “white elephant gift exchange.” Students who wanted to participate each bought a gift and then sat in a circle, taking turns choosing and stealing gifts. Students could either steal the gift the first person chose or pick a new one from the pile. The tricky rule is that once a gift is stolen twice, it can no longer be stolen again.  However, most gift exchange groups seemed reluctant to steal gifts. By the end, each student was left with a gift that ranged from a Cookout burger, a copy of “Jane Eyre,” a fake grasping hand on a stick, and everything in between. During the white elephant gift exchange, the students who did not bring a gift enjoyed more desserts and drinks or tried snowflake cutting, folding paper in various ways, then cutting a design out and unfolding it to reveal a snowflake masterpiece. There were some truly beautiful snowflakes and those who participated, like Wanmin Li and Tian Chen, thoroughly enjoyed it.

At around 9:45, the white elephant gift exchange and snowflake cutting came to an end. This was when the students, faculty, and interns said their goodbyes and wished each other a merry Christmas and happy holidays, marking the beginning a well-earned break. When asked about the party, one student, Sicai Zhao said, “The party is awesome, and I really enjoyed the candy and drinks!”

“Great moments go fast but last forever,” Wenting Zheng, another student, said, “so cherish the time you have.”

We at New Mind Education were so happy to celebrate the end of a wonderful semester with these students, and are already busy getting ready for spring semester!

Happy Holidays from UPP!!