I couldn’t believe it was finally here, my first Christmas at Minerva. Well, Christmas Eve. Ecstatic, I leapt out of bed.

I had heard Minerva always planned awesome stuff during winter break, so I was ready to have my mind blown.

I stepped out of my room—room 333—and began to shiver.

“Why is it so cold?” I asked myself, but that question didn’t last long as I saw snow on the stairs between the third and fourth floor. “Okay, what?” I thought but inched up the stairs.

There was a line of students up the stairs entering what looked like a huge doll box, with Christmas decorations. When inside it they had to sing a Christmas song.  “Hey, what’s going on?” I asked my friend Bo, one of the few Americans in our class. He gave me a look that said, “you don’t know?” then continued, “When you enter the box, you have to sing a Christmas song, and you get graded between 1 to 5. If you get a 2 or 1, you have to do the assignment no one wants.” I was going to ask what assignment that was but I didn’t need to. Ella, a friend of mine from Bulgaria, received a 2. Even though she’d done well on the other HCs, she’d gotten a 1 for #sourcequality, the Professor said the song was too old.

So, Ella had to do the unwanted assignment: grooming the reindeer in their stable. It was an unfortunate task because at Christmas time the reindeers are excited. So getting them to settle down was a bit of a job. Ella had to endure a couple of kicks to the face.

It was now my turn on the line so I screamed to Ella, “You can do it, Ella.” Then I went into the box and sang, lucky for me I got a 4. The Professor said I applied #audience well as I sang a song that she loved when she was little. So she told me to walk straight ahead to the common room and go to one of the reindeers.

“WOW!” I thought when I walked in, I don’t think I had ever seen so many reindeers. I went to one and turned on the screen behind the reindeer’s head.  At the top of the screen, it said ‘RLF – Reindeer Learning Forum.’ I then typed in my Minerva email and my password, but the internet was a bit wonky. So I adjusted the reindeer’s antlers until the connection was perfect. Finally, I got to log into class, but I was three minutes late. “Oh no” I thought, “now I have an absence.”

The Professor said the assignment was to find the perfect gift for the child version of an adult right now, and then hypothesize what their life would be like today if they had received that present. What would have changed in their future? Finally, we would use an agent-based model to test our hypothesis.

The professor said to check our dashboard to see the name of the child we would give a present.

I clicked on my dashboard, excited but scared, but, after two minutes the page still hadn’t finished loading. I could only see parts of the name – ‘Be’ and ‘ls’. So I had to fidget again with the reindeer’s antlers until it revealed the name of the child I would give a gift.

It revealed Ben Nelson.

If Ben Nelson gets a book for Christmas, would he hate learning so much that he wouldn’t create Minerva?