My name is Luna Baalbaki, I’m a Global UGRAD student at the State University of New York – Plattsburgh. My experience hasn’t been only about studying and meeting new friends, but also about exploring the town that I live in. I never thought that a small town like Plattsburgh would come to have a special place in my heart. But, after exploring it through hiking, kayaking, biking and other activities, it has definitely become one of my favorite places to be.
One of the best memories I have of Plattsburgh is when I hiked with the other Global UGRAD students to the top of the fifth highest mountain in New York. It is called the Whiteface Mountain. I never felt so connected with nature as I did when I was there. I experienced three different seasons in one day. When we first started hiking the weather was very warm and the trees were all green. When we eventually reached the middle of the mountain, all of the trees were orange, yellow or red, and it started to get colder. As we reached the top of the mountain, everything was covered in snow. Even though the weather was freezing on top of the mountain, I never wanted to leave because of the breathtaking view overlooking the green, orange, and white trees and many lakes. I went to other hiking trips on different mountains. Seeing the beauty of Plattsburgh from above was one of the best parts of these hiking trips.
Kayaking in Plattsburgh was one of the favorite new activities that I’ve done because it let me experience nature in a different kind of way. Kayaking is all about moments of relaxation and adrenaline all bundled up together. When I first started kayaking, I was scared to paddle by myself and I thought that I would easily tip. But, when I started paddling and leading my kayak by myself, I never wanted to stop kayaking, because the nature that surrounded me was heavenly. It’s in these moments that I truly found myself the most. It’s very exciting to find a sport that will connect you with mother nature and benefits you both physically and spiritually, isn’t it?
During my first month at State University of New York – Plattsburgh, I joined the cycling club. The club leaders were so nice and they gave me a bicycle for free. Owning a bicycle made exploring Plattsburgh much easier. I’ve been biking everyday next to my university, and I’m mesmerized by the beauty of the nature that Plattsburgh has and discovering new lakes. Once I was biking under the colorful trees next to my university, and it started raining heavily. I just stood there for 30 minutes under the rain appreciating the nature in Plattsburgh, which even then wasn’t enough time. I also used my bike to commute to class, which energized me and made me ready to learn. After realizing how much I enjoy biking, I decided that I want to open a cycling club at my home university; its aim would be to discover Lebanon through biking.
On top of that, the university hosted many entertaining events and fun activities throughout the semester. One of those events was the “Night of Nations,” which was a celebration of the cultural diversity existing at the university, presented through cultural performances. During this event, I was introduced to many cultures from different countries that I have never heard of. Moreover, there’s an ice skating rink and a wall-climbing room in the university that students can go to and have fun. In addition, I joined the soccer intramural team and we were able to reach the finals. You can never get bored on campus as there’s always things to do no matter whether it’s a sunny or a snowy day. You can play tennis, basketball, badminton, and table-tennis. You can also snow-shoe, ice skate, attend music nights and ice-hockey games, and much more.
Studying and living in Plattsburgh changed my life and made the past four months unforgettable. I learned about American values and culture, became responsible and independent, gained new skills and discovered myself through discovering Plattsburgh. Finally, the friends that I made in Plattsburgh were the cherry on top of my experience.
Written by Luna Baalbaki, Lebanon, Global UGRAD 2019-2020, State University of New York at Plattsburgh