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By Felicia Krieg
Each year, a few days before the start of the fall semester, a group of incoming SUNY Plattsburgh freshmen spend a week adventuring in the Adirondacks as part of the Odyssey program.
The program is designed to help students build lasting connections with their classmates while enjoying recreational activities and the beauty of the Adirondack Park—the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous United States.
Activities include hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, swimming, slacklining and bonfires. Students stay at the college’s Twin Valleys Outdoor Education Center, 40 miles south of campus in the heart of the Adirondacks.
“I signed up for Odyssey to meet new friends before college even started and to be outside in one of the most beautiful places in New York,” said Benjamin Sparks ‘19, an expeditionary studies major from Cazenovia, N.Y. “It was one of the best choices of my college career because it made me feel more than comfortable once college had started.”
Elizabeth Barker ‘20, an English writing arts and communication sciences and disorders double major from Schenectady, N.Y., said the program put her in the right mindset to take on the rigors of college work.
“Odyssey helped me start college on the right foot because I overcame challenges during the program that carried over to academic struggles I faced,” Barker said.
It also helped her connect to the environment that surrounds the college.
“Plattsburgh is very scenic and Odyssey helped me to realize just how lucky I am to be here,” she said.
The program’s professional guides introduce students to activities they may not have done in the past.
“Odyssey gave me the opportunity to hike mountains I most likely never would have on my own, as well as explore parts of the Adirondacks that I had never been to,” Barker said.
Megan Grega ‘20, an expeditionary studies and environmental studies double major from Holtsville, N.Y., said making friends before the semester starts goes a long way for freshmen who usually don’t know any of their classmates.
“The activities during the day and fun things we did back at camp like volleyball and Frisbee were really enjoyable and rewarding,” Grega said. “Even more rewarding, though, was the atmosphere of community and the friends I made.”
The 2017 program runs from August 20 to 26 before classes start on August 28. Once new students pay their May 1 deposit for the fall semester, they can sign up for Odyssey via their MyPlattsburgh account [login required] ahead of the June 30 registration deadline.
Twin Valleys is equipped with a main lodge with dining hall, bathrooms and 12 cabins. Participants can sleep in a cabin or outside under the stars. No prior outdoor experience is required to participate in the Odyssey program.
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