ORONO, Maine — When a then-teenage Alexandra Misan found out she would be living in Maine as part of an exchange program, the Russian native was excited. Maybe, she thought, Maine would be like Hawaii, which is where another exchange student from her hometown was sent.
After consulting a map, Misan realized Maine would be nothing like Hawaii, but things could not have worked out better for the now 20-year-old. She came to love her host family, Robert and Theresa Davis of Holden. She found she loved living in the U.S.
And she loved her decision to stay in the country to attend the University of Maine.
Five years after moving to Maine, Misan, a finance major who goes by the nickname Sasha, will be one of 1,871 UMaine students to participate Saturday in the school’s 207th commencement. UMaine will hold graduation ceremonies at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in Alfond Arena.
She is the outstanding graduating international student in the UMaine College of Business, Public Policy and Health.
“I just loved it here,” Misan said earlier this week. “I’m really glad I did it in retrospect.”
Husson University in Bangor also will hold commencement ceremonies Saturday with U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe scheduled to deliver the commencement address. University College of Bangor students also will graduate Saturday. That ceremony will be held at the UMaine campus in Augusta.
Misan, who is from the town of Irkutsk in Siberia, spent most of the 2004-05 academic year at Brewer High School. She lived with the Davises, including their daughter Oriana. Misan was assigned to Maine through her exchange program — the same program that sent the other Irkutsk resident to Hawaii.
When it came time for college, the Davises suggested she look at UMaine. It was the only school she applied to — she didn’t even consider universities in Irkutsk or Moscow — and was accepted on a nearly full scholarship.
“I was amazed by the campus,” Misan said of her early visits to Orono. “I thought it was the greatest thing in the world. I think what got to me was the people that I met. I went into the Office of International Programs and the director [Karen Boucias] was just so nice to me. There was no hesitation about whether she wanted me to come here.”
Misan lived with the Davises until this school year, when she and her boyfriend, Will Beaudoin, took an apartment in Orono.
“My family jokes that they got an exchange student not for one year, but for five years,” said Misan, an only child who calls the Davises Mom and Dad and considers Oriana Davis a sister. “My host family was the biggest rock I had here. They were supportive.”
In addition to her studies, Misan has been active in the UMaine community. She is an orientation leader for first-year students and is a member of three honor societies — All Maine Women, Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi. This year Misan served as the co-president of SPIFFY, the Student Portfolio Investment Fund of the University of Maine Foundation. The group manages a diversified investment portfolio of about $1.2 million that is part of the university’s endowment.
Misan is also an intern with the Johnson Management Group LLC in Bangor. She would like to continue working in finance and plans to look for a job in that area after graduation, when she will move to Boston with Beaudoin, who is going to law school there.
She would like to work as either a venture capitalist or a sell-side analyst.
“I love finance, but I’m also very much a people person,” Misan said. “I would hate very much to sit behind a laptop and crunch numbers. I want that interaction.”
Wherever she works, Misan would like to stay in the U.S. In fact, she hasn’t been home in three years, but did manage to find a close group of international students in Orono.
“Maine is obviously not a very diverse state, but the international community is very close together,” Misan said. “I feel privileged that my very good friends are from Sri Lanka, Germany, Vietnam. You make that connection very fast because you share a lot of similar experiences.”
In order to watch Misan graduate Saturday, her mother, Marina Dmitrieva, is visiting the U.S. for the first time. Dmitrieva is staying — where else? — with the Davis family.
“I think my mom was really overwhelmed,” Misan said. “She doesn’t speak a lot of English so that complicates things, but I think they’re really getting along. She learned how to say ‘I love you’ in English and she’s constantly hugging my host mom and dad.”
Husson University will hold its 110th commencement during which a total of 590 degrees will be given to 560 students in two ceremonies. Husson will hold its main ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in the Winkin Sports Complex on the Bangor campus.
Sidney R. Unobskey and Paul E. Husson will receive honorary degrees. Senior Class President Timothy Talpey of Jackman will deliver the class address.
A second commencement ceremony for Husson’s campus in South Portland will be held Sunday in Portland at Woodfords Congregational Church.
The Boat School-Husson University will hold its graduation and launch ceremonies starting at 11 a.m. today. Thom Johnston, president of NESCOM, will give the welcome and introductions along with William Beardsley, president of Husson University. Guest speaker will be Ronald Renaud, president emeritus of Washington County Community College. The Graduation Luncheon, which is by invitation, begins at 11:45 a.m., followed by the launch of a student-built vessel. A public open house and tours will take place 9 to 11 a.m.
University College of Bangor will hold its 41st commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday at Augusta Civic Center in conjunction with the University of Maine at Augusta’s graduation ceremony. UCB is a campus of UMA.
Longtime Bangor resident Nelson Durgin, executive director of the Phillips-Strickland House, will be the first recipient of the new Distinguished Service to UMA Award. Durgin is a member of the UMA board of visitors and the UCB Advisory Council.
The award honors an individual who has contributed significantly to strengthening UMA. Durgin was nominated by UCB Campus Dean Gillian Jordan and the UMA Commencement Committee. He was approved unanimously by the UMA President’s Cabinet.
Unity College will hold its graduation on campus in Unity starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 9. Keynote speaker will be U.S. Sen. Susan Collins.
Saint Joseph’s College in Standish will give an honorary degree on Saturday to Sister Mary Norberta, president and chief executive officer of St. Joseph Hospital and St. Joseph Healthcare Foundation in Bangor. She will receive the college’s Doctor of Humane Letters Award. The ceremony starts at 10 a.m. at the Alfond Center.
University of Maine at Fort Kent will hold its graduation at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 9, in the UMFK Sports Center. Commencement speaker will be Lewis Turco, poet and author. Fort Kent Town Manager Don Guimond will be honored for his community service during the ceremonies.
University of Maine at Farmington is taking steps to guard against the swine flu in Saturday’s graduation ceremonies. Graduates will be asked to stop at a table and apply hand sanitizer before they go onstage to get their diplomas. University President Theodora Kalikow is planning to wear a glove as a precautionary measure as she shakes graduates’ hands.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.