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Professors adjust to slow-paced life in Maine

Virginia native Adrian Blevins, assistant professor of English, was surprised by how much she loves Maine winters--especially the snow.

For many students who come from out of state, adjusting to life in Maine can take time. The same is true for professors who come to work on the Hill and to make their homes in Maine, but many grow to love the state and all it offers.

Professor of English Phyllis Mannocchi came to Maine in the fall of 1977. Despite having lived in the state for more than thirty years, she still doesn’t consider herself a “Mainer.” “People still come up to me and ask, ‘Is that a New York accent I hear?’” Mannocchi said. She is actually from Philadelphia, but she spent time living in New York City, Italy, Barcelona and London. 

Although Mannocchi is disappointed with the lack of Italian food markets in Maine, Mannocchi said that the state is “less exotic but more homey, because there are so many beautiful places that you feel a connection with and are a part of.”

A lover of the ocean, Mannocchi has spent time traveling almost the entirety of the state’s coastline. Two of her favorite places to visit are Stonington and Deer Isle. 

Mannocchi also loves the people in Maine and the state’s strong sense of community. “You feel a connection to neighbors and the parents of the kids your children hang out with and a connection to all the soccer moms—all those personal relationships give you the roots that keep you here,” she said.

Mannocchi appreciates that her son, Abu, who was adopted from Sierra Leone, and her daughter, Jackie, who was adopted from Haiti, could grow up in a safe place where they were embraced in the community for their differences, but “sometimes it was hard for them to be so unusual in this town,” she said, and at times she wishes Waterville were a little more diverse.

Adrian Blevins, assistant professor of English, also feels that being from outside Maine has made things more challenging for her daughter, August. 

“We’re missing the necessary generational ties to the community,” she said. Blevins is a Virginia native, and despite the fact that she feels she’ll be a “foreigner forever,” she has adapted well to life in Maine since she moved here in 2004. 

Blevins’ favorite things to do in the state are visiting Acadia National Park or just to driving around and bumping into funky places and things. She is getting used to the fact that “everything you need to go to is at least an hour and a half away.” 

Blevins also loves that the state is not overcrowded and that people are very tolerant and seem to uphold to the motto: “live and let live.” 

Surprisingly, Maine has  proved to be pretty similar to Blevins’ home state of Virginia, although it may be a little behind the times. “Living in Maine today is like living in Virginia at the turn of the century,” she said. 

One thing that is definitely not similar, however, is the weather. Blevins loves the changes in the seasons and the sunshine, and she was surprised at how much she loves the winter. Although she doesn’t enjoy how short the days get during the winter months, “the snow makes you feel grateful for small things,” she said.

The heavy snowfall, however, is the one complaint about Maine that Visiting Professor of Geology Bruce Rueger has about the state. Rueger has lived in Maine since 1984 and he no longer enjoys the snow as much as he used to. 

“I don’t like moving snow as a hobby,” Rueger said, but there are many other things he does like about the state. 

An avid outdoorsman, Rueger appreciates that the climate and geography of Maine provide him with plenty of opportunities to go camping, snowshoeing and canoeing.  

Before coming to Maine, Rueger lived in Massachusetts, Indiana and Colorado. “If someone had told me that I would live in Waterville, I would have laughed,” Rueger said, but he has found that the state of Maine allows him to pursue his field of interest quite easily. “I like doing geology here – it’s a good place for that,” he said.

Fellow department member Robert E. Nelson, professor of geology, also likes that Maine allows him to blend recreation and research. Nelson has lived in Maine since 1982 and he enjoys the state’s rural lifestyle. “There’s a slower pace of life once you get off campus,” Nelson said. 

Nelson feels that the state captures the best aspects of the other places that he’s lived, which include Massachusetts, California, Washington and Alaska. Nelson spent most of his childhood in California, a state that he said has grown and changed significantly, and he feels Maine is “like where he grew up, at the time when he grew up in it.” 

Nelson enjoys the fact that Maine isn’t too crowded, and he likes that at his house he has “peace and quiet” so he can hear the birds and nature. He also likes that his town has “more cows than people,” and he doesn’t mind having to drive places because there aren’t many traffic lights.  

Professor Nelson plans to remain in Maine, the state he has lived in for the longest amount of time, for the foreseeable future. To him, “moving to Florida is about as tasteful as drinking mud.” 

Elisabeth Sagaser, associate professor of English, has lived in Maine since 1994, and like Nelson said “it’s by far the longest I’ve ever lived in one place.” 

It’s the sense of community in Maine that Professor Sagaser enjoys the most. The connections she has with the honest and genuine people at the Kennebec Montessori School, Bossov Ballet and the Waterville Public Schools have meant a lot to her and her family. 

“You get to know the community much more in Maine than in other places I’ve lived,” Sagaser said. “People really get to know each other and help each other here.”

Maine also provides lots of opportunities for Sagaser to spend time with her family outdoors. They enjoy skiing, hiking, kayaking and playing tennis. In fact, “Acadia National Park is the biggest reason I’m happy to live in Maine,” she said. Her home is also in “perfect location,” she said, “an hour from the coast and an hour from the mountains.”

Despite Sagaser’s wishes that she lived closer to a major city, that mud season wouldn’t last so long and that The Breadbox (a restaurant in downtown Waterville) hadn’t closed, she has come to love living in Maine. 

Quoting the state’s motto, Blevins said that life in Maine is “the way life should be.”