SOLON — Andromida Grondin had never been kayaking or canoing before Monday, so when she arrived at the University of Maine at Farmington recently she jumped at the opportunity to spend Labor Day paddling down the Kennebec River.

“I thought, ‘OK, I’ll give it a try,’ because I love the water,” said Grondin, 22, who transferred this year from Northern Maine Community College to UMF.

Grondin is among about 500 new students who arrived on the UMF campus over the weekend, including a freshman class of about 400 and about 100 transfer students.

More than 100 of those students participated in a range of outdoor orientation activities on Monday geared towards getting them familiar with their surroundings and some of the outdoors opportunities in western Maine.

They included white water rafting, canoing and kayaking, a hike up Bald Mountain and mountain biking around Farmington.

“Exposing our first year students and transfer students to some of the most beautiful parts of Maine is really vital to their success,” said Andrew Willihan, UMF outdoor recreation coordinator for Mainely Outdoors, the school’s outdoor recreation program. “We want them to be successful in the classroom, but also to live a good life with wellness and outdoor recreation. This is an awesome opportunity to show them the things they can do within their means and skills level.”

Several of the two dozen students who participated in the canoe and kayak trip, like Grondin, had never done either before. As they unloaded their boats and listened to a quick safety tutorial from their launching point at Evergreen Campground, there were expressions of nervousness but also excitement.

The plan was to paddle about 11 miles to North Anson, all the while taking in the sun and scenes along the Kennebec River.

“I’m a little nervous, but I think it will be fun,” said Sophia Dovidas, 19, of Greenville, Pennsylvania.

It didn’t take long for Dovidas, who re-located to Maine with her husband to attend UMF, to start talking enthusiastically about the state.

“I basically want to explore everything,” she said. I’m from PA and there’s not much to do. In Maine, there’s a lot to do and it’s a different climate, so there’s a lot to explore and experience.”

This year’s class of freshman and transfer students is the largest out-of-state class in recent years, according to the university, which said students from 22 states will be attending this year.

Wenxi Li, who is from the country of China and will be spending the year in Farmington, said she was attracted to Maine because of a slower pace of life and opportunities to be in the outdoors, like Monday’s trip.

“My home university is in a really crowded city that stresses me out every day,” she said, holding on to her kayak paddle as she waited to get on the river.

“I just really like the water, and they had this program, so I was really excited to sign up for it,” she said.

Classes at UMF start Tuesday and even though they won’t be spending the day on the river, Li and others said there’s still a lot to look forward to.

“I’m excited for new opportunities,” said Grondin, who is from Caribou in Aroostook County. “In the county, we don’t have many opportunities. I had to travel south. So I’m excited for the new opportunities.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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