Finding a Second Home at CBU: Meet Mao Onishi

A short visit to Cape Breton Island is all it takes to fall in love with beauty and people of the Island. Bachelor of Arts student, Mao Onishi, who will graduate this afternoon at CBU’s Fall Convocation Ceremony is proof of that. 

From Kyoto, Japan, Mao’s Island journey began in 2017 when she did a brief international exchange to Cape Breton as a high school student. In just a few short months, she fell in love with the community, the culture and the breathtaking natural landscapes. This experience, plus a deep connection to her host family in Cape Breton drew Mao back when she was ready to pursue her university degree. 

Mao says her time at CBU has been instrumental in her personal and professional growth. “My time at CBU has been a profound experience,” she shares. “CBU has played an important role in shaping my perspective on life, myself and the world around me.” Studying Psychology at CBU has also provided Mao with valuable insights she says continue to prove useful in her experiences after university. 

Mao’s experience at CBU extended beyond the classroom. She actively engaged in volunteer work, through which she had the opportunity to meet and connect with a diverse range of individuals. She says these connections truly demonstrate the multiculturalism at CBU. 

A standout moment for Mao was leading an action project called “Table for Two” in the CBU Cafeteria last fall. Through the project, participants were able to donate five school meals to children around the world by taking photos for social media and eating onigiri (Japanese rice ball). Through this project, Mao collected 180 pictures, thereby enabling her to provide 900 school meals. “Everyone’s smiles and kind heartedness brought me a lot of happiness plus nourishing meals to hundreds of kids across the world,” says Mao. 

Since finishing her classes, Mao has returned to Japan where she is currently teaching English to Japanese students. She says her heart remains connected to Cape Breton and she hopes to return in the future to pursue a career in counselling or social work.

“CBU has had a large impact on how I think about my career,” says Mao. “My time at the University equipped me with strong communications skills, vital for connecting with individuals from different backgrounds.” 

Mao’s story is a great example of the transformative experiences that can be found at CBU, where brief visits turn into lifelong connections and personal growth transcends borders. Congratulations to Mao and the entire graduating class of Fall 2023!