With her graduation just a few days away, Annabelle Bugay is already missing the little things about her CBU experience, like writing papers in the Verschuren Centre on a chilly fall day while sipping coffee. She is graduating from the Bachelor of Arts in Community Studies program with a double major in Music and Folklore. Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Annabelle’s journey to CBU included time in Bulgaria, Ukraine and Ireland before she arrived on our Island, and we are so thankful she did.
Annabelle first learned about CBU through her university’s study abroad program while she was attending the University of Limerick in Ireland. As both a dancer and pianist, Annabelle had long been interested in visiting Cape Breton because of the Island’s music and dance traditions. “I ran into an upper year classmate who had just completed his study abroad term at CBU and he had nothing but good things to say about his time in Cape Breton,” she says. “I spontaneously filled out my application that evening and I’m so thankful I did because it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!”
Looking back on her time at CBU, Annabelle says Dr. Heather Sparling, Professor of Ethnomusicology, and Ian Brodie, Associate Professor of Folklore, both played an important role in her student experience. “Both professors helped me navigate the transition of switching universities and greatly supported me in furthering my research and applying to conferences,” says Annabelle. “They both took me under their wings and I don’t know how I would have crossed the finish line without either of them.”
Along with the endless support from her professors and parents back at home, Annabelle says she also had support during her time in Cape Breton from Carol and Mario Colosimo of Dominion. “The Colosimo’s love to help international students in the music program by inviting them to travel around the Island to the many musical events Cape Breton has to offer,” she explains. “I met Carol and Mario during my first week in Cape Breton and they made me feel so welcome that I felt like I’d already been living in Sydney for a long time.”
After finishing her classes in May, Annabelle flew to Denver, Colorado to spend the summer serving the homeless with the organization, Christ in the City. She says her experience at CBU prepared her greatly for that opportunity. “As a folklore major, my coursework helped me learn to connect with others to better understand them and their culture,” says Annabelle. “This is an invaluable skill that I am able to use every single day as I interact with people. It gave me a deeper understanding of what unites us as human beings.”
Annabelle is now back on the East Coast, living as a missionary with the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she serves free breakfasts, runs a clothing pantry and helps prepare for the opening of their winter homeless shelter. She continues to dance and perform, with her dancing set to be featured on a Scottish fiddle album by Isla Ratcliff entitled “The Castalia.”
As she reflects on her CBU experience, Annabelle says she will definitely miss the tight-knit community. “You couldn’t go anywhere on campus without bumping into someone you knew and stopping to chat with them,” says Annabelle. “I’m hoping to come back to visit Cape Breton either this summer or in the fall to visit CBU, reunite with my friends and hopefully go to some square dances!”
Congratulations to Annabelle and the Fall Graduating Class of 2021!