Small Town, Big Opportunity
Not too long ago, Mackenzie Brooks was just a small town New Hampshire girl with an eager imagination and a hunger for world travel. Today, Mackenzie is an exchange student at CBU and is excited to have the opportunity to tell her story. “Six months ago, if you would have asked me where I would be spending my winter semester, Nova Scotia wouldn’t have even crossed my mind,” says the third year student. “However, I have been in Cape Breton for over a month now and I’m loving every second of it.” Mackenzie is spending four months at CBU as part of a National Exchange Program before returning to the University of New Hampshire (UNH) where she studies Psychology, with a minor in Family Studies.
Mackenzie was born and raised in the small town of Colebrook, Northern New Hampshire. With a total population of about 2000, Mackenzie can’t help but laugh when “small town” is a phrase she hears describing Sydney. So what is this small town girl from New Hampshire doing at CBU? Well, when Mackenzie found out she needed a foreign culture class in order to graduate from UNH. She could have done what most of her classmates did and taken a single anthropology class to fill the requirement. Instead, she decided that she would take this opportunity to travel abroad, filling her academic requirement and gaining a once in a lifetime opportunity all at the same time. Mackenzie’s Celtic roots were part of the reason she originally wanted to set out for Ireland, following the status quo of North American exchanges to the UK. However, after crunching the numbers she quickly learned that her dream semester abroad would come at much too high of an expense and with that her dreams of a semester away began to fade. One afternoon, while surfing the web, Mackenzie came across a National Exchange Program, assuming schools in the United States were her only option left. However, after taking a closer look, she learned that there were Canadian schools on the list including CBU. With a little bit of research, Nova Scotia’s “New Scotland” meaning and Celtic connections caught her attention, and Mackenzie decided she would set off for Cape Breton the following January. “I told my friends and family I was coming before I even submitted my application,” says Mackenzie. “I knew that I was meant to come here.”
Even though proximity wise, New Hampshire and Nova Scotia are not that far away, Mackenzie says that there are definitely some differences between going to school here and going there. The most obvious to her is the terminology we use to describe things, which doesn’t come as a surprise if you think about the sayings and slang unique to Cape Breton. In New Hampshire everyone says “grades” when talking about school work, but here in Cape Breton Mackenzie says, “marks seems to be the word of choice.” Mackenzie can’t stop talking about the diversity at CBU either, something that there is far less of at her university back home. “I have been telling everyone from back home that it feels like I could be pretty much anywhere in the world because the cultural diversity is so wonderful, but I‘m in Canada and I absolutely love it!”
Mackenzie is getting the whole university experience at CBU, starting with living on campus. “I love living on campus,” she says. “When you’re a new person, from a different country and you literally don’t know anyone, it is so much easier to meet people and make friends.” Not to mention it is nice to be able to walk out of your dorm room and only have to go across to the next building to eat or being able to get up ten minutes before class and make it on time. This is quite the change for the New Hampshire native who is use to living off campus and planning her days around the bus schedule. Mackenzie’s favorite part of campus life is getting to interact with her peers both in and outside of class, whether they are hanging out in their rooms or going over to The Pit, there is always an opportunity to be around friends and fellow classmates.
Mackenzie is an athlete through and through. She loves to play and watch basketball, so cheering on the CAPERS is a fun way for Mackenzie to embrace her Caper spirit. When she’s not decked out in her orange and green in the CAPERS stands you can find her scrimmaging in the gym with some friends. Athletics has always been a love for Mackenzie and CBU’s excellent facilities and top notch programs are just another reason she loves calling Cape Breton University her temporary home, even though there is too much snow on the ground now for her favorite sport, Rugby.
The future is very much an enjoyable unknown for Mackenzie. With graduation and grad school on the horizon she says “I always keep an open mind in case something new and exciting comes up.” But for now, she would really like to become a Marriage and Family Therapist.
The past month has been a roller coaster of excitement for Mackenzie who says her time spent on the Island will definitely be unforgettable. As for her advice, if you are an international student looking to come to CBU, Mackenzie says, “It should be high on your list. There are so many different cultures here which make it so wonderful. You don’t just learn from your professors inside the classroom, you learn so much from your peers sitting next to you.”