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Northwestern University

Arch Scholar Sydney Matrisciano '22: "A Bridge to Northwestern"

sydney-matrisciano.jpgSydney Matrisciano '22 (left) was thrilled to discover that Northwestern matched her vision of what a prestigious university should look like: a leafy campus, Gothic-style architecture, ivy-covered walls.

The Mississippian was less excited to discover that some of her classmates had some stereotypical ideas about her, too.

“During orientation week, when I said I was from Mississippi, some people actually said, ‘Oh my God, how did you get here?’ I don’t want to say I heard a lot of ugly comments, but one girl actually tried to teach me how to use the showers,” Matrisciano recalled. “They just hadn’t met someone from Mississippi before,” she added graciously.

Still, Matrisciano, who had attended a small public secondary school before transferring to a high school with a stronger emphasis on STEM, found she had some adjusting to do.

“There’s just a different emphasis on discussion at a school like Northwestern,” she said. “The focus seems to be more on student-driven opinions, and I wasn’t used to having those sorts of discussions in high school.”

Team projects and workshops

Matrisciano learned how to express herself during Bridge, a five-week summer program that helps students from diverse backgrounds acquire the skills and support to thrive at Northwestern.

“We talked about some really touchy subjects. Oftentimes, it would be me and one or two other Southerners expressing one opinion, and another 30 or so expressing a different opinion.

“There were times I didn’t know what I believed or how to communicate it. So Bridge taught me a lot about civil discussion and being a contributing member of the Northwestern community.”

The discussions took place within an academic program that introduced Matrisciano to college-level work with courses like Quantitative Reasoning and Introduction to Critical Thinking in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Bridge students also worked on team projects and attended workshops on study skills, stress management and other aspects of college life. Evenings and weekends featured community-building activities like trips to Chicago and movie nights.

Gaining an early advantage

“Once the fall quarter began, I could see the advantage in learning how to manage my time, where to go for help, how to talk to professors,” Matrisciano said.

Now fully immersed at Northwestern, Matrisciano relishes her diverse friendships. She has declared a major in Russian, discovered a fascination with the Balkan Peninsula and is applying for a Posner research fellowship to pursue that interest further.

Most of all, she is grateful to Bridge for making an unfamiliar campus feel like home. “I think the name ‘Bridge’ is really apt — it’s a bridge to Northwestern for students from a variety of backgrounds,” she said. “It reaches students who need it, even people from different parts of the country who might feel awkward stepping onto campus. It gave me the skills to counteract any doubts I might have had about belonging here.”

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