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Chinese Spotlight

“Transylvania offers the chance to learn how to ask questions, and this is, in my opinion, drastically different from finding the answer.”

Tony Del Grosso: Seeking the Questions

May term of his first year at Transylvania, Tony Del Grosso ‘14 went to China. He and his traveling buddies were heading back to their hotel in Xi'an when they saw a tall, thin man gesturing wildly for them to get in his motorized rickshaw. The fare was half that of a taxi, so the students climbed in. The rickshaw immediately took off, and the students held on as they careened “on the sidewalk, on the wrong side of the road, running through every light imaginable, dodging cars, and making it back to the hotel in record time. It was the drag race of a lifetime.”

During a more serene moment of the trip, Del Grosso found himself in Nanjing at the Qixia Temple, where he toured the Thousand Buddha Caves. He decided he wanted to see the temple’s sacred relic: Buddha’s skullcap. He was only given permission to view the relic once it was made clear that he was a student with a respected teacher, art history professor Nancy Wolsk. “The skullcap itself was encrusted in jewels and guarded by four soldiers. A steady stream of the faithful approached the skullcap, made their offering, and found a few words to recite in its presence. You could not help but wonder at the artifact.”

Tony Del Grosso

These are the type of authentic experiences that Del Grosso was hoping Transylvania could offer him. “Transylvania has a habit of changing the individual worldview of anyone who interacts with the community.” Del Grosso himself came to campus assuming he would major in chemistry. But unexpected experiences led him in new directions.

During winter term he took Chinese calligraphy with art history professor Wei Lin. “I remember her instructions on how to hold the calligraphy brush, emphasizing the correct stroke order and correcting our first ugly dashes. Chinese professor Qian Gao often says Chinese character writing should not look like thin, randomly-mixed-together sticks. Each stroke in a character has its own unique body and shape. Chinese characters should have life in them, rather than looking like dead lines. They should be written with purpose and strength.

“In calligraphy, each calligrapher has a unique style of their own. It is an art. The language is the same way. The Chinese program pushes me to place purpose in every action and to find that unique style. It emphasizes interaction with others when we speak Chinese or work together to learn the language.”

Del Grosso continues to study Chinese and chemistry as he pursues a major in theater, where he finds many opportunities to interact with others. Performing on a stage “lets you reach into someone else's life and, whether they realize it or not, plant a question that can make them think.”

Transylvania’s liberal arts program encourages this questioning. Before you realize it, you rethink who you are and what your future might look like. As Del Grosso discovered, “Anyone who is open to a new experience will find that they learn new things about themselves, discover new opinions they never realized they held, and find the confidence to challenge their own ideas. It's a refreshing change in a world that often emphasizes shutting each other out.

“As a result, I have more ideas for my future than I can probably accomplish, but that sure won't stop me from trying.”

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