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Meet Love Odetola: International Student, Track Athlete, and Friendly Face

You may ask why Love Odetola ’14 is this week’s campus celebrity. The reason, of course, is her heart. With a name like Love, she has a lot to live up to, but Love’s genuine smile and funny quips ensure that everyone she meets is left feeling gleeful and good about themselves.

“She is literally one of the best people on this campus,” says Chloe Vraney, friend and fellow Ole. “She just makes everyone so happy.”
However, there is more to this ball of sunshine than meets the eye. While she may appear to always be in a good mood, this conscious positive attitude is a fairly new development for Love.

“When I came to St. Olaf, I began volunteering in the hospital, working with the elderly,” says Love. “I know I was supposed to be helping them, but they helped me a lot too. I was confronted with the idea of death a lot more, and naturally wanted to make sure I was doing as much as I could to lead a wonderful life.”

This isn’t to say that Love hasn’t had an interesting life thus far. Born in Nigeria, Love actually spent most of her life growing up in Senegal, a culture to which she associates with more. Her first time in America –  “Except in my dreams,” she adds – was when she toured colleges, a trip that resulted in her falling in love with St. Olaf College. “It was the most beautiful place I visited,” she said. “Also, I love the climate here. The heat in Africa would just burn me up!”

Adjusting to American life was hard, she says, but, with that famous Love attitude, not impossible. The weirdest thing to get used to was human interaction. Love says that physical interaction is hard for most international students, and that hugging is something that she struggled with getting used to. “Most of us [the international students] are used to cheek kissing or handshakes,” says Love, “but I just have learned to put on more deodorant and embrace the love!”

Obviously, Love has done just that, becoming super involved on campus. “I just love my track team!” she says. “And I love traveling with them. Going to different schools lets me experience more American culture and meet more people.” Love is a thrower, which means she does a lot of weight training and not so much running. “It’s perfect for me, because it doesn’t wear me out,” she says. “The other girls accept me for my strengths at shotput, weights and hammer throws, which is so wonderful. People here are in general just very tolerant.”

Her appreciation for this tolerance and diversitiy is especially emulated in her work on campus as an International Counselor, a job that keeps her busy working with helping new international students in their transitions each week. She helps plan outings to the Mall of America and the apple orchard, and spent time at the beginning of the school year running a ‘crash course’ in American life for international students before everyone else showed up on campus. 

She extends this desire to positively interact with others to the rest of her life as well. Her on-campus-job, being a hall receptionist in Thorson, is one example. “I always think I should try to get my homework done there, but it never gets done,” she said. “I love getting to know all the new people, and I also love all the boys from my old dorm, Kildahl, who live in Thorson, because they always wink at me when they come in. Who knew that boys in America could flirt so much?”

Love’s life goals also reflect her desire to work with people, in a slightly more serious manner. Love is considering a biology major, and says her ultimate dream is to return Senegal and set up an organization that gives basic medical aid to women and children. When talking about that goal, her eyes light up and she flashes that smile that so many have come to appreciate.

“I have been given so much,” she says. “Why wouldn’t I want to share that?”

Jessica is a senior at St. Olaf College majoring in English with concentrations in media studies and Middle Eastern studies. As one of the Campus Correspondents for Her Campus St. Olaf, she enjoys writing and editing news stories, and encouraging younger Oles to express their skills and talents through writing. She also is an editor for the school's student newspaper, The Manitou Messenger, and a writer for the college's marketing and communications office. In her (limited) free time, she enjoys eating pita and hummus from the Cage, curling up in a Buntrock window seat with a good book, and checking things off her senior bucket list.
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