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.”
“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.
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?”