While some college students opt to matriculate as far away from their families as physically possible, 18-year-old Olivia Love-Hatlestad decided to stay close. Just an hour and a half northwest of her hometown of Grayslake, Illinois, is Beloit College, where she plans to study theater for the next four years. The most recent episode of VICELAND's Balls Deep gave glimpses of her life and interests, from a Vagina Monologues script sitting next to a painted mural of Bernie Sanders to folded posters in bold, capital letters reading, "INTERSECTIONALITY MATTERS."
We caught up with Love-Hatlestad halfway through her first semester to find out how she's adjusting to life away from home, school, and everything that comes with the territory.
VICE: Have you been getting involved in the activism scene at Beloit?
Olivia Love-Hatlestad: Yeah, there's been a couple things I've been able to participate in. The night of the election was one of the worst nights of my life—I wasn't angry, just truly broken. Then I found out there was a campus event where women, people of color, and LGBTQ people could talk about how the election has affected them. At first, people sat in silence for a while. I got to get up and speak for a few minutes, though, which was really cathartic. It opened the way for others to get up and take their turn.
Have you picked up any other interests since starting college?
I'm in a theory class that might be the most frustrating thing I've ever done. It's technically a theater class, but it delves into what liking the art you like means in terms of the art you're going to make and the impact it'll have. It hurts my head, but it's incredible.
You opted to live with your longtime friend Willow. Why did you decide to take that route instead of living with someone you don't know?
Exposing yourself to different types of personalities is definitely a requisite for the college experience, but because I'm really social I didn't have an overwhelming amount of anxiety about making friends. My decision to live with Willow was because I love this person and have a really good rhythm with them. At the end of the day, I want to come home to a space that I feel I can really exhale in. I didn't really want to run the risk of not having that space, which is a problem I've run into with a lot of friends I've made. Anyway, both Willow and I have such busy schedules and involved in so many activities that we're not suffocating each other.
How has your friendship changed since you started living together?
It's definitely shifted as we both find our place in the community. We still have fun together, but we've fallen in with very different people. I think that it's really healthy, though, and it's good that we have our own social circles and support systems so we're not constantly invading each other's space.
How do you feel about Beloit's small size?
I'm used to it. I've only gone to tiny schools—my eighth grade class was four people, and I went to that school for 13 years. I'm accustomed to tight-knit communities where everyone knows one another. I like seeing familiar faces and getting close with people. It's validating, it's grounding, it's good.
What about meeting people for the first time while being followed by Balls Deep's camera crew?
It was interesting. It wasn't bad, but I would've definitely preferred to meet all of those people in a way that didn't have any sort of pressure or ceremony surrounding it. But I was so goddamn nervous. I was certain I looked ridiculous the entire time I was being filmed constantly and having these interactions with strangers while being followed by the camera crew.
How was interacting with Thomas like?
It was so weird at first—I thought he hated me! He's really reserved and minimalistic with his emotional expressions, so it caught me off-guard. But it didn't take me terribly long to get in the rhythm of finding out what he was about and the level he generally operated on. At the end, I found myself really comfortable with Thomas. He was really kind to me, really patient, and really up for anything. Plus, he let me bum a cigarette, so we're basically best friends forever.
Follow Layla Halabian on Twitter.
You can catch Balls Deep on VICELAND. Find out how to watch here.