With over 70 international students from 32 countries, the “spot in Indiana where the leafy maple grows” is a gathering spot for students from around the world.  For two Maple Leafs, it fostered an unexpected connection.  

"Brynja and I ended up sitting next to each other on the plane ride here. It was a total coincidence."

— Karitas Arnardottir

Brynja Hjartardottir and Karitas Arnardottir both came to Goshen from Iceland to play on the women’s soccer team. Though the first-years did not know each other back home, they ended up next to each other on the plane ride to the United States and soon formed a bond.   

“We talked a bit on Instagram when we knew we had both signed for Goshen and had decided to take the same flight,” said Hjartardottir. 

“Brynja and I ended up sitting next to each other on the plane ride here,” Arnardottir added. “It was a total coincidence since we didn’t plan together.”  

Both Hjartardottir and Arnardottir signed with an agency in Iceland that connects athletes with colleges and universities in the United States. 

“It had been my plan to study and play soccer in the [United States] since I was little,” said Hjartardottir. 

When Justin Crew and Julianna Chupp, the coaches for the women’s soccer team, reached out, both Hjartardottir and Arnardottir accepted the offer.

 They became regular starters for the team, both receiving all-conference recognition after their first season.

The transition to life in another country has been an adjustment for the two soccer players. “One of the hardest things is leaving my friends and family back home,” Arnardottir said. “It’s not easy to find time to talk often because of busy schedules and the time difference.” 

Hjartardottir agreed. “The hardest part is being away from my family and friends.”

Speaking and learning in English was a challenge at first, but Hjartardottir said that it “helped to have another Icelandic girl to talk to.” 

Six months into her career at GC, Hjartardottir is happy with the way she has been accepted by the campus community. “I wasn’t expecting people [here] to be as friendly and open,” she said. “That’s something I’m not used to at home in Iceland.”