On Sept. 10, Harding University in England (HUE) alumni from the past six trips were surprised to find a Facebook notification from their Icelandic bus driver Ragnheiður Jónsdóttir, adding them to a group called “HUE In Iceland.”
“The idea was to make a Facebook page for all of us to put in photos and share stories from their trips to Iceland,” Jónsdóttir said.
HUE students take a week-long trip to Iceland to begin their semester abroad and go around the “Golden Circle”, a popular tourist route that travels through southern Iceland, and through the Western Fjords, a large peninsula in northwest Iceland, all accompanied by their tour guide, Jóhannes Logason, and bus driver, Jónsdóttir. During this time, students say they grow very close to Logason and Jónsdóttir.
HUE director and instructor Lauren Knight, the director of the HUE program, said that both Logason and Jónsdóttir are the first step into helping the students become comfortable in the foreign country.
“When you walk into a situation and know you’re understood and appreciated, you’re able to let down your guard” Knight said. “Johannes and Ragga (Jónsdóttir) love the Harding groups and expect to connect with subsequent students in the same way. It makes for really fast connection for new groups!”
Knight said Jónsdóttir has always gone above and beyond to cultivate their relationships even outside Iceland, by surprising the spring 2018 HUE group by flying to London to celebrate Easter with them or by having her mom hand-knit hats and socks for Knight’s children. Making a Facebook group to keep up with week-long friends and turning them into life-long friends is not out of character for her, Knight said.
Junior Camden Marshall went to HUE in fall 2017, and said she quickly became close to both guides during her trip. Marshall said it was nice to hear from Jónsdóttir through the Facebook page because she never expected to hear from them directly again.
“I was so excited to see that I had been added to the group, and it’s really cool to see updated pictures from the group that is over there right now,” Marshall said.
Jónsdóttir said she started the group to be able to see the HUE alumna in their own element, along with collecting pictures from their journeys in her home country.
“Students from Harding are all so easy-going, willing and open to doing stuff. Not all groups are like that,” Jonsdottir said. “It would be fun to get all the groups together and take a trip to Iceland together. That’s why I made the Facebook page.”