World Champion
Zara Odafe '20

From the Huizenga Auditorium to Brandenburg International School in Kleinmachnow, Seth Buikema masters the Geography Bee.

Seth Buikema knows more about geography than anyone else in the world. In a gymnasium at the Berlin Brandenburg International School in Kleinmachnow he was announced the World Geography Champion. It took him years of competition — winning State and National championships ­— to finally reach the highest point of success. 

Seth’s passion for geography began at an early age. He started competing in fourth grade. He placed first in the elementary school geography competition and second in the middle school competition. 

From his early memories, he recalled his parents giving him a globe and a map, which fed his curiosity. National Geographics were also another way Seth developed his passion for geography. He was completely unaware of how much success this hobby would bring him.

“There is a lot of stuff in this world to know about, culture and people,” Seth explains. “It is all really interesting because what I know in my life, is so infinitesimally small compared to just everything around me.” 

There's more to the world than what we see everyday.

In 8th grade, Seth competed in the annual geography test in order to qualify for the State geography competition. Placing third in State took him to the National Geography Competition in Washington D.C. 

Seth advanced to the semi-finals several years in a row, but never qualified for finals, until the summer of 2018. After getting first in the World section of the National competition; Buikema qualified for the International Geography Bee in Berlin, Germany.

On July 10, 2018, right before his senior year, Seth and his parents traveled to Berlin, Germany, for the world competition. Buikema competed in geography knockouts, written tests, and head-to-head competitions. The questions varied in topics and sometimes it was out of sheer luck that Seth answered correctly. 

A question like “Where is Leavenworth located?” was achievable for Seth to answer because his family had been there. Unlike the other competitors whose noses were buried in books studying for the competition; Seth did not do much formal preparation. “I don’t stress out about it,” he says. “I just do it for fun.” 

Seth Buikema always goes out of his way to learn about the world around him. One time when the Buikema’s were headed to the airport, they had a driver from Cameroon, which really intrigued Seth. Seth sat next to the driver and asked him a plethora of questions about Cameroon. Seth’s curiosity was so shocking to the driver that he asked: “Why do you want to know so much about Cameroon?” 

And the geography fanatic responded: “I’m interested, because there’s more to the world than what we see every day.”

Seth will attend Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota in the fall.

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