When fourth grade student Maxx Parfitt learns about world geography in school, he will have an advantage over most of his classmates. Maxx recently returned from a four month trip with the Semester at Sea program where he visited more than 10 countries, learning about their geography, culture and languages.
Maxx and his parents, FishHawk residents Robert Parfitt and Patricia Zapf, joined approximately 600 students from all over the world for the spring 2018 semester to learn on the MV World Odyssey as it traveled from San Diego, California to Frankfurt, Germany stopping at places including Vietnam, Hong Kong, India and South Africa on the way.
Zapf, a Clinical Forensics Psychology Professor heard about the opportunity to teach on the ship from a colleague and felt it would be a great experience for her family.
“We planned and picked the timing of the trip very carefully,” said Robert, who owns his own business so was able to take time off and home school Maxx during the semester. “We felt like the opportunity to become global citizens outweighed the difficulties of making the trip work.”
The family was given a 300 sq. ft. room on the ship, which is set up as a floating university with a student center, cafeterias, a library and a pool, to use as a base during the adventure. They left the boat at ports in Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, China, Vietnam, Burma, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, Portugal and Germany, staying at hotels in many of the locations while taking tours and experiencing as much as they could of the countries’ cultures.
“I’ve always been interested in travel,” said Robert. “I tried to plan as many of the day trips myself as possible, but in some cases we used the guides suggested by the program.”
Highlights of the trip for Robert included biking through the jungle in Ghana, cooking classes in India, Japan and Vietnam and visiting the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China and Tiananmen Square.
“Maxx loved trying and buying clothes from different countries and impressed us with how he branched out and tried new foods,” said Robert. “But he did miss his favorite restaurant, Outback, at home.”
A student at FishHawk Creek Elementary School, Maxx kept a blog while traveling, which helped him keep track of the many places he visited and the unique experiences in each place. A hockey lover, Maxx brought his equipment on the ship and was able to play his favorite sport with children in Japan and Hong Kong.
Additional highlights for Maxx were the Pokemon warehouse, a trip to a game reserve in South Africa where he saw animals including lions, cheetahs, elephants, baboons, zebras and buffalo, stitching a soccer ball in Ghana and a ceremony on the boat when it crossed the equator.
Maxx’s family was one of a few on the boat where most of the residents were female college students who paid for the experience and received college credit. The Semester at Sea program, which works in conjunction with Colorado State University, started in 1963 and since then more than 63,000 people from 1,700 higher learning institutions have traveled to more than 60 countries through the program.