Baker’s Dozen Abroad Corner: Helen Ferguson


Helen Ferguson

As she studies abroad on the Colgate study group in Geneva, Switzerland, junior Helen Ferguson is focusing on her peace and conflict studies concentration, both through classroom time and real-world experiences.

“I am studying international and European governmental and non-governmental organizations, as well as international law,” Ferguson, who is from Bethesda, Md., said. “I wanted to go on the Geneva program because I plan to go to law school and wanted to gain a perspective on governmental and legal institutions in an international context.”

To supplement her abroad studies, Ferguson works as an intern for the World Young Women’s Christian Association (World YWCA) which is headquartered in Geneva. She is specifically a Peace and Justice intern in the YWCA’s Global Programming and Impact team.

“I am really enjoying my internship there, and it is right up my alley. As a Peace and Conflict Studies [concentrator], I love doing work on their Peace with Justice project,” Ferguson said. “I have always had a strong passion for gender equality as well, so this internship has been a really great opportunity for me to explore my interests.”

Ferguson has also been able to fully experience her new surroundings in Switzerland, even exploring the nearby area.

“Overall my experience abroad has been really wonderful. Geneva is a beautiful city and I am enjoying living in a city and traveling to such beautiful places on the weekend.” Ferguson said. “Adjusting to a new place can be challenging in certain ways, too. Sadly I don’t speak much French, and, although there are lots of people who speak English in Geneva, it can be hard to not speak the language.”

When asked what has surprised her about her time abroad so far, Ferguson said there are many things she didn’t expect, but that most are little things that are simply different than in the U.S.

“Doors are weird here: I almost never know how to open them. Each one is different in no logical way,” she said. “When you get coffee at a coffee shop, you don’t pay for it [until] after you drink it, and you have to go back up to the counter to pay for it. If you try to pay when you order it they get very upset and confused.”

She also noted an abundance of American music from the 1980s, a lack of Tide products and that chocolates are to the Swiss what mints are to Americans.

Back on campus, Ferguson is a member of the Swinging ’Gates.

“I am passionate about my involvement with the Swinging Gates. The ’Gates [was] the first group I joined at Colgate, and I have made some of my closest friends through being a member of the ’Gates,” Ferguson said. 

She is also a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma and a newly inducted member of the Konosioni Senior Honor Society.

“I served as Kappa’s Panhellenic Delegate for the past year which I really enjoyed and was an important position for me,” Ferguson said, “and I am really excited to be a member of Konosioni and looking forward to that commitment.” 

Ferguson is excited to return to Colgate, but not wasting a single moment of her time abroad in Geneva.