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Abby Farrell enjoys eye-opening experience in Ghana

Former Wilsonville state champion tennis player Abby Farrell is using her engineering expertise to help the Ghanaian people.


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Abby Farrell (left) is learning a lot and having a great time in Ghana.

Etched in the left hand corner of former Wilsonville state champion tennis player Abby Farrell’s twitter feed below a picture of Farrell hugging her dad while smiling and holding two tennis balls, her name and twitter handle, resides an inspirational quote.

“Strive to be better today than you were yesterday,” – Crepe Lady at Cort.

Crepe Lady at Cort isn’t an old English aristocrat, but rather, as the name suggests, a crepe lady.

Farrell and her fellow residence hall advisors invited the Crepe Lady, who is somewhat of a celebrity figure in the Lehigh community, to articulate words of wisdom to a group of wide-eyed residence. That’s when she uttered the quote that inspired Farrell.

Farrell put the quote in her own words: “There are always opportunities to learn something or improve yourself in some way.”

At Lehigh, Farrell has not let many, if any, opportunities pass her by.

“My college career is far more than I ever could have expected. Between the course work, tennis, friendships, and everything else that college students have the chance to experience, I have taken full advantage of my opportunities,” she said.

Along with being one of the best players on the women’s tennis team, Farrell is the sports editor of the school yearbook, a member of the Gryphon Society, meaning she is a residential advisor, a school tour guide, a member of the Student Athletic Council and the vice president of a political organization.

In seeing the rewards of Farrell’s evolutionary attitude, one simply needs to learn a few facts. In her first two seasons at Lehigh, Farrell posted a 15-23 overall singles record and a 17-21 overall doubles record. This past season, she went 9-6 in singles and went 5-4 at the one doubles slot. Plus, she’s made second-team all-patriot league academic team two years in a row.

Farrell said the team has pushed each other to elevate their play over the past couple years.

“Since my freshman year the team is much more dedicated, and hence, next year may well be the best team in Lehigh's history. Personally, my winning record at number one and two singles was a great accomplishment. I had to beat many players who were better than me to do that,” she said.

You may think Farrell leads a laborious life, but she doesn’t see it that way.

“It never feels like a lot because I organize my time well. Anyone can do it. I still have a lot of extra time to spend with my friends, teammates, and peers outside our given activities,” she said.

She added: “I only put my effort into things that I am passionate about, so spending time on ‘things I have to do’ is easier than it may sound.”

Farrell is an IDEAS (integrated degree in engineering and art sciences) major. IDEAS majors focus on engineering and one arts and sciences concentration. She chose sociology.

“I have taken many different types of classes and can approach problems from an angle unique to many of my classmates. I hope to use my education to further understand how behavioral change, among many other factors, can lead to environmental sustainability,” she said.

Farrell predicts her career path will be in the field of engineering, but with “a twist of sorts.”

She plans to write her thesis on the topic of water treatment techniques and how to appropriately implement them. She also hopes to address inequalities and how to avoid exploitation of disadvantaged populations.

“I believe these issues are important because I maintain the belief that our current levels of consumption and the fact that we value consumption and growth so highly is not practical for the long term. Understanding these interrelated ideas have been the most important things I've learned in the classroom in college,” Farrell said.

Of the many endeavors Farrell has taken on in college, the opportunity she took this summer might be the most rewarding of them all.

To gain a more experiential understanding of environmental engineering, she pounced on the opportunity to travel to Ghana to help alleviate environmental problems plaguing the country.

Farrell has two jobs in Ghana.

First, she works with the non-profit Community Water Solutions to provide money, resources and training to women in Northern Ghana so they can start a water treatment business.

Farrell said their current water source is a contaminated dugout, or hole in the ground. Farrell and Community Water Solutions help the women decontaminate the water using chlorine and alum and sell it back to the community once the water is safe to drink.

“They make a small profit and get enough to continue buying the necessary supplies to treat it,” she said.

In her other job, she works with three Lehigh students to develop sustainable and more comfortable farming techniques for local farmers.

She said farmers are forced to use solid fertilizer when animal manure is not available, and solid-fertilizer use is less efficient than using liquid fertilizer and can take its toll on farmers.

Low-income farmers who use solid fertilizer are forced to spend more time toiling away in the blistering heat and develop back problems from how the fertilizer has to be applied.

She said: “We will hopefully develop an ergonomic design to help their farms move more efficiently.”

Through her experience, Farrell has gained greater wisdom regarding the difficulties facing environmental engineers who try to help people in third world countries gain greater access to life’s necessities.

“The biggest take away from my time in Ghana so far that will contribute to my thesis is a better understanding of how difficult it is to clean water,” she said.

She has dealt with problems that could never be simulated in Lehigh classrooms.

“This sounds like an obvious fact, but there are many layers that are never touched on in an academic setting.”

She added: “It is hard to prepare for most of the road bumps that will inevitably come your way. Most of the challenges are simply a result of one culture not understanding another.”

For Farrell, the world’s most popular sport served as a bridge between cultures.

The highlight of her trip so far was watching Ghana play the United States in the World Cup.

“When Ghana scored the goal against the US, it was a mad house at the place I was watching. The Ghanaians have so much pride in their country. It was a great feeling,” she said.

Overall, Farrell has had a blast in Ghana.

She said: “So far the experience has been incredible.”

Though tennis and engineering may not seem like two peas in a pod, Farrell is attracted to their similarities.

“Both parts of my life demand focus, organization, and a sense of independence. You must plan, adjust, and work hard on the court and in the classroom.”



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