When Chelsea Hodgkins graduates from West Virginia University a year from now, she’ll have the upper hand in her desired field of work.

For the next month, Hodgkins, a junior dual geography and international studies major, will be in Ghana as part of a fellowship for Community Water Solutions – a non-profit organization based in Massachusetts. This will be her second trip to Africa. Last summer, she went to the Republic of Malawi, a landlocked country in southeast Africa.

Hodgkins found the fellowship opportunities on MountaineerTRAK offered by WVU’s Career Services Center. She applied because she wants to continue a career in development specifically in Africa. After a phone interview, she found out she was selected for the fellowship in December.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I was going to get it because I was under the impression that undergrads didn’t do these types of things,” she said. “But I knew if I didn’t apply, it would be an opportunity missed.”

Hodgkins said she would’ve never had this opportunity if she hadn’t decided to transfer from another university after her freshman year and chosen WVU over a handful of other universities.

She now calls her choice to become a Mountaineer one of the best in her life.

“WVU has truly been an amazing and unique place to spend my college career,” she said. “I’ve had multiple opportunities for both personal and academic growth and professional development. I have been challenged with courses inside the classroom and have had the opportunity to go abroad and expand my horizons.”

To make this trip to Ghana happen, however, she had to raise nearly $3,000 on her own to purchase the materials for the treatment center, which she did through multiple events around Morgantown in the last year.

She will be joined by three others on the trip – two students from Salisbury University and an alumnus from Brown University.

Hodgkins left Morgantown on March 27, and after a brief stop in Spain was in Ghana – more than 5,000 miles across the world from Morgantown.

While in Ghana, Hodgkins’ main goals are to learn about the culture of this West African nation, get hands-on experience in community-driven development and gain a perspective on development from a non-Western lens.

“The research that I’ve done shows that Ghana has a rising economy because of recently found oil deposits,” she said. “Despite that, about 30 percent of population lives in abject poverty.”

She will be implementing a water treatment center that will serve a village of up to 1,000 people. Water is placed in large storage bins where it is then treated and rid of many harmful particles. From that point, selected women of the village use the treatment center to generate income. Each family in the village must pay a small price to fill up its own five-gallon bucket each time.

“I really want to work in development in Africa doing a lot of field work,” she said. “This fellowship is going to be a great opportunity for growth and learning.”

She will spend her first week in Ghana training before spending the next two weeks implementing the water system, interacting with the community and making sure the system is running properly before returning to the U.S. on April 24.

Since the start of the fellowship program in June 2010, the organization has hosted 94 students and young professionals in Ghana who have implemented water businesses in 24 rural villages, providing permanent sources of safe drinking water for more than 12,500 people.

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