Find Your Passion: A Learning Adventure
By Bill Gerdes
Since achieving independence in 1966, Botswana, a landlocked nation in Southern Africa, has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income in the world. It has transformed itself into a middle-income country with a sound fiscal policy and a negligible level of foreign debt.
It also has a soaring HIV/AIDs rate.
To Aldrich Callins, a junior majoring in finance at the Culverhouse College of Commerce, all of that makes Botswana a logical next place to visit.
Two of Callins’ passions are foreign travel and collecting information about the economies of foreign countries, with an eye to one day making his fortune in international finance, particularly insurance and real estate. Another passion is helping people, whether on The University of Alabama campus or on the streets of Gaborone.
To that end, he has spent two semesters studying abroad, first in England and then in Japan. Next stop: Botswana. Callins left for Africa Jan.3 and will remain there through late May. While there he will study the Botswana economy and culture as an international student. “Botswana has one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and depends heavily on the diamond trade,” Callins said.
But the other side to Botswana also has Callins’ attention. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s Web site, Botswana has one of the world’s highest known rates of HIV/AIDS infection, but also one of Africa’s most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.
“I have had a chance to make friends abroad, in Asia and in Europe,” Callins said, and those encounters have stirred a need to find ways to help people on an international level.
“I talked to a friend of mine from Kenya, whom I met in Japan, who said that if the kids with HIV or AIDS in Africa just had a place to go, to get off the streets, it would make a huge difference,” he said.
Callins plans a career in insurance and finance and possibly real estate. He is vice president of the University’s Alabama Insurance Society and points to Dr. William Rabel, professor of insurance and financial services, as a major force in his career choice. He notes Rabel’s overseas service in China and Switzerland.
“I love the thought of investing, and I want to work to gain enough capital to invest further,” Callins said. “I am looking at the insurance industry and how I can use my international background there.”
He is a resident adviser on campus and his international interests are evident even there where he created an “Iron Chef” contest for residents featuring cuisine from other countries and put together an International Harvest fest to expose residents to international foods.
Callins is a graduate of Huffman High School in Birmingham where his mother is a teacher and his father is an entrepreneur in real estate, construction and building inspection.
His mother taught night classes at West End High School, Callins said, and “she would tell me about how difficult it is for some people to overcome close-mindedness.”
He said his parents instilled an attitude of hard work in him and his four siblings. “I grew up knowing you have to work and work hard for anything you get. Nothing is free.” One sister is an attorney, another is a bank officer, another is a medical professional and a younger brother is a student at the University of Alabama at Huntsville.
He cites his favorite book as Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad,” the best-seller that advocates financial independence though investing, real estate, and owning the business rather than being an employee of someone else.
“I’m not here at The University of Alabama to learn how to be an employee, work for 60 years and then have someone say, ‘I can’t give you a pension,’” Callins said. “I want more than just a job. I want to be wealthy, but I don’t want to die wealthy.
“The University of Alabama has been very useful in providing the academic background I need but also it has given me a chance to travel, to network and meet people. I look at travel more as an adventure and learning tool than as a vacation.”
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This story is part of the Find Your Passion series. To learn more about how you can find your passion at The University of Alabama, please visit UA Undergraduate Admissions.