Hi everyone! I am Mirthe Ophoff ’17, and majored in Economics with minors in Accounting and German. In 2015, I transferred to UCLA with some basic German courses behind me, where my counselors recommended to balance two major courses with one elective. German 152, a contemporary conversation and composition class, still had space, and I enrolled, not knowing what to expect. It opened my mind. In the fall of 2015, the refugee crisis had started in Germany and the rest of Europe, and it became an important topic in the class. As much as I enjoyed the class, I did not decide to pursue a German minor until a year later. In the 2016-17 school year, I took 3 more German classes, covering a broad scheme of topics.
To complete the minor requirements, as well as my Economics major requirements, the Germanic department helped me set up a combined Economics and German independent study. The German 152 studies and conversations had left an impact: my initial and ultimate choice of study was “Refugees in Germany – weighing the costs and benefits”. In the news, the focus of the refugee crisis often rests on the costs of taking in refugees. However, there had to be benefits associated with them. I went through previous economic research on the topic of research and found that the topic had become more popular during the early 1990s, when Germany dealt with its previous refugee crisis due to the Balkan Wars. This crisis had also set immigration law changes into motion, which have increased in frequency in the 21st century. The Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge publishes detailed records of Germany’s refugees from 1990 on. These three sources combined laid the foundation for my cost calculations, which I attributed to different refugee age groups. By no means were these the actual costs spent on each refugee in 2016, but it gave an idea of where the money goes. It is laying down the foundation, especially for the children and the teenagers, the most expensive groups among the refugees, for a future in which they will benefit themselves and their host country. They are an investment, as well as human beings, and I hope that we keep that in mind in the discussions we have.
Without the flexibility of the UCLA Department of Germanic Languages, I would not have been able to study something combining the two of my most important fields of study in such a way. It certainly was a challenge, but very rewarding and so very worth the effort!