4 Ways Aliens with Visas is Different From Your Average Immigration Podcast
By Sandhya Ramachandran
1. AwV is a mix of many themes.
Immigration is not a stand alone choice when picking a category on a hosting platform but even then, Aliens with Visas is not entirely an immigration podcast. If anything, it's a personal journey kinda show, set in the environment of study abroad. Life lessons with the backdrop of international student life. The role of culture in education is of prime focus and uncovering internal biases is a recurring theme. The usual immigration related content like 'what to keep in mind when moving?' or 'what to expect during your first week' are covered, but in a different way. You can read rants and reviews extensively online, but the internal journey of how that really makes you feel after having the time to process it, that takes the spotlight.
2. This is a scripted, narrative piece.
A lot of podcasts by nature are largely conversational with mostly people just kicking it in the studio. It's like you're in on a phone conversation with two charismatic people, taking in the great banter (if it's a good show). AwV is not entirely free flowing conversation. It contains excerpts of it as part of a 'laid-out narrative' so the tangents - which are okay and kind of the trademark of a podcast - are usually edited to follow a loose structure. The connection between blurbs of interview is the narrator's thoughts so it's like I'm in two places at once - with the interviewee, and with you as you process what you've just heard.
What you hear on the show came out of a very long general interview with some specific questions. I then edited this down to a version that best conveys their point of view while also keeping it crisp. Finding the usable parts of the interview is tedious but it's constructing the narrative that's the most creatively challenging (task) and in my opinion, the USP of this show.
3. It's not just a compilation of human interest stories.
Every episode features the narrator and a guest but it's not merely the two discussing the immigration experience under their unique circumstances. Every guest is chosen to move listeners along the timeline of an immigrant journey. Every guest is sort of the voice of that particular phase of being an immigrant. At times, we're with the naive student taken aback after the first 3 months, then the hapless post graduate struggling musician and finally the retrospective ex-international student.
4. It's not just a podcast.
The primary vehicle for this story is a series of audio episodes but there is also a host of ancillary content in the form of short videos, blogs, memes, and curated articles which either explore or provide a different treatment to the topics discussed on the episode. For example - the videos take on actual problems in a comedic light so the aim is to entertain, but finally the goal is to drive viewers to the podcast, which is where the story lives. But yes, you as the audience can choose to engage on whichever platform.
I went with audio storytelling for a few reasons — low start up cost, podcasts are perfect for niche topics and infotainment, my personal circumstances of having to leave the country in a few months plus lack of team members. Most importantly though, I believe that this is the right format for this story.
Also, since this is a semi-scripted series, there's an incubation period and therefore a considerable gap between episodes. Most podcasts are weekly or even biweekly affairs. Not this one!