Aliens with Visas

The Internal Journey of Immigrants

Multi media platform about student legal immigrant journey in America. Blogs, interviews, perspectives from students, professionals and lawyers. 


Identity can be defined as "qualities, beliefs, personality, looks and/or expressions that make a person (self-identity) or social group”. Season Two of Aliens with Visas is an investigation of this very self identity, through the perspectives of American people and those well on their way to citizenship.

In this episode, Ravi takes us through  experiences in work, relationships and daily interactions that have shaped his identity as an Indian expat in America. The affinity towards cliques, 'international student privilege’, and freedom of expression, are some of the things we discuss in this conversation.

Narrated & Produced by Sandhya Ramachandran
Music Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, The Impossebulls - Slave Education XE, B.A.G. by Jazzafari, Noahs Stark by krackatoa

H1B is an employment-based, non-immigrant visa for temporary workers. USCIS normally issue a maximum of 65,000 regular H1B visas each year, with some exceptions.
Mambalam a suburb in the city of Chennai, India.
Hari Kondabolu an American stand-up comic, actor, filmmaker, and podcast host of Indian origin.
Bobby Jindal American politician, Indian origin.


02:11 - A sleepy university town may not necessarily be the best place to start the US journey! It can be a jarring experience if you are from a bustling metropolis like Chennai. Academically, in Ravi’s experience, Indian institutions allow you to get by with the least amount of knowledge while here you can know a whole lot and still not ‘make it’. When it comes to hacking social systems, pop culture knowledge might not be enough!

07:00 - H1 B becomes necessary post grad. It is a painstaking process, there’s more money and time involved for the employer which results in poor immigrant representation. From an employee standpoint, work here is better due to employee ratios and quality of work - you feel like what you do matters. Your value in being a social asset to society however, not as important…

11:16 - South Asian identity in America thus comes with merit + skill at its core. Another characteristic part of the identity? A tendency to stick to groups. Ravi’s own methods of finding his people in this new environment involved a lot of cliques.

16:20 - The safety net of cliques doesn’t work very favorably when it comes to dating in a foreign country. Not understanding boundaries and the rules of the courtship game can make it a big hit or miss. In America, it’s okay to express your sexuality. People thus seem to be more vested in physical appearances compared to India, which also contributes to a different experience with dating.

27:01 - Ravi reflects on his ‘privilege’ in this country. Being able to code switch and speak English convincingly allows for more inclusion in social circles and heightens his degree of assimilation. However, it can get exhausting and still doesn’t guarantee feeling ‘at home’.

32:50 - Some aspects which could make immigrant or expat life more comfortable is for starters, removing this label of aliens. Putting all immigrants into one box can be stifling, and a nuanced understanding of the foreigners would help a great deal in humanizing their experience.

35:42 - The Indian American diaspora can be hard to connect with due to a completely different upbringing and overall experience as compared to those coming into the country on the special worker visa program. How exactly so is something we discuss on the next episode!


In this episode, we examine factors that motivate moving abroad for higher study through a look at Kulanandini Mahanta a.k.a Kula's journey. Hers is one that involved pre medical courses, Computer Information Systems, a Bachelors in Business Administration & an attempt in Marketing along the way to a career in cinematography.

Narrated & Produced by Sandhya Ramachandran
Mixed & Mastered by Navneeth Narasimhan
Music Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, Podington Bear by Bass Rider, Dan Lerch - O Tannenbaum,

STEM is field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math.
i20 is the document issued by a university that says 'you're in!'
CPT is curricular practical training i.e. authorization for internships/co-op.
OPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. STEM students get an extension of 2 years.


  • 02:50 - A peek into Kula's childhood in Guwahati, Assam (North East India) that involved a Sony handycam, comparisons with her sister and the very relatable struggle of Arts vs. Science/Commerce.
  • 06:28 - She coped with her move to Gurgaon (in the Greater Delhi Area) through theater, a passion that was soon eclipsed by US college prep and the student visa process.
  • 14:16 - Eastern Michigan University was a good experience overall and she was back in touch with theater through a college club. 
  • 16:49 - After graduating with a BBA, Kula explored Marketing through internships and then wrote both the GRE & GMAT to pursue it at a Masters level but a drastic turn of events led to Kula moving to Denver.
  • 20:48 - Colorado Film School had its ups and downs. Soon after, she headed to Los Angeles where working on student films at the American Film Institute (AFI) speedily improved her skills.
  • 26:03 - She reflects on her journey so far and her definition of making it.
  • 29:12 - I compare this account to my own experience in film school & the city of Boston.

"I like simplicity, but often complicate sentence structure. I find peace in cooking, music and of course the love of my life - cinematography. I love standing on top of a ladder and fixing lights (I HAVE THE POWER). I am a big foodie. I love Panang curry and Tiramisu. I dislike Math, counting bills, showoffs, talkative (uninformed) pessimists, and people who use excessive logic in almost everything."