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. 


In this episode, we examine factors that influence the STEM student’s journey as an immigrant in America through an interview with Arjun Shankar. The weight of finances is always on the STEM student’s mind and we see how family, prestige and other deep-rooted mentalities play a vital role in shaping the experience.

Narrated & Produced by Sandhya Ramachandran
Mixed & Mastered by Navneeth Narasimhan
Music Credits: Flying Pea v.1 by Daddy Scramble, Plans for The Day by Cory Gray, Why you Saying That by Yshwa, Be Mine & Be Kind by Loch Lomund 

‘correct’ is Tamil slang that means ‘land a date’
STEM is field of study in Science, Technology, Engineering, Math
OPT is optional practical training i.e. one year authorization for a full time job. STEM students get an extension of 2 years.


  • 01:30 - The first few months in America challenged Arjun's notions of social life in America and required a good deal of learning when it came to everyday life.
  • 07:55 - STEM students have an established network that helps in course research, but it comes with its issues. Due to strength in numbers, South Asian students can remain in cliques unless they seek out a multicultural experience, which becomes especially necessary during the job search.
  • 14:37 - Money influenced decisions from housing to social life. Arjun talks about how this sometimes meshed with family relationships and he shares an anecdote, which throws light on entitlement.
  • 19:57 - The truth is financial aid these days is a rarity. This comes as a shock to those who weigh success in merit. 
  • 26:21 - The American education system is unique in the way aid is extended to students, and it requires a fair bit of initiative to understand this. Huge block for those who are used to making the best of what they have.
  • 29:53 - Arjun moved to the Bay Area and began to look for a job for the OPT period. He found work in the nick of time, which he attributes to a number of factors. His Masters degree is not one of them. He talks about character growth during this phase. 
  • 35:12 - Arjun explains why he could not consider going back to his secure choices back home at the time.
  • 39:41 - I emphasize the importance of understanding the system in order for America to be the land of opportunity.

"I am a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. I like conversations over good whisky. When I'm not working, I spend time playing video games, running, going on hikes, and cooking/eating."