We all know someone who’s gone abroad to study in recent years and we’ve all envied their adventurous lives, as depicted in various social media posts. But viewing someone’s life through Insta filters isn’t the best way to tell what they’re going through. Not everything that glitters is gold and not every Indian student abroad is living the high life. In fact, for many it is an everyday struggle to cope with the complexities of being a stranger in a foreign land.
Nobody knows this better than Sandhya Ramachandran, a young Indian multi-platform content producer who’s living in the United States of America. When the 25-year-old moved to Boston for her Masters in Film Production, she struggled to find a repository of information that might help her make sense of what it means to be to be an international student studying in the US – an inconceivable void during the internet era we live in. Speaking to the Deccan Chronicle, Sandhya had this to say: “As a young filmmaker, my own circumstances were my muse. As I navigated the transition from grad school to looking for a job in Los Angeles, I realised that every notion of mine was challenged one after the other. It is very difficult to admit even to yourself that things are tough and hopeless, let alone out loud when you think of the money you spent on an education and the fact that everyone else — pop culture, media outlets to fellow relatives — are always touting America as the land where dreams are made. An international student seeking employment, in some ways, is a disability that isn’t listed in any of the forms you fill out.”
Eventually, armed with what she had learned at university and through work, she set out to create a platform which would seek to consolidate the Indian student experience – ‘career pains, financial strains, cultural assimilation’, et al – so that every student planning to study and live abroad would have somewhere to turn to in their time of need. Thus, Aliens With Visas was conceived. The show is a serialised podcast which deals with these very issues, and Sandhya has two episodes out already. The podcast is available for free on iTunes and Google Play (gotta keep those student costs down, right?) or it can be streamed on the official website of the project.
What better time to embark on a project like this than during a climate of unprecedented hostility towards immigrants on the world stage? Perhaps this is what inspired the title of the project. “In American legal parlance, anyone who is not a citizen is referred to as an alien — legal alien or illegal alien notwithstanding. A student immigrant, on all official papers, is referred to as a non-resident alien. That’s what you need to tick while filling out your tax forms too and it doesn’t change until you are a citizen of this country. I thought this was a fun way to highlight a slightly problematic term!” says Sandhya told Deccan Chronicle.
In the long run, Sandhya aims to address student hacks for a more affordable lifestyle, as well as other resources which could prove to be of great use to the average international student. All this in addition to the regular podcast. We love what she’s doing and we hope you do, too.
Like this article? Also read: We Found Arvind Kejriwal’s Personal YouTube Playlist and It’s Amazing
Cover Image Courtesy: Aliens with Visas; Social Media Image: The Man Who Knew Infinity (2016)