Though podcasts as little packets of audio that gets pushed to your phone haven’t been around for that long, they tap into a long history of audio storytelling dating back to the 1930s when radios first became affordable enough for everyone to have access to. In a similar fashion, technological advances have made recording and producing audio stories a lot cheaper – while downloading the usually small files is a cheap source of news, entertainment, and distraction in even the most data-strapped economies.2

There are now podcasts available on almost any topic under the sun – for free! They offer the perfect distraction for long commutes, solitary walks exploring your city, or the perfect break the tedium of household chores. If you’re listening to a really good episode, you’ll wish for more dishes to do just so you can keep listening!

Here’s our selection of must-try podcasts for any student studying abroad – treats for your ears that are sure to make you a smarter, funnier and even kinder student.

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This American Life

Ira Glass and the team behind this hour-long weekly show has been at it since 1995, telling countless funny, irreverent, surprising and authentically human stories along the way. Contrary to what the name suggests, the stories told are not exclusively about Americans – or exclusively American social phenomena. Some of their most memorable stories have been those focusing beyond the US borders – for example looking at the refugee crisis that has swept the world over the past few years. Through their exploration of the human condition, you’ll see yourself and your own humanity reflected back. As different as we may seem, there is always common ground to be found.

This team has also recently spawned two new podcasts that were viral sensations. In Serial, the team investigates a mystery per season, slowly unraveling the story of a murder accused in season one and a defecting soldier in season two. S-Town starts off as something similar, but it’s quickly revealed that there is much more to this journalistic investigation.  

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Another hall-of-fame podcast comes from super-hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich. Together they explore the cutting edge of science and technology, making sense of new developments and what they could mean for our everyday lives in a highly entertaining, informative manner. Whether it’s genetically engineering babies, the idea that free will doesn’t really exist, or the incredible network of fungi that connects trees – each episode is sure to leave you in awe of the world we inhabit. Jad is also a talented musician, so the show is beautifully produced – truly turning your mind into a theatre through clever sound design. This show is dedicated to the pursuit of truth and understanding the world we live in. Listening to this is sure to level-up your general knowledge significantly!

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Just as you may be reinventing yourself as a foreign student, so Alex Blumberg reinvented himself from radio-producer to entrepreneur – documenting the whole process through the first season of his podcast Start-up. It follows Alex as he tries to do an entirely new thing, making mistakes and learning along the way. It’s invaluable listening for anyone who wants to enter the start-up space, but also unmissable for the many emotionally charged moments of uncertainty, family stress and money pressures. Getting a glimpse into how someone else deals with the fear of failure, feelings of inadequacy and inevitable setbacks is a great reminder of our own fallibility. And to cut yourself some slack.

One of these stellar shows is sure to grab you – and not let go till you’ve binge-listened to the entire archive! There are so many different shows to explore, tap into the recommendations area of your podcasting app to discover new shows you may love. Enjoy showing off your newfound knowledge amongst your friends!

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